Colin McDonald

Burnley's Guardian Between the Sticks

Colin McDonald's story is one of those poignant tales that epitomizes the unpredictability of life and sport. Here was a player, lauded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever don the England jersey, and undoubtedly the crown jewel of Burnley's goalkeeping lineage, only to have his career marred by injury.

Born in the sleepy town of Tottington near Bury, McDonald's initial foray into the world of football wasn't as a goalkeeper. But fate had its plans, and once he adorned the green jersey, there was no turning back. Burnley recognized his potential early on, signing him in 1948. In the early days, McDonald juggled his fledgling football career with plumbing.

His Burnley debut might not have been ideal, with the team succumbing to a 5-1 defeat. Yet, McDonald's resilience shone through, as he firmly established himself as the number one choice, edging out Des Thompson.

His innate ability to snuff out danger, coupled with his exceptional positioning and natural athleticism, soon caught the attention of the England management. But for a cruel twist of fate in the form of a broken ankle in 1956, McDonald's England debut would have come sooner. His return post-injury saw him immediately being picked for the national side, and he represented England in the 1958 FIFA World Cup, even holding the eventual champions Brazil to a 0-0 draw.

However, disaster struck during a game in Dublin, where he broke his leg. The following complications, misdiagnosed as pneumonia, nearly cost him his life. It turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, a serious condition that brought about the premature end to his illustrious career. The footballing world watched in dismay as one of its brightest talents was snatched away at his prime.

However, McDonald's spirit was indomitable. In the aftermath of his playing career, he devoted his time to the Spastic Society, showcasing a heart as big as his talent. The world of football wasn't done with him, as he ventured into coaching, scouting, and managerial roles, leaving his mark at clubs like Bury, Altrincham, Bolton Wanderers, Oldham Athletic, and Tranmere Rovers.

In the annals of football history, Colin McDonald will always be remembered as a phenomenal talent whose career was tragically cut short, but who continued to serve the game with unwavering passion.

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