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[18] Red News' interview with the late Busby Babe, Eddie Lewis, RIP

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  • [18] Red News' interview with the late Busby Babe, Eddie Lewis, RIP

    This interview first appeared in the May issue of the mag, RN180

    We are all part of the Manchester United story. Granted, some roles may be more important than others, but we are all connected to the MUFC mechanism and its heart. Players, fans; we all have a part to play, that is linked for a common aim, for shared ideals and idealism. Eddie Lewis crossed over, his father the fan, to son the player. Immensely proud of that. Not just appearing in a United shirt, but moving Continents and forging a successful coaching career in South Africa. We were very upset to hear of his recent passing. We’d made contact at the end of last year, and spoke at length over the phone for this interview. Not one for email, he made extensive notes for the conversations and was an absolute gent to talk to. A pleasure. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’d ever done. A man delighted to have appeared for United, to still be remembered, to share tales of his era at Manchester United with Utd fans. RIP.

    RN: I am just looking at a picture of you in one of the old United books I have got and you look a fine, strapping young lad!
    EL: I was, I was big and strong. Playing in the first team at 18 came because I got goals but also because I was very strong, I wasn't particularly quick but I ran all over the pitch, I chased, I worked and in those days I think I was a very good player.

    RN: How are things for you at the moment and what are you up to?
    EL: Unfortunately in January I was diagnosed with Cancer, believe it or not it was in my knee. I had had a knee replacement 3 or 4 years before that and then I had to have another one and when the surgeon got in there they found a tumour, they got it out but unfortunately it had gone through to my abdomen and since January I have been on chemotherapy. I lost about 4kg when this happened, I was 105kg and I went to 101kg, I had my hair cut because it was falling out but you can't believe it, within two months my hair grew thicker than it has ever been and I have probably got the best head of hair of a 75 year old guy in South Africa! I was working with Gary Bailey and Terry Paine on SuperSport but I've not done games for a while but the main thing is I work with a team called ‘Moroka Swallows’, they are from Johannesburg, they are an old team like Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. I coached them in the 80s when we won the cup and won the league a few times, I was quite successful as a coach.
    What happened is the Chairman, a guy called Leon Prins phoned me and said: ‘Look Eddie, I would like you to come back, I would like you to help with the kids, I would like you to give credibility.’ In 1979 I was actually manager of the national squad and we were due to play what was then Rhodesia, but we had all this political nonsense and the game was cancelled. So whilst I was manager of South Africa I never actually had the honour (of managing a game).
    I was fortunate to coach Gary Bailey, I had Gary Bailey with me when he was 16, he left me to go to Man United, he played in my first team. I had a guy called Richard Gough who played for me at 16 who went to play for Spurs, Rangers and captain Scotland. From that point of view I am going well, I have got a contract until July 2011 and if you coach and you get one or two kids coming through in a year you have done great. Two years ago I sat in front of the under 19's and said, “My job is to get you into the first team squad” and today we signed eight youngsters under the ages of twenty as a professional. I am hoping the Moroka Swallows fans who are very volatile, as most Africans are here when it comes to soccer, can be a bit patient because I think we have got so many outstanding kids coming through.

    RN: I wish you all the best with the remission.
    EL: I think you can see by the sound of me that I am not down, I am fighting it.

    RN: The title of your book is ‘From Manchester to Soweto’ How did the move (to SA) come about?
    EL: I emigrated to South Africa in 1970 with my wife and two daughters. The reason I emigrated was I was a bit pissed off with the weather and the climate. I worked in Insurance and every time I went out I got wet and every time I went on holiday I got wet. It was a great move but unfortunately my wife died in 1990, she got cancer of the lungs, she was a heavy smoker. But we moved for a better way of life and more sunshine, which proved to be the case. You asked why Manchester to Soweto? Well in those days the top soccer ground in South Africa was in a big township of about seven million people called Soweto which is a combination of south west townships. The stadium was called Orlando Stadium and I wanted to name the book ‘From Manchester to Orlando’ but I thought they might think it was Orlando Florida!

    RN: My knowledge of South Africa from the early 1970s is only what was gathered on the news, what was the reality?
    EL: When we got here I didn't know that there was all the rules that blacks couldn't do this and blacks couldn’t do that, I worked with black teams and I was actually on the TV the other night where they paid tribute to the fact that I was one of the guys that actually turned soccer in South Africa. What I did was I coached a white team in the second division, a team called Wits University where Gary Bailey played for me and in the afternoon I went into Soweto, which wasn't easy for a white guy and I coached Kaiser Chiefs. Wits won the league and came up to the first division, Kaiser Chiefs won the league and the cup. The next year we lost apartheid and the leagues became multi racial so I had to decide which team to coach and I chose the University as it was more convenient to me, partly because I didn't have to drive into a township all the time. Which I did without fear, if you help people they think the world of you, I used to get cheered and waved at as I was driving to Orlando for the games. I coached Kaiser Chiefs on at least three other different occasions, every time they got into trouble they would phone me up and say: “Eddie, will you come and help us.” Over the years since 1970 I have actually coached six senior sides here.

    RN: Were there ever any opportunities to come back to the UK and coach?
    EL: I was at the Orient, I played there when we won promotion in 1960 and when I finished playing in 1966 the coach of Leyton Orient was a guy called Les Gore and he said:”Eddie, I want you to come and help with the juniors.” In the next two months the club decided to change the coach and the new coach didn't want me. As a matter of fact I have got a letter here from a guy who wrote to me saying South Africa's gain was England’s loss because they felt I would have made a very good coach. I did get an offer from Cyril Lea when Bobby Robson was coaching at Ipswich and asked if I would be prepared to come across and coach Ipswich Town with him? I said I would love to but unfortunately nothing came of it.

    RN: Months on from the World Cup in South Africa, has it improved things for the people and the football?
    EL: The game has most certainly changed in South Africa, it has become more professional. Before we used to train at night time, Kaiser Chiefs used to train late in the afternoon about 4pm, they were the first team to have full time professionals and they were poorly paid. Now all teams in the Premiership, all train full time, the top players earn good money, Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates pull in forty, fifty thousand people. Not as many as they used to have but the game has improved. The main thing about it is we have got this thing where we are going to get money from FIFA for the World Cup but this country is full of corruption and nobody at this time has seen any of that money. What we want, people like me, we want this money to be put into youth development because the facilities for the kids are not good. All clubs in South Africa are full time and well paid but sad to say that the soccer administrations leave a lot to be desired with too many quick rich merchants around and at the moment nothing seems to have changed with there being no real quality coaching. When apartheid was abolished and we became one nation, I feel that a lot of the coaches there that were doing well were given the boot and a lot of other coaches took over. I believe the coaches that took over lacked any real idea of the game. If you have a motor car, whether it is a Ferrari or a VW you have got to open the door, you have got to sit down and you have got to start it. ie; no matter what car you have got you have to have basics and in soccer if you don't have basics you can't play. Unfortunately we are suffering. We did qualify for the African Cup of Nations, we did have the World Cup and got knocked out of the first round but the quality of the players is not good. Individually they are not bad but they have got no basics. We have a few foreign coaches here, we have Ruud Krol who played for Holland and people like that but basically unless we get to these kids by about 12 years of age and start teaching them the basics we will never really become a force in world soccer.

    RN: The same argument can be extended all around the world, there is big debate here about youth players.
    EL: Of those eight players, one of them, his name is Sibusiso Khumalo, he turned pro today, he is 18. I think this guy can become a world class player, he is big and he is strong. Unfortunately the players don't watch TV and they don't watch games. We call it township soccer where they always play on bits of dirt, we are talking a couple of years ago, not so much now, but they all play with their heads down and if a young kid wanted to gain fame he dribbled with the ball, he did flicks he did what you call a shibobo (nutmegs to you and I). That doesn't count, it doesn't work and until we get rid of that attitude.... I say to my kids, ‘guys, have you ever seen a ball tired, have you ever seen a ball sweating? No! well make the ball do the work, don't run with the ball, play it early. The earlier you play it the more chance the striker has got of doing something, the longer you hold the ball the tighter the defenders go.’ I think our big big problem is coaching at the grass roots level.

    RN: I was interviewing Gary Birtles last week and he said the ball never changes its flight, you can tell where the ball is going once it is played so let the ball make the movement rather than the player.
    RN: What memories stand out from your United career?
    EL: I was very lucky, I joined United at 14 and I was playing in the Colts and the A-Team. When I was 16 I was in the reserves then I got picked on November 29th 1952 to make my debut against West Brom away from home. The twelfth man that day because we didn't have substitutes was a young man called Duncan Edwards who I will talk to you about later. I had been playing for about six minutes when the keeper has dropped the ball and I toe ended it into the back of the net to lead 1-0. We eventually lost the game 3-1 but I have got to say the biggest thrill had to be playing in Man United's colours at seventeen years of age.

    RN: It is a mythical period for us fans, I am forty but we all look to the 1950s, what was it like coming through that period?
    EL: It was fantastic, my Dad was a United supporter and I must tell you the problem I have is that when I look back now we were grateful but we didn't seem to realise how lucky we were and I can tell you when I left United and went to Preston North End for eleven months and it was a disaster. First of all I was driving there, second the trainer was always moaning at me, I didn't play well. Tom Finney was a great guy but he used to train and go home to his plumbing business, the only guy that offered me guidance was Tommy Docherty but I was very unhappy at Preston North End and it was only when I got to Preston and started playing that I realised how lucky I was at United because at United we used to get the ball, you looked up and whether it was a four yard ball or a fifty yard ball as long as you passed it to someone in Red that was all that mattered. At these other clubs like Preston and I have to say I didn't play well, and even coming to SA, you have this thing of ‘ex Man United’. Of course there was obviously people saying you never played for Man United but I started working on the tv doing all the English soccer and La Liga and things like that then it became known that I did play for Man United. It dawned on me that this ‘ex Man United’ is like an open sesame!
    You talk about Tommy Taylor and I love Tommy Taylor, he was a great player I actually played with him and Duncan Edwards. Tommy was centre forward, I was inside left and Duncan inside right, we played Man City when Bert Trautman was in goal. Tommy was a great friend of mine but he was a better player than me. In my eighth or ninth game I split my head open against Wolves and in those days you didn't have subs so I had to stay on the pitch with my head bleeding and I actually think that is a little bit where my career went down slightly, I lost a bit of confidence. I played with Duncan, I played with Roger Byrne I played with David Pegg but the greatest I player I ever saw and ever played with was Duncan Edwards, the man was a colossus, as a kid of fifteen or sixteen he came into a practice match and was picking the ball up in the left full back position and whacking it 65 yards to the outside right with either foot. He was big and he was strong.
    We went on holiday together we went to Filey Butlins holiday camp together with our Man United badges, ‘MUFC’, the birds used to ask what it was and we said ‘Mr Universe of Firley Camp’. If I went back in my time I would like to say ‘how lucky you are Eddie, how lucky you are to be at Man United, how lucky you are to have men like Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy who have given you a chance’. As I said I went to Preston and in my first game we got beat 3-2 and I scored two goals, when I came off the pitch I was showering and there was a Scotsman called Jimmy Milne a trainer, he was the father of Gordon Milne who played for Liverpool. He said to me if you think you are going to get on at this club you will have to stop that fancy footwork. I had a trick where I would run with the ball and I would pretend to back heel it and the defender would stop and I would carry on. He didn't say ‘well done, you scored two goals on your debut and we were terrible’, he just said I would have to cut that out.

    RN: You read stories of the time of how players used to get the bus to the game and it is just incredible how different the era was to the one we know now.
    EL: On the Monday we would all go to the ground, all the youngsters, only for one reason in that we got on the pitch and we played 5-a-side. From there we showered and we got the bus to Davyhulme golf club where we had lunch, then we used to go down to the locker room and start nicking the guy’s clubs who weren't there having a round of golf, coming back about 5pm, having supper. I am talking about eight or nine of us like Bill Whelan, David Pegg, Duncan and those guys. We would go to the movies and when the lights came on there would be about ten of us there sitting down. None of us had cars and I will never forget the first guy to get a car, he lived round the corner from me, it was Johnny Carey and he bought a little Ford Popular. He offered me a lift to the training ground and said “you look nervous”, I said ‘yeah’ . He said: ‘Look Eddie, this is my new car but it is not the first time I have driven a car!’
    When I turned pro in those days you got so much when you were 17, a bit more when you were 18, 19 and 20. It was only when we went on strike and we got the maximum wage abolished...I was on seven pounds when I turned pro, I got six pounds, a pound in tax, I gave my mother four pounds and I kept two. Later in my career at Leyton Orient I was on twenty pounds and four pounds if we were in the top two as a bonus. These guys are millionaires now and the problem with the game now is how do you manage twenty millionaires? And this is what the top managers have got to do. In our day you wanted to play and when it got near the end of the season in March I would say “can I have a new pair of boots?” and if the coach said ‘yeah’ I knew I was going to be retained the next year and if he said no you started shitting yourself! We only got contracts that were renewable once a year and if we got fed up with the club we couldn't leave because we had signed a contract. We had this when we had the strikes in the days of Jimmy Hill, I was a member of the PFA and we were going to go on strike to abolish the maximum wage which we eventually got, which was a great thing but I think it has gone mad now, they have got to put a cap on it now, the money that is in the game now and the money that is being wasted and the clubs that are going under because clubs are trying to match what other clubs are paying. They have got to put a cap on what they are paying, I mean 120 thousand pounds a week! Jesus Christ.

    RN: You mention Jimmy Murphy and I have always thought he was such an intrical part, was he as important as Sir Matt?
    EL: We were playing a team called Nantwich at the Cliff and at half time we were winning 10-0 and I had scored four out of the first six. Jimmy came to me and Jimmy loved Duncan Edwards, he loved us all but he loved Duncan a bit more. He said: “The big man hasn't scored, when you get the ball can you play Dunc through” Duncan scores six goals in the second half and I didn't score any. We scored thirteen in the second half and we won 23-0!
    Jimmy Murphy was the iron fist in the velvet glove and the velvet glove was Matt Busby. I must tell you something against Man United, many years back when I had been out here a few years I went back to England and I decided to go and see Jimmy. I knew he lived in Whalley Range and his house was number one hundred. I knocked on the door and an old guy opened the door, so I'm looking past the old guy and said ‘I’m looking for Jimmy Murphy’ and that was Jimmy Murphy. He said: “Eddie, Jesus Christ come in.” He made me a cup of tea and said that all those years I put in at Old Trafford and they never gave me a pension.
    Listen I love Matt Busby and Sandy Busby and I still phone each other, we are great friends. Matt Busby was great, he was great to me, he was a gentleman. He dropped me from the first team and he said (puts on a Scottish accent), “Eddie, come here son I want to talk to you. How do you think you are playing son?”. I said ‘Boss, I don't think I’m doing bad.’ “Aye son, I thought so, I said to myself if Eddie Lewis knew how bad he was playing he wouldn’t pick himself. So Son you are not playing and you are going in the reserves.” That is the way he dropped me from the first team. In my coaching career if I say ‘Barney, your work rate is great but you are giving the ball away too much.’, I never criticise the player before I have built him up so he hasn't got as far to fall. This was Matt Busby's method as well but the main man in my life as a youngster was Jimmy Murphy.

    RN: You mentioned your goal against West Brom, can you remember what you did that night after the game?
    EL: I come from a working class home, my Dad worked on the railways and him and my mother and my sister went through to Birmingham and it was snowing as they went back on the train. My thing was my mother used to go...I am going to get a bit emotional. ....sit me down, get a stool put it under my legs and give me a tin of pineapple and that was my celebration. I have never smoked or drunk anything in my life, I am a pain in the arse like that. We used to go out as a team and they would say “ten beers and a lemonade for him.” I didn't really celebrate, I wasn't a guy who went out dancing or anything, in my own way I was a model professional. My Dad said don't smoke and don't drink and I didn't, I trained regularly. It was a great thing, my dad was so proud because he comes from Salford and when he went to work his mates always said: “how's the lad doing?”. So that was my satisfaction that my dad was proud of me...

    RN: Munich must have been an awful time for you.
    EL: I was playing at West Ham and that morning I went to the training ground, I had something to sort out with my income tax and the secretary came running out and said: “have you heard the news, have you heard the news?” I said ‘no’ and she said that the Man United aeroplane had crashed and players had been killed. I quickly went home, I didn't have a car so I ran home. I had only been married about thirteen months and Shirley was there. We put the TV on and it came through, who had died, Duncan Edwards still alive, Bobby Charlton, Albert Scanlon, Roger Byrne, dead. I actually phoned up Jimmy Murphy and asked if I could come back and play for United. He said look Eddie we can’t. They signed Albert Quixall who played for Sheffield Wednesday and a couple of other players including one who had already played in the FA Cup that year. They got to the FA Cup Final that year and what I did, I wrote to Jimmy Murphy. When he got the letter he sent me a couple of tickets back for the final. So I wanted to go back but they just weren't interested, maybe they didn't think I was good enough and I haven't got a problem with that.

    RN: Or the emotion might of been so hard to return back to a club that had been decimated.
    EL: On the Saturday afterwards I was at West Ham and we played Doncaster Rovers and I actually had a penalty and this isn't me bullshitting you but I can't remember putting the ball down or taking the penalty but I scored and we beat Doncaster Rovers. I have a photograph of the West Ham team having a minute’s silence for Man United as all the crowd did.

    RN: You mention Jimmy Murphy, did you have much contact with Sir Matt and the rest of the team after you left United?
    EL: No, I didn't. I played against Man United for Preston and we beat them 3-1 and Sir Matt said after the game that he knew he shouldn't have transferred Eddie Lewis. That was one of the few games I did well for them and Mark Jones was the centre back against me and Mark and I were great friends, we used to go out in the morning in the park to walk our dogs. I had an Alsatian and he had a big bloodhound so we used to go walking. When I played against Mark I obviously knew what he was like and I had a good game but I never really stayed in touch. I saw Albert Scanlon a while ago and he wrote an article talking shit about me having a fag and I was very upset with Albert, I was going to write to him but I thought forget about it, let bygones be bygones.
    My best man was Geoff Bent who was the reserve left back and he only went because when they played Arsenal on the Saturday Roger Byrne got injured and Geoff had been out injured and he had just come back so that is why he went. They couldn’t recognise him and the only way to tell was by the stitches on his ankle from the operation he had a couple of months earlier. Geoff was my best man at my wedding, he had bad digs so he came and lived with me my mother and father for about six months, He was a great friend. Eddie Colman, I loved Eddie and he liked me too, one day we were on tour somewhere in Europe and he got pissed out of his mind. All he kept saying was: ‘Ed, if I was as big as you I would be playing for England’. I actually undressed him and put him to bed that night!
    There was another lad that got killed in the crash from the youth team and the was Bill Whelan. Bill was a lovely guy and he was probably the most underrated player I have seen in my life. He was a devout Catholic and Bill Foulkes told me that when the plane was crashing he heard Bill shout “if this is death I am ready.”

    RN: What was it like running out onto the Old Trafford pitch?
    EL: It is difficult to say because you had grown up in the atmosphere, we were in the dressing room with senior players like Jack Rowley, Stan Pearson, Johnny Carey, Allenby Chilton, Charlie Mitten so mixing with those guys you got a little bit of an air about you and it was no big deal running onto the pitch at Old Trafford because it was expected. I am saying that because this is how I feel when I cast my mind back and I don't ever remember jumping up and down thinking: ‘Oh I’m going to be playing’,or anything like that I just took it in my stride because of the people around us. They kept Jack Rowley, Jack Crompton and Allenby Chilton in the side and they replaced all the others. Roger Byrne was playing left Midfield with me in the A team and the reason he came to play left fullback was we were playing a team called Lancashire Steel and he hit a guy and got sent off and he couldn't play so to earn money what they did was stick him in the reserves at left back and from that moment on he never looked back, he captained United and played for England. Roger wasn't a bad player but he didn't look particularly good but the minute he went to left fullback and he played with his right foot he was world class.

    RN: What did you think about the United fans back then?
    EL: Well we didn't have this adulation that you have got now, when you came out of the dressing room at the end of the game there was always people hanging around wanting your autograph and things like this. There were a couple of people that were there all the time but it wasn't fanatic like it is now. I hear United are two goals down in the car and I can hear the crowd singing “United! United!”. I said if you are a supporter and they go one down you don't get onto them, you support them. I think United have always had this where they have had good supporters whether when I played or now. I think now there is more money knocking about even with the supporters you can go and watch them if they play in France or if they play in Germany. When we went on a tour of Norway and Sweden there was no United supporters there.

    RN: What was the funniest moment you remember during your time?
    EL: I must tell you this there was a guy called Alec Gaskell, he lived in Widnes. Now Alec was a good pal of mine but unfortunately the only way he could get to training was by bus and in those days they had what was called a limited stop bus. So this bus would start in Widnes, drive about ten miles stop once and then the next stop was Manchester. Al used to get this bus, get off and then run down to the ground. Anyway we were walking into training one day and there's Alec sitting in the bath washing clothes and the coach says: “Hey Alec, what did you do son, shit yourself?!” And Alec says “Yes Bill”. On this limited stop bus you couldn't get off for a shit and he shat himself. He had to run down to the ground with shit in his pants and the first thing he did was get into a bath and wash himself. That was sixty years ago and I can still cry laughing about it.

    RN: Throughout your career what were the highs and the lows?
    EL: Obviously the high was playing with so many great players in the youth team, playing in the first team then going on tour with the first team and things like that. Then I had my head split open and I wasn't quite the same and then they signed Tommy Taylor for £29,999. Now I played against Barnsley reserves about six weeks earlier and Tommy played against us and scored about four goals, he killed us that day. That was when Jimmy Murphy came back and said ‘you had better go and look at this guy, this guy’s a good player’ and two weeks later they signed Tommy. Tommy was a lovely guy and I got on well with him and liked him very much and playing with him and those guys was the highlight. I think the lowlight of my career was obviously the aeroplane crash, I didn't do well at Preston which was a low. I was pissed off at Preston. I had a good time at West Ham but the best time of my life was when I went to Leyton Orient.
    It was my dream when I was a kid, I went to watch United at the outbreak of the war when I was five years of age, my dad used to take me to Old Trafford. I don't know if you know the story about Old Trafford but my father worked on the railway lines there and they used to have what you call spotters on the roof and when the Germans came over and dropped incendiary bombs, now if there had been any spotters on the roof they would have put these incendiary bombs out because they used to have these buckets with sand and at night time you would throw the sand over the bomb. My dad used to say to me that if there had been anybody there, Old Trafford wouldn't have burnt down. In those days I went to watch United and the team would be Jack Crompton, Joe Walton, A N Other, A N Other, Jack Rowley, A N Other, A N Other, Stan Pearson, A N Other, because what they did was anybody that was in the army that was near Manchester they pulled into play for United. I watched United right through the war and obviously my biggest thrill was when they won the cup in 1948 when they beat Blackpool 4-2.
    They actually played Aston Villa (in a earlier round) and at half time they were beating Aston Villa 5-1 and Villa came back and scored three goals in the second half and United finished up winning 6-4. I used to go everywhere, I used to go and stand and sometimes I would go and guys would say “why aren't you out there playing?”. I used to just look at these guys, I was only 12 or 13. Who knows what they would have thought four years later when I was playing and they were watching me.

    RN: If you could sum up your United experience how would you?
    EL: It would be that my mother said to me that if I had been a better player I would have been killed in the air crash. I loved my time and I was there from fourteen and a half and I left when I was 21/22, I had a great time, I loved being there, I loved being with the Babes, I was a little bit pissed off when I never got played in the first team. I asked for a move and Matt Busby didn't want me to go, I felt I was worth a place and do you know what I never got a penny signing off fee and when I left there to go to Preston I got nothing in my hand, I think I got 25% of my benefit which I think was about £4.50. When I went from Preston to West Ham I got nothing and when I went from West Ham to Leyton Orient I was so naive that I didn't ask. Those were the best days and it was only when I left and went to Preston that I realised how lucky I had been and I wish I hadn't have left but I don't think I was good enough for the United team compared to the Roger Byrnes and the Jackie Blanchflowers, Johnny Berry, Bill Whelan and those guys. I just don't think I was as good as those guys, if I had been quicker I think I could have but speed was not one of my assets.

    RN: You mention about the richer times in terms of players that we are in now, are you glad you played when you did?
    EL: I'll be honest with you I did but I would have liked to have been paid some of the money these guys are on now. In those days when a player stopped playing he went into a pub or he bought a newsagents. If you had a car it was unique, I mean I told you about Johnny Carey, If you go to Old Trafford now there is about four thousand cars there when they are training or wherever it is they train but in those days there was Matt Busby's car and Johnny Carey's. In many ways I don't think the game is as good or as enjoyable as it was when I played from what I can see and what I can hear, as I said how do you manage 20 millionaires and guys who say, forgive my language, “I don't give a fuck”. We had to play because we needed the money it is not as if we had enough money to put into the bank, when you got your six pounds you spent it, you had nothing left. You wanted to play in the first team for the bonus and also you got extra money playing in the first team and so when you didn't play you got pissed off. These guys now as you say the reserves and the junior players they could probably play for another three years and then retire.

    RN: What is your opinion on the Glazer takeover?
    EL: I think they are a pair of shits. I am not a financial adviser but how can you go to the bank, borrow money and buy Man United? These guys must get out, you can't tell me they are in it for the football because they don't know a football from a rugby ball. I couldn't believe it and when you see United £180m in the red I'll be honest with you it is beyond my comprehension.The money they made on Ronaldo, Jesus Christ.

    RN: Finally Eddie, what is next for you?
    EL: (Laughs) I'm just going to go to my notes and see what I have written. I am 76 in January I’m still working with the Moroka Swallows, they have been very kind to me. I am with a top SA team, I am the technical advisor and head of the club’s youth development. What I would like to do is first of all get rid of the cancer completely and live for at least another ten years and the way I feel now I will. I would like the chairman to come to me and say: “Eddie you have done magnificently with these kids I would like you to stay another year.” I don't want to retire, I have got a lady friend and she is a fantastic lady. I am hoping they are going to say that if I have Chemo it is not going to be as strong because you know I can't describe to you how tough it is, I am a strong guy, when a surgeon did my hernia he said can I congratulate you, you have the inside of a young man, I suppose not smoking or drinking has done me good. I am a good living guy, I am living here in a small cottage with my daughter. They have just gone out now and my grandson who is eighteen, he has just wrote a story about his grandfather having Cancer and he said what you have got to do is that when you get knocked down in life you have got to get back up and he said my granddad has done that. All he wants to see me do is to run out at Old Trafford.
    The main thing is that I have still got my family. This lady has stood by me, I have asked her to marry me, she goes with me to my appointments on a Monday, on a Tuesday she is absolutely fantastic, she couldn't have done as much if she had been my wife. Basically I am a happy guy, I am earning money and doing what I love.

    RN: Eddie I just want to say it has been an absolute honour, I get great satisfaction and enjoyment speaking to the older players and you just reaffirm the good things in life.

    Our thoughts and best wishes go to the family and loved ones of Eddie Lewis, a proper gent. It was awful news hearing he has passed away. RIP Eddie Lewis, 3rd January 1935-2nd May 2011. Interview by Barney.
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