Born in Workington on 3 December 1951 Budgie played rugby as well as football in his younger days but it was always a goalkeeper he wanted to be. He played 27 League games for Workington before he joined Blackpool on a month’s loan in April 1971.
He made his League debut for Blackpool against Everton on 24 April 1971 when he played magnificently as the game was drawn 0-0 and he played the two remaining League games of the season, a 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace on 26 April 1971 and a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on 1 May 1971 when he ‘did not look very happy with crosses but he redeemed himself with two fine saves from Kidd and a brave dive at the feet of Denis Law.’
His performances persuaded the club to sign him full-time, which they duly did on 3 May 1971 for a fee of £10,000. Shortly afterwards he was to star in Blackpool’s Anglo-Italian Cup success and in the final against Bologna on 12 June 1971 his performance earned him high praise from the Italian fans as Blackpool won 2-1.
The arrival of Neil Ramsbottom threatened his place at the start of the 1971/72 season and they shared the duties in the pre-season friendly games. But the ebullient Burridge ‘played well in goal to advance his claims for opening in the first team’ in a 4-3 victory over Celtic on 9 August 1971. In the event he did start the season in the League side, playing in the opening six League games before, after a 1-0 defeat by Hull City on 4 September 1971, Neil Ramsbottom took over.
His first taste of Central League (reserve) football was not a good one as Blackpool lost 5-1 to Manchester United reserves on 11 September 1971 and he was sent off for allegedly kicking United’s new teenage discovery Sammy McIlroy. Subsequently he had a personal hearing and was fined £20 and given a suspended 14-day sentence in November 1971. Mr W S Lines, a Blackpool director, accompanied him to the hearing after which the goalkeeper said, ‘They were very fair with me, I cannot complain with [sic] their decision.’
Undaunted and as fit as ever, Budgie returned to the League side for the game against Middlesbrough on 2 October 1971 when Blackpool lost 1-0 and he went on to play 34 League games, one FA Cup tie, three League Cup ties, seven Central League games and four pre-season friendly games, plus making one substitute appearance, in the 1971/72 season.
Having, perhaps surprisingly, lost his place to George Wood for the last four games of that 1971/72 season he won it back in the Anglo-Italian tournament. He replaced Wood, who it was stated, ‘was left out because he was overweight’, and he ‘had an excellent game’ against Sampdoria on 1 June 1972 when Blackpool won 4-1. He retained his place and played in all five games, including the final that Blackpool lost 3-1 to AS Roma.
He started the 1972/73 season in the League side but after a 1-0 defeat by Brighton and Hove Albion on the opening day, 12 August 1972, he was dropped and George Wood replaced him. Manager Bob Stokoe said, ‘It’s unfortunate for John but I have decided that he has to make way for George. Wood has a considerable height advantage, has trimmed down his weight considerably, has played two very good games in the reserve side and is ready for a chance in the first team.’
However, Budgie was not one to ignore and his intense dedication and his performances in the reserve side had him back in the first team after an absence of only six games. He was left out later in the season but he played 22 League games, one FA Cup tie, five League Cup ties and 14 Central League games in the 1972/73 season.
He began the 1973/74 season in the reserve side but he forced his way back into the League side for a 2-0 victory over Fulham on 22 October 1973 and he went on to play 30 League games, one FA Cup tie and 10 Central League games in the 1973/74 season. Despite the presence of Wood and Colin King, Budgie was the number one choice for the 1974/75 season and it was only injury that caused him to miss four games as he played 38 League games, one FA Cup tie, and one League Cup tie in the that season, when he kept 21 clean sheets, a new Blackpool record. And in August 1975 Blackpool chairman Frank Dickinson presented him with an inscribed clock in recognition of his achievement.
One of his most memorable moments at Bloomfield Road came in that 1974/75 season when, on 1 February 1975, he made a sensational penalty save in the game against Sunderland, a game in which Mickey Walsh scored that memorable ‘Goal of the Season’ to give Blackpool a thrilling 3-2 victory.
Two clean sheets followed in the first seven League games of the 1975/76 season by which time other clubs were looking at him. And it was no surprise when, with the club needing revenue, he was transferred to Aston Villa for a fee of £75,000 plus an additional £5,000 if he played 22 League games for Villa in the 1975/76 season on 24 September 1975. Blackpool were paid the extra £5,000 as he went to make 30 League appearances in his first season at Villa Park.
Budgie’s Blackpool sojourn was over but by the end of it he had become a folk-hero in the town and, quite rightly, when the Hall of Fame opened he was one of the players to appear in it. Budgie may well have gone on to play for 29 different clubs but Seasiders’ fans will always remember him as a Blackpool hero.
John Blake Publishing have recently released the autobiography of goalkeeping legend John Burridge, 'Budgie'.
John Burridge is a true journeyman pro and a hero to football fans up and down the country. In a unique career spanning 30 years, Budgie played 771 league games for 29 teams, including Blackpool. He played for fifteen Football League teams, which is a record.
'Budgie' is a fascinating and funny tale of an astounding football career which has garnered huge press interest.
We would like to offer Pool fans a discount of 55%, a price of £7.65, which is a saving of £9.34 If you are interested in purchasing copies, please call our office on T: 020 7381 0666, quoting 'Budgie Supporters Offer'
Footnote: A review of his book Budgie The Autobiography of a Goalkeeping Legend will shortly appear on the site.