Former Clarets Defender Passes Away

Theo Foley (1937 – 2020)

Former Clarets defender Theo Foley has sadly passed away this afternoon at the age of eighty-three. The Irish defender started his career with Home Farm Football Club in his hometown for Dublin. He was spotted by Burnley scout Bill Hennessy who arranged for him to join the Clarets on trial whilst working as part of the clubs ground staff, so at the age of sixteen he left Ireland and travelled to Lancashire arriving at Turf Moor in 1953.

After two years at Burnley Football Club he moved south to join Exeter City in the summer of 1955 and went on to make his senior debut for the club in a 1-1 draw with Norwich City later that year. He became a first team regular in the 1957 season playing alongside such players as Graham Rees, Gordon Dale, Nelson Stiffle and Arnold Mitchell who was a great friend. He played in one of the most exciting City sides of all-time as the club just missed out on promotion in 1959.

After making more than 150 appearances for the Grecians, he moved to Northampton in 1961, where he enjoyed the most successful period of his playing career captaining the Cobblers as they made their way from the old Fourth Division to the top flight of English football. Having made 220 appearances for Northampton he turned down a coaching role with the club to pursue a player/coach role with Charlton Athletic in 1970, before taking up the managers job the following season.

Foley, spent four years as first team manager of the Addixks before he was sacked in April 1974. He then coached Dulwich Hamlet for a spell and began his broadcasting career with LBC radio. A brief spell with Dartford ended he became assistant manager at Millwall FC working alongside manager Gordon Jago. Following an instant promotion in 1976, a run of desperate results followed and Jago was sacked, having been ruled out of the managers post he resigned soon after Christmas 1977.

His next role came at QPR, where he first worked with George Graham and when the Scotsman was handed the manager’s job at The Den, he brought Foley back to the club as his assistant in December 1982. The dynamic duo turned a struggling Millwall into a forceful hard to beat side which obtained promotion in 1985. It came as no surprise when George Graham was appointed Arsenal manager in 1986 that he would take his faithful assistant manager with him to Highbury. The pair gain further success as the Gunners won the Littlewoods Cup and the League Championship in 1989. 

The following year he was back on his old stomping ground when Northampton Town appointed him as their new manager. When the Cobblers hit financial difficulties two years later he was relieved of his duties by the administrators. Foley then worked with the Fulham youth team, before teaming up with former Liverpool player Ronnie Whelan at Southend United. His last involvement was with Tottenham Hotspur in a coaching role, but after his retirement he was often seen at the Den offering advice and assisting the younger players at Millwall Football Club.

Former Clarets full-back and BBC sports pundit Lee Dixon once said, “The legend that is Theo Foley, we all loved him, he was a big part of that Arsenal team success and lets not forget, he know the game.”

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