Lancashire great grandfather presented with football medal...74 years late

A Lancashire pensioner has finally been presented with a football cup winner's medal - 74 years after his team lifted the trophy.

By Susan Plunkett
Monday, 1st June 2020, 7:00 am

John Zelly (88) was part of the winning team Abel Street School, in Burnley that won the Keighley Cup final in 1946 in the first match to be played at Turf Moor after the end of the Second World War.

Each player in the winning team was due to collect individual medals but for some reason that didn't happen, possibly due to a metal shortage because of the war.

Three-quarters of a century later that has been put right, thanks to the efforts of the former Mayor of Burnley, Councillor Anne Kelly, and council leader Charlie Briggs who teamed up to make John's dream of a winner's medal come true.

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John Zelly has finally received the football medal he won 74 years ago (s)

And in her last official duty as outgoing mayor, Coun. Kelly presented the medal to John, who has three children, Barbara, Albert and Ken, at his home, watched at a social distance, by his proud family and friends.

"It all started when John sent me a letter explaining what had happened," said Coun. Kelly. "I had no idea where to start looking for the medal but I knew Charlie had contacts with the Lancashire football league. He got in touch with them and it was all sorted and I was very pleased to be able to present the medal to John in my last engagement as mayor.

"He was thrilled. He proudly pinned it on himself immediately and it's set to become a family heirloom.

"The winner's medal was 74 years in coming but John richly deserved it and it was a really lovely moment."

John with two of his great grandchildren, twins Phoebe and Albie (nine) (s)

John was only 14 years old when his team took on Towneley High School in the final and beat them 2-1. He played inside left. It was the first time Abel Street had won the final since picking up the cup in its inaugural competition in 1922.

"When we were presented with the cup we were also supposed to receive individual medals but that didn't happen that year," explained John.

"I have often thought of that missing medal and it means so much to me to get it after all these years, for me to be able to hold it and eventually pass it on to my son, Albert who has always asked about the medal since he was a little boy."

John, who has four grandchildren and is a great grandfather of 10, is a widower after losing Rose, his wife of 65 years, two years ago.