John Connelly was born in St Helens on the 18th July 1938, he began his playing career with his hometown club St Helens Town in the Lancashire Combination. A scout from Burnley Football Club attended a St Helens game in November 1956 to monitor another player, but they were so impressed by Connelly’s performance that afternoon that they offered him a trial at Turf Moor.
Connolly, was subsequently offered a professional contract with the club who were then playing in the English top division. He made his league debut away against Leeds United on the 11th March 1957. It took two seasons for Connelly to gain a permanent place in the Clarets first team, which he did in the 1958-59 season, making 37 appearances, scoring 12 goals ending the season as the team’s second top scorer.
He was predominantly a right winger who could also play on the left, he could control the ball and had the pace to beat a ful-back on the outside and deliver accurate crosses but was also able to cut inside and score goals with either foot. As a winger he was always a prolific goal scorer scoring 105 goals for the Clarets in 265 appearances.
A member of the 1959-60 Chmpionship winning season he played a crucial part in helping Burnley win the league champions for only the second time. He scored 20 goals in 34 league appearances that season, but unfortunately he missed the vital last game of the season against Manchester City which gave the Clarets the title. Trevor Meredith scored the final winning goal, as Connelly was in hospital having a cartilage operation.
Connelly, made his England International debut on the 17th October 1959, against Wales at Ninian Park. He made 20 International appearances, scoring 7 goals and was a member of the England squad that went to Chile to take part in the 1962 FIFA World Cup. However he was not selected to play during in the tournament. Four years later he was a member of the England squad which won the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final at Wembley. He played in the opening game against Uruguay which ended 0-0 before Alf Ramsey decided to play the rest of the competition without wingers.
The next three seasons so Connelly become a fans favourite scoring plenty of goals to help the Clarets finish fourth, second and third, respectively, in the league. In addition he also played in the 1962 FA Cup Final at Wembley which Burnley lost 3-1 against Tottenham. The following season the emergence of a talented young Scottish winger Willie Morgan meant that John Connelly was forced to play on the left wing and in April 1964 he was transferred to Manchester United for £56,000.
Connelly, stayed at Old Trafford for just over two seasons making 113 appearances, scoring 35 goals. In that first season his new club finished second, but the following season they finished as league Champions and Connelly received a second championship medal to go with the one he won with Burnley. The 1965–66 season the team finished fourth in the league and were knocked out of the European Cup in the semi-finals. At the start of the 1966–67 season, he was transferred to newly relegated Blackburn Rovers for £40,000.
After spending four years at Ewood Park he was unable to help Blackburn Rovers back into the top division of English football and was released by Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 1970. He then joined Bury Football Club making 128 appearances, scoring 37 goals over a three year period before retiring from the game in May 1973. Connelly, then returned to Brierfield near Burnley to open his own business a fish & chip shop known as “Connelly’s Plaice”
Following a Football Association led campaign to persuade FIFA to award medals to all the 1966 England world cup squad and not just the players that played in the final, Connelly was awarded and presented with his World Cup Winners medal by Gordon Brown in a ceremony at 10 Downing Street on the 10th June 2009. Connelly, become only the third member of the 1966 World Cup winning squad to pass away after Bobby Moore and Alan Ball, when he died at home in Barrowford on the 25th October 2012.