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Burnley pay tribute to 'greatest ever player' Jimmy McIlroy

Jimmy McIlroy has passed away at the age of 86. Credit: PA

Burnley are mourning the loss of their "greatest ever player" after announcing the death of Jimmy McIlroy at the age of 86.

The Northern Ireland international, a key figure in the Clarets side which won the 1960 first division title and reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup during the following season, made 497 appearances for the club and scored 131 goals during a 13-year stay at Turf Moor.

In a statement posted on its official Twitter account, the club said: "The club is deeply saddened to learn of the death of our greatest ever player. A giant of a man.

"The thoughts of everyone connected with the club are with his family and friends at this sad time. Rest in peace, Jimmy."

Lambeg-born McIlroy joined Burnley from Glentoran in 1950 after they beat Tottenham and Rangers to the punch and became a mainstay of the side which secured top-seven finishes every season between 1956 and 1963.

They claimed the title at the end of the 1959-60 campaign by a point from Wolves, qualifying for Europe in the process, only to fall at the last eight after a 4-1 second leg defeat in Hamburg.

McIlroy left the club for Stoke in 1963, much to the disappointment of the fans, and finished his playing days at Oldham, where he later had a brief spell as manager, a role he also fulfilled with Bolton.

A skilful inside forward, he won 55 caps for his country and helped them reach the quarter-finals at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

Such was his talent that McIlroy had offers to play abroad, but decided to stay in England and kept his home in Burnley until his death.

One of the stands at Turf Moor is named in his honour and he was given the freedom of the town in 2008.

He was awarded an MBE in the 2011 New Year's Honours for his services to football and charity, and has been inducted into both the Northern Ireland Football Writers' Association and England's National Football Museum's halls of fame.

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