In the illustrious history of Burnley Football Club, certain figures stand out not just for their talent on the pitch but for their indomitable spirit and resilience. Arthur Woodruff is one such figure. Though the prime of his footballing career was lost to the horrors of the Second World War, Woodruff etched his name into Burnley's annals, particularly as a linchpin of the famed "Iron Curtain" defence of the 1940s.
Starting out in Yorkshire, Woodruff's journey in football wasn't straightforward. Despite playing for a range of clubs, including Huddersfield and Bradford, he struggled to establish himself in the first team. That all changed in 1936, however, due to a fortuitous twist of fate. Originally overlooked by scouts, Woodruff was recommended to Burnley and seized the opportunity with both hands.
The outbreak of the war in 1939 halted Woodruff's budding career, but he returned to football in the 1946/47 season with unmatched zeal. That season remains iconic in Burnley's history, with the club securing promotion back to the First Division and making an inspiring run to the FA Cup Final. Woodruff was at the heart of this achievement, missing only two league games and featuring in every FA Cup match.
Under Cliff Britton's management, Woodruff was moved from his center defence position to right back. This shift, paired with Harold Mather's inclusion, solidified Burnley's defence, making it one of the most formidable in the league. Their defensive prowess was so renowned that it earned the nickname "Iron Curtain."
Despite representing the Football League twice in 1947, Woodruff never received an England cap, a reflection perhaps more on the depth of talent available at the time than on his individual skills.
Even in the twilight of his playing career, Woodruff's tenacity shone through. Aged 36, he briefly lost his starting position but battled back to reclaim it, a testament to his never-give-up attitude.
After leaving Burnley in 1952, Woodruff's passion for the game remained undimmed. He both managed and played for Workington and Northwich Victoria, later shifting to coaching roles at Cliftonville and Tranmere Rovers.
Upon his retirement from football, Woodruff returned to Burnley, immersing himself in the local community. His life after football was as industrious as his playing days, as he owned a greengrocery business and later worked at Burnley General Hospital.
Sadly, Arthur Woodruff passed away on 5 January 1986, but his legacy remains vibrant. Through his resilience, dedication, and prowess on the pitch, Woodruff truly embodied the spirit of Burnley FC.