In 1962, Jimmy Adamson, who has died at the age of 82, had his finest individual season as a player. He was voted English footballer of the year, captained Burnley to an FA Cup Final that they lost to Spurs, and was selected for the England squad that Walter Winterbottom took to Chile for that summer's World Cup Finals. Adamson, who also acted as assistant coach, was not selected to play in the tournament – indeed, he never won a senior England cap – and was disgusted when a fellow player sat on his suitcase on arriving at the team's base and announced, "I'm homesick already." It was a dismal portent for a team that never really clicked into gear, though it did reach the quarter-finals, losing 3-1 to Brazil, the competition's eventual winners.
That year, too, Adamson was offered the opportunity of succeeding Winterbottom, but turned the job down, feeling that he lacked experience. The position went instead to Alf Ramsey, who went on to make England winners of the 1966 World Cup. Adamson played on for his beloved Burnley for two further seasons before retiring in 1964.
Though 1962 was a landmark year for Adamson, he will be best remembered as the ever-present captain of the Burnley team that won the League Championship in the 1959-60 season. This was a tremendous achievement for a small, unfashionable club that lived on its wits, the generosity of its pork butcher chairman, Bob Lord, and the skill of its scouts and coaches.
Competing in the European Cup the following season, Burnley were not disgraced. They eliminated Reims, twice previously beaten finalists against the mighty Real Madrid, and looked set for the semi-finals after defeating Hamburg 3-1 in the first leg at Turf Moor. But having reached the semi-finals of both the League and FA Cups, Burnley paid the penalty for their success, being obliged to play five matches in 14 days before the return leg in Hamburg. They went down, and out, 4-1 – 5-4 on aggregate – with Uwe Seeler, Hamburg and West Germany's prolific centre forward, scoring twice.
Adamson was born in Ashington, the Northumberland colliery town that was famous for producing footballers, notably Jackie Milburn and the Charlton brothers, Jackie and Bobby. After a short time down the pit, Adamson went from East Chevington Juniors to join the Burnley groundstaff, and signing his professional contract as a 17-year-old in 1947. It was not until February 1951 that he made his debut, making 14 appearances as a right-half, the position where he spent most of his playing career.
Never a spectacular player, he was however a consummate wing-half, winning the ball with firm tackles, using it economically, competing strongly in the air. He seldom missed a game but seldom scored either, netting just 17 goals in 486 games over 17 years.
As a Burnley player, Adamson's closest friend and companion was the gifted Northern Ireland inside-right, the ebullient Jimmy McIlroy. They complemented one another perfectly both on and off the field, Adamson's dry humour a foil for McIlroy's exuberance.
After retiring, Adamson stayed on with Burnley as a successful coach under Harry Potts as manager. He polished and promoted raw talent, much of which had been scouted by the club in his native north-east. "We don't get the first-class players," Adamson would say, "we get the second-class players," but the quality of Burnley's coaching ensured that many of them became stars.
In 1970, he succeeded Potts as manager. The club were relegated at the end of his first full season in charge, but he got them promoted back to the top flight in 1973, and left three years later.
Perhaps he should have stayed. After only a month in charge of Sparta Rotterdam and two years at Sunderland, in 1978 he accepted the challenge to manage Leeds United, a kind of Sargasso Sea for the managers trying to follow in the giant footsteps of Don Revie, who had built such a formidable team in the 1960s and early 70s.
At Leeds, Adamson seemed to lose his touch. Always at his best out on the training field, he was said to become increasingly and untypically remote, and he left, after considerable vocal encouragement from Leeds fans, in 1980.
Given his undoubted abilities, it was a surprise that he did not stay in football. Instead he went back to Burnley to help his son run his newsagent's shop – a quiet end to what had been so distinguished a playing and coaching career.
• Jimmy Adamson, footballer and manager, born 4 April 1929; died 8 November 2011