Football in shock at death of ‘great’ Comstive
THE East Lancashire football world has been left stunned after one of the finest players to pull on the claret and blue shirt of Burnley in the late 1980s died, aged just 52.
Tributes have poured in following the death of Paul Comstive, who was one of a select band of men to play for three of the Football League’s founder members having spent time with Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers in addition to his distinguished service at Turf Moor as Burnley started their rebuilding process following their flirtation with relegation to the non-league in 1986/87.
A stylish midfielder who could also play at full-back, Comstive soon became a crowd favourite after signing for Burnley in the summer of 1987 and he was part of Brian Miller’s team that upset the formbook to reach the final of the Sherpa Van Trophy at Wembley a year later.
And one of his team-mates that day and long time friend Chris Pearce says he was “absolutely gutted” when he heard about Comstive’s death.
Pearce was a trainee with the Southport-born Comstive at Blackburn and also played alongside the midfielder at Rochdale and Wrexham before the pair joined the Clarets and he admitted he couldn’t believe that his friend had died.
“My sympathies go out to Jill and their two children,” said Pearce, also 52. “We grew up together at Rovers and we were room-mates wherever we played.
“Our families used to sit with each other at games and this news has rocked everyone. Paul was a great player and more than that he was a really funny and caring man. I was absolutely gutted when I heard the news.”
Pearce and Comstive’s careers followed similar paths and the former goalkeeper added: “I went on loan to Rochdale from Rovers and Paul followed me there.
“We also played together at Wrexham and then Burnley.
“We shared rooms and were great mates on and off the field. When we were trainees at Rovers we used to pool our money so we could afford a beer and during our careers Paul was often my ‘prop man’ for a few jokes.
“One day I remember was when we were at Rochdale. They were tough times and we wanted to lighten the mood so we packed tennis racquets for an away game at Wimbledon.
“When the other lads were warming up, we had a game of tennis on the halfway line, what with it being Wimbledon. The fans loved it, although I am not sure the manager quite appreciated it.
“I remember visiting the hospital with Paul to sign a nurse’s pot after she broke her leg, everyone was made up that day. I have so many pictures of Paul and myself together through our careers and it is so sad that he has gone.”
That famous day beneath the Twin Towers of Wembley in 1988 was a landmark day in Burnley’s history as just a year after almost exiting the league, the Clarets faced Wolves in front of more than 80,000 fans in the Sherpa Van Trophy final.
Burnley lost 2-0 – but Comstive starred and almost scored with a stunning header which clipped the bar when the score was 0-0.
“He played well that day,” added Pearce. “But that was Paul. He was a good player.”
Clarets assistant youth coach Andy Farrell, another man who shone at Wembley, said: “My heart goes out to his family.
“Paul was a great bloke but more than that a top player at that level of football.
“He was such a big performer and when he got the ball he was difficult to push off.
“When he went on a run, not many lads could stop him and he scored some big goals for us.”
Blackburn Rovers legend Simon Garner remembers the young Comstive well from their time together at Ewood Park and said: “I was a senior pro and he was one of the apprentices but you could tell from that age that Paul would always make a living out of the game.
“He was a good footballer, a strong young man and a really nice bloke.”
After Burnley, who paid £8,000 for Comstive, the midfielder moved to Bolton for £37,000 and famously scored two goals from corners in one game against Bournemouth.
And in 1995/96 he helped Morecambe win promotion into the Conference from the Northern Premier League.
After retirement, Comstive spent time on the coaching staff at Southport and also managed West Lancashire League team Fleetwood Hesketh and had been a postman for almost 20 years.
He leaves a wife Jill and children Lauren and Eilish.
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