Obituary: Frank Burrows

Frank Burrows

30 January 1944 – 24 November 2021

Club Historian Rob Mason pays tribute…

We were saddened to learn of the death of former Sunderland assistant manager Frank Burrows at the age of 77. Burrows worked at Sunderland under both Len Ashurst and Lawrie McMenemy and was instrumental in helping the Lads reach Wembley in the 1985 League Cup final.

Born in Larkhall in Scotland, Frank had a lengthy career that started with Raith Rovers and included playing over 100 games for Scunthorpe and more than 350 for Swindon. By far the greatest day of his playing career was the 1969 League Cup final when he was centre-half as third division Swindon famously beat Arsenal at Wembley. However this wasn’t his only great day as a player. He also won promotion with the Robins and in 1970 won the Anglo-Italian Cup when he was  in direct opposition to Napoli centre-forward Altafini, a man capped by both Brazil and Italy.  

Having become player-coach with Swindon Frank took up an appointment as assistant manager to the legendary Jimmy Dickinson at Portsmouth, taking over from him in 1979 and immediately steering Pompey to promotion from the fourth division in 1980. Burrows stayed at Fratton Park until 1982 and came to Sunderland as Len Ashurst’s assistant manager in 1984 after a spell along the south coast coaching at Southampton. Rarely seen without his flat cap, Burrows was a distinctive figure. It was Burrows who represented Sunderland along with director Barry Batey at a tribunal when Ashurst secured the transfer of his old Cardiff City player Gary Bennett. Having won the League Cup as a player in 1969 he was there in 1985 as Sunderland contested the final for the first time. Following Ashurst’s dismissal, Frank was kept on by his old Southampton boss Lawrie McMenemy who took over at Roker Park. Burrows became reserve team manager as McMenemy’s right-hand man Lew Chatterley took over as assistant manager, with Burrows often sent on scouting missions to watch Sunderland’s next opponents in addition to his reserve team role.

A ringing endorsement from Ashurst, who of course passed away recently helped Burrows then secure the manager’s job at Len’s old club Cardiff where Frank took over as the Bluebirds dropped into the bottom tier for the first time in 1986. Promoted in his second season at Ninian Park he left at the start of the 1989-90 season, frustrated at the club’s constant sales of players he had scouted and developed.

Returning to Portsmouth as assistant to John Gregory, Frank took over as manager in January 1990, remaining in charge until he resigned in March of the following year. Ten days after leaving Pompey he returned to Wales, this time as assistant to Terry Yorath at Swansea. He led Swansea to victory in the 1994 Football League Trophy final and had a spell assisting Harry Redknapp at West Ham before returning to Cardiff for a second spell as manager for two years from February 1998, winning promotion in 1999.

Always a well-respected figure in the game Frank later took caretaker charge of West Bromwich Albion in 2004 and Leicester City in 2007. In both cases he had assisted Gary Megson, twice winning promotion with the Baggies.



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