Town’s first post-War keeper, who retired nearly 50 years ago, celebrates his 83rd birthday today.
No one in the club’s long history has pulled on the green jersey more often than Sam Burton’s tally of 509 first team appearances.
In more recent times, Fraser Digby ran the record close, eventually reaching 505 – but with the help of considerably more fixtures in a season nowadays. Sam’s feat was remarkable in that for 15 of his 17 seasons at the County Ground there was just one cup competition – the FA Cup. He played in only six games in the League Cup, which did not arrive on the scene until 1960.
Sam, who was never booked during his long career, was signed from Pinehurst Youth Centre as a part-time professional in the summer of 1945, having already made a name for himself by winning Wiltshire County Youth honours. He left school at 14 to work for Short Brothers at South Marston – soon to be taken over by Vickers Armstrong.
He played in the first three fixtures of 1945/46 but was soon called up for national service, which Sam spent as a Bevin Boy, working in the south Wales coal mines, only returning to assist the Town while home on leave. He obtained his release from the mines in the spring of 1948.
Sam made maximum appearances in just two seasons – in 1954/55 and 1957/58. But there was stiff competition for his position during his early years at the club, with the vastly experienced Frank Boulton and Irish international Norman Uprichard being just two of the contenders.
The 1957/58 campaign was pivotal as it was the season that determined which clubs would remain in the Third Division and which would form the new Fourth. And with Town having finished in the bottom four for the previous three years, a top half finish looked unlikely.
But they rallied to finish fourth – and it would have been second had Sam been able to prevent a late goal at Bournemouth on the final day of the season, on his 350th Town appearance.
Sam made his final first team appearance in November 1961 and after hanging up his boots, ran a transport café in Lyneham.
He now lives in Gwent where he met his wife of 61 years, Beryl.
And Sam likes nothing better than watching his two grandsons Matthew and Nicky Dix in action for Blackwood Stars rugby club.