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  • Red News
    From Red News past - Tom Clare on Roger Byrne

    “Captain Marvel”, “Captain Fantastic”, “Captain Reliable”. All accolades given to Captains of Manchester United during the last thirty years. United have had some great Captains at the Club down through the years and they have all left their own legacy on the Club’s history. Roger Byrne is certainly up there with the best of them, and he led by example on the field, and with quiet effective authority off it. He was certainly the buffer between the dressing room and the manager’s office.

    Roger Byrne’s progression to Manchester United began at the Ryder Brow Boys Club in the Gorton area of Manchester. He initially played at inside forward and his wing partner back in those days was a person who was also going to go on and represent his country, but alas, at a different sport. That person was a certain J.B. “George” Statham who was to find fame and glory as a fast bowler with Lancashire C.C.C. and England.

    Roger was never a schoolboy star, but he must have taken the eye in his performances with Ryder Brow for he was taken on at Old Trafford as junior, initially as an inside left. Again his progress was halted as he had to complete his National Service Service and he was enlisted into the R.A.F. It was quite amazing to find out that during his service time, he was considered as not good enough to play in the Station football team and so ended up having to play rugby! National Service completed, he returned to Old Trafford and it was then that his career began to progress.

    He was a deceptive type of player and many outside of Old Trafford came to the conclusion that there would be no place for him in regular First Division football. There is a record of a scout’s report produced after one of Roger’s performances for the Reserve team which read as follows; “Heading – Poor; Tackling – Ordinary; Right Foot – Fair; Left Foot – Non-Existent; Overall Impression – Disillusioned.” The scout could not have got it more wrong, and fortunately for the staff at Old Trafford, they saw the real qualities in him and were able to bring those to the fore as he started to mature as a player. His chance came on November 24th, 1951 when he was selected at left back for the game at Anfield against Liverpool which ended in a 0-0 draw. He was to be ever present from then on in what was to be the first Championship winning team since 1911. He played on the left wing for the last six games of that season, scoring six goals in the process.

    Although the 1951/52 season finished with him winning a First Division Championship medal, the following season saw him become discontented. To some people they saw him as arrogant with a big ego. Without doubt, Roger Byrne was very singe minded even to the point of being stubborn. The cause of his discontent was the fact that he didn’t like playing at outside left. He pointed out to Matt Busby that he was more at home playing in a defensive role and preferred the left full back berth. Busby unhesitatingly told him that he would play in whatever position that he was selected to play in and that there was no negotiating about it. There was an impasse between manager and player and Roger handed in a transfer request. Johnny Carey was the Club Captain at the time and he took Roger to task about the situation as did Allenby Chilton and Jack Rowley. They all pointed out that something new and exciting was about to be unleashed on British football from within Old Trafford. The three elder statesman explained to Roger that they were nearing the end of their careers and that a defensive position would be his for cementing if he buckled down to it, and that the young players that were beginning to emerge within the club from the junior teams would make Manchester United the team of the future. Fortunately, after being shown the error of his ways, Roger withdrew his transfer request. Busby had left him out of the team for a few games after his transfer request, but once it was withdrawn he put him back in – at full back, and he was to stay there for until fate curtailed his career.

    Johnny Carey retired and Allenby Chilton was made Club Captain, and Busby’s man management skills showed when he made Byrne the team’s vice-captain. There was no doubt in the two years that followed, Byrne learned much from Chilton’s leadership and Busby’s management skills even though the former was very autocratic. He bridged the gap between those young players in the dressing room and Chilton, and was also their bridge to the manager. He truly blossomed as a full back and it wasn’t too long before he began to catch the eye of the international selectors with his displays. Byrne was extremely quick, and was never one for diving into the tackle. He was slightly built for a full back but had a very good tactical brain. It was unusual that he played in that left back role because his stronger foot was his right foot, but it never seemed to deter him. He would “jockey “ wingers into positions where he wanted them to be and was so adept at “nicking” the ball away from them. He was masterful at reading the game and had an uncanny sense of anticipating danger which was often seen when he came across to the middle covering behind the centre half whenever the situation was needed. Jimmy Armfield was given the tag of the first full back to start the “overlapping full back” ploy. This is nonsense. Roger Byrne was the first full back to be seen to do this regularly in games. As a player with the experience of having played on the wing, he was always very comfortable at getting forward and supporting attacking play.

    Even today, Roger Byrne is probably one of the quickest defenders I have ever seen. His recovery speed was phenomenal and many was the time as I watched games, wingers would have thought that they had “skinned” him, only to find that he was there in front of them again. On April 3rd 1954, he made his debut for England against Scotland in the cauldron that was Hampden Park and shone in an England victory by 4-2. This began a run of 33 consecutive international games for his country. Quite phenomenal back then when players were in and out of the team at the whim of selectors. Billy Wright, the blue eyed golden haired man from Wolverhampton Wanderers was the England skipper, but I’m sure that Byrne would have succeeded him in that role. To be honest, in my opinion, Wright was past his sell by date from the mid fifties onwards, and was very fortunate indeed to amass 100 caps.

    At United, the “Babes” were starting to emerge. In 1955 Chilton retired and Busby appointed Byrne as the Club Captain. It was the only choice because Roger was a born leader in reality. He kept the “kids” in check and was never afraid to take them aside and have a “quiet word” if he thought that they were transgressing or that their off the field activities were beginning to affect their form. He wasn’t autocratic as Chilton had been but he had this calm, confident manner that players respected and his authority never came into question. His relationship with Busby deepened and I am sure that in Roger Byrne, Busby saw the man who would eventually take over the mantle from him as Manager of Manchester United.

    The “Babes” were a wonderful set of young men led by an exceptional Captain. They were different in that they were all big friends even away from the playing side of their lives. Roger met his future wife Joy when he enrolled on a physiotherapist’s course at Salford University. Joy was on the same course and their relationship blossomed as the course progressed.. He was the only United player at that time to own a car, not that he was a prolific driver! Shortly after he had obtained a permanent driving licence, Busby was at home in King’s Road, Chorlton cum Hardy one evening, when there was an almighty crash outside of his home. On going out to investigate, he was confronted by the sight of Roger in his car half way down his front lawn after having crashed through the garden wall!

    Success came to the “Babes” in that 1955/56 season when they won the First Division Championship with the youngest team ever and by the largest difference in points from the team finishing second. I can recall racing across the Old Trafford pitch from the “Glover’s side” at the conclusion of the last home game of that season against Portsmouth on April 21st 1956, to see them presented with that wonderful old Championship Trophy. The crowd was huge in front of the old main stand and player’s tunnel as Roger led his young team up a makeshift stairway and podium to be handed the trophy by Joe Richards, the Football League Chairman. Those young boys mounted the platform at the top of the stairway and their smiles and exuberance told such a story. As Byrne brought the trophy and his team down the stairway, they were happy to talk to the fans, show their medals and allow fans to touch the trophy before they disappeared up that tunnel and into the sanctity of the dressing room. No laps of honour back in those days!

    The following season, Roger led his “Babes” into Europe, and his performances were inspirational. He led from the front and on the field he could also be a “minder” to some of the younger players. I can recall a game against Aston Villa at Old Trafford in September of 1957, when the Villa left half, Stan Crowther (who was to join United later that season on the night of that first game after Munich against Sheffield Wednesday) was giving Billy Whelan a turgid time physically – in fact he was lucky to stay on the field. Byrne had a word with Crowther and got no real response. He bided his time and it came in the form of a long high ball dropping towards him as Crowther moved to close him down. Roger was quite deliberate in what he did and he met the ball full on the volley with his right foot. It went with the speed of a bullet and Crowther could not get out of the way as the ball hit him full in the face knocking him out. He was taken off the field with concussion and never returned to the game. Roger let no one take liberties.

    He and Joy had married in early 1957 and had settled down in Flixton. Life was good apart from the away trips into Europe which kept them apart. United retained their title in 1956/57 and narrowly failed in their first European quest, as well as falling valiantly to Aston Villa in the F.A. Cup Final. Despite being on the end of the most violent premeditated act of violence that I have ever witnessed on a football pitch which left his team a man short for most of the game, the mark of Roger Byrne the man, was shown after the final whistle in the match had blown. Despite the bitter disappointment of losing at Wembley in the Final, and despite the nature that alluded to that loss, Byrne gathered his young team mates around him, and as Johnny Dixon, the Villa Captain, arrived at the top of the Royal Box, Byrne led his young charges in applause for the victors of the day as they received the famous old trophy. I could never envisage anything happening like that in this modern era. I will always recall a newspaper headline from the morning after that Final which said; “Villa Get The Cup But United Get The Glory” – never were truer words ever written.

    The following season, 1957/58 was looked forward to so much. The word “treble” was now in the football vocabulary, and this was United’s aim that season. They started out brightly enough but had a mid season “blip” and going into February of 1958 they were second in the League table just 6 points behind Wolves, who were scheduled to play at Old Trafford on February 8th. After losing a League game to Chelsea on December 14th 1957 by 1-0, Busby decided to freshen up the team. He went out and bought Goalkeeper Hary Gregg from Doncaster Rovers for a British record transfer fee for a goalkeeper of 23,500 pounds. For the game against Leicester City on December 21st at Old Trafford, he left out Wood and introduced Gregg, and also left out Berry Whelan and Pegg, introducing Morgans, Charlton and Scanlon. The side that was then ever present for the next 11 games leading up to that fateful afternoon in Munich hit a rich vein of form. In those games in all competitions, they won 7 and drew 4, scoring 34 goals and conceding 16 in the process. They were back on track led by their inspirational Captain.

    In Belgrade in the evening after the game against Red Star which had seen the team ease into the European Cup semi-finals, spirits were high at the reception that followed the game. Formal speeches were made and Byrne led the players in a rendition of Vera Lynne’s famous old wartime song of “We’ll Meet Again”. Sadly that was never to be. He again showed the other side of him as some of the younger players grew restless and impatient as midnight approached. They wanted to leave and visit a watering hole. Roger wrote a message on a napkin and passed it up to the top table where Busby was sat. The message on that napkin read “You promised the boys that they could leave once formalities were over. Permission to go?” A simple nod of the Manager’s head acquiesced to the request, and the young guns were away to enjoy themselves.

    We all know the tragedy that was Munich and at what cost it came. Roger died instantly in the carnage of the disaster and Harry Gregg found him on the tarmac with not a mark upon him and with his eyes wide open. Even today, Harry sadly regrets not closing his eyes. Roger was just two days short of his 29th birthday. The biggest sadness was also that he was not to know that Joy, his wife was pregnant, and that he was never to see his son Roger junior. Roger’s body, together with those of his colleagues was flown home to Manchester and they rested initially in the gymnasium underneath the main stand at Old Trafford. The young policeman who had the duty of guarding the gymnasium door that night recalled that it was the longest and saddest night of his career. After a funeral service at Flixton Church, Roger was laid to rest.

    United lost not only a great skipper that sad day, but also a man of great integrity, a born leader. He was certainly a man that exuded class and was full of charisma, whose sense of fair play and leadership, gained him the respect of not only his team mates, but everybody who came into contact with him. His tongue could be sharp at times, but those young kids accepted him and his discipline without question. He was simply their Captain.

    Rest in peace Roger. I can still see you even today, leading those “Babes” out of the tunnel, tapping the ball up twice into your hands then kicking it up into the air towards the Scoreboard End goal. So many memories of a wonderful human being.

    Roger played 277 games for United scoring 19 goals. He also made 33 consecutive appearances at international level for England.

    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below

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  • Red News
    From Red News past… Tom Clare on Duncan Edwards

    "The best player that I've ever seen, the best footballer that I've ever played with for United or England, the only other player who ever made me feel inferior." Those are the words of one of the greatest players ever to grace the world football stage, one of the greatest ambassadors of the game, and most of all, one of life's gentlemen - Sir Bobby Charlton. The player that he was talking about? Well, he was a young man - just. He played the game until he was only 21 years and 143 days old. But in that so short career, he left such an indelible mark, both on the game, and for the people that were fortunate enough to have watched him, on their memories. It says so much about him, that even now, almost 47 years after his passing, he is still talked about and remembered, not only by the fans of the club for which he played and loved so much, who cherish that memory so guardedly, but also, by football fans throughout the British Isles and Europe. He was a household name by the time that he reached his eighteenth birthday. He was indeed world class, a colossus, a giant in the truest sense of the word, a great, and he has certainly become a legend. In the modern day, when those words are bandied about and bestowed upon players so freely and so easily, when put against this young man's profile, no other words could describe him more aptly - he is of course, Duncan Edwards.

    During the last few weeks, the BBC has been running their "England Dream Team" competition. Of course, Duncan was amongst the nominations but never even got near to the team finally selected. There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being I suspect, would be the fact that the majority of the voters were too young to have watched him play. Others I also suspect, just can't accept that there was once a young player who was just so good. It's difficult for them to believe that there was ever "the perfect player." It must make them wonder just who this wonderful young man was? Could he have been the player that he was made out to be? Are the descriptions of him over-exaggerated? Over the years, much has been written about Duncan, some of it true, some of it myth. Those of us who were around during his time and did watch him play, know which is which.

    I was fortunate to have watched Duncan for the majority of his first team career and have so many, many, memories of him. He was a wonderful human being as well as being a great football player. Let me tell you a few things about him, and then about my memories of him.

    Duncan was born on October 1st, 1936, to Gladstone and Sara-Ann Edwards, in a little terraced house at 23, Malvern Crescent, in the Black Country town of Dudley, Worcestershire. They were a typical hard working, working class family, just like so many of their contemporaries of that time. His late Mum used to tell the story about Duncan being able to kick a ball before he could even walk! His parents had a set of reins which they would tie around his waist, and whilst Gladstone would hold him upright, Duncan would kick the ball up and down their living room, much to their amusement. He grew into a young giant for his age, a huge frame - much bigger than children of his own age. He loved to play football. His waking hours were spent playing the game whenever the opportunity would arise, and if he wasn't actually playing football, then he would dream about it. It was obvious to anybody watching this young man, that he was so gifted and skilful where football was concerned. At the tender age of eight, he was playing in his School team against boys two, and three years older than himself. By the time he was eleven years old, he was playing for his Town team, and also representing Worcestershire Schoolboys, his County team - he was three years younger than his team mates. Around that time, Duncan wrote an essay at school in which he recalled a conversation between his father and uncle. During that conversation, he had heard his father remark that England would be playing Scotland at Wembley Stadium, the following Saturday. Duncan plucked up the courage to interrupt the conversation and ask the question; 'where is Wembley Stadium?' His uncle told him that it was in London. Duncan related to him how much he would like to play there. Little was he to know at that time, just how soon his dream would come true. On April 1st, 1950, at aged just 13 years old, Duncan strode out from the tunnel and onto the hallowed Wembley turf, in front of 100,000 spectators, wearing the shirt of England Schoolboys, representing his country, playing at left half, against the Wales Schoolboys team. He played in every England schoolboy international fixture for the next three seasons, and was even made England captain at just 14 years old. That record of playing for three successive seasons for England schoolboys still stands today, as does his being the youngest ever captain, and I doubt very much if those two records will ever be broken.

    Obviously, a talent such as this attracted a lot of attention. From the moment he became a schoolboy international, lots of the top professional clubs courted his parents in the hope that they would eventually land the signature of this remarkable young boy. All the big Midlands clubs were prominent, Wolves, Albion, Villa, Birmingham, as well as Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea. A chance conversation between two old adversaries, as well as old army friends, was the beginning of the road to Old Trafford for Duncan. In 1950, Joe Mercer, then still playing for Arsenal, was doing some coaching with the England schoolboys team. After a game between United and Arsenal, Joe happened to remark to Matt Busby what a remarkable talent he had seen in the England schoolboys team, and that in his opinion; 'young Edwards is going to be some player'. This alerted Busby, and he sent his trusted chief scout, Joe Armstrong, down to Dudley to watch the young Edwards play. After just ten minutes, Armstrong had seen enough, and recommended that Busby should go and watch this young man for himself. The following week, both Matt and Jimmy Murphy slipped unobtrusively into Dudley and watched Duncan play. They too, did not have to stay for too long watching Duncan play, and on the way back to Manchester, Busby told Jimmy that this was one young player that United must not miss out on. For the next two years they kept an eye on things and at 2 a.m. on the morning of October 1st 1952, a bleary eyed Gladstone Edwards came downstairs to answer the knocking on the front door of his home. Stood there outside in the darkness was Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy. He invited both men into the living room, and called Sara-Ann. For the next hour the four of them talked about the possibility of Duncan joining Manchester United. Gladstone told both of them that the decision would be left to Duncan as to which club he would like to join - unbeknowns to him, Sara-Ann already knew the answer! Duncan had confided to her the previous morning. Gladstone called Duncan, and this big giant of a boy arrived in the living room wearing his pyjamas, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, and immediately upon recognizing Matt Busby said; 'Mr. Busby, there's only one club that I want to play football for, and that's Manchester United. I'd give anything to sign for them'. It was as simple as that - he'd followed the exploits of the United team that had won the FA Cup in 1948, the 1st Division Championship in 1952, and who had also finished runners-up in the league on four other occasions. Their brand of football had captivated him. He was a United fan! A few minutes after meeting Matt Busby, Duncan was a Manchester United player, and a few days later he left the family home for digs in Stretford, and a career in professional football.

    Upon his arrival at Old Trafford Duncan was quietly introduced and within weeks it was apparent that here was somebody truly remarkable, with a remarkable talent, and one which hadn't been seen before. The coaches reporting back to Busby stated that there was absolutely nothing that they could coach into this kid. He was just so natural, and gifted, in everything that he did. Nothing fazed him, the surroundings, his team mates, opposing players - he just had the perfect temperament. In no time at all Duncan had been promoted into the reserve team and his performances belied his young years. Even at this youthful age, he had a superb physique. Players of his own age looked under nourished compared to him! But for a big lad, he was exceptionally quick over the ground, could turn either way with a devastating body-swerve, had two great feet, a tremendous shot in either foot, was exceptionally powerful in the air, so strong in the tackle, but most importantly, for one so young, his positional play was flawless because he read the game so well. It also soon became apparent that he could play anywhere in any position, and still be the most outstanding player on the park! Just six months after his arrival at Old Trafford, the day that he had lived and dreamed about arrived. On Saturday, April 2nd 1953, at the age of 16 years and 185 days, he appeared out of the tunnel wearing the number 6 shirt in Manchester United's first team playing against Cardiff City in a Football League Division One match.

    My earliest recollections of Duncan are of seeing him play in a reserve team game at Old Trafford early in 1953. It was astonishing to see this young giant playing amongst men. In hindsight, it was his age that first attracted me to him being a favourite of mine. United?s reserve team wing halves in the second half of that season were two really young players - Jeff Whitefoot, who was younger than Duncan when he had made his first team debut, and Duncan himself. After he made his debut, Duncan hardly appeared in a reserve game again, although he did play in the Youth team, and won a winners medal in the inaugural season of the FA Youth Cup. In 1953/54, his reputation started to gain momentum, and even though he was just 17, he appeared for the England Under-23 team against Italy, in Bologna. He had already started to earn rave notices with his outstanding displays in the first team. In those days, there was some really outstanding players around who had huge reputations. They meant nothing at all to Duncan - even at such a young age, he just eclipsed them with the power and polish of his own performance.

    The late Jackie Milburn used to tell the story of the day that he first came up against Duncan. He recalls early on in the game standing besides him and listening as Duncan told him; 'I know that you are a great player Mr. Milburn, and that you have a big reputation, but it means nothing at all to me. Today I am not going to allow you a kick at the ball.' This was from a young 16 years old boy - it wasn-t arrogance, or egoism, it was Duncan's inherent self-belief in his own ability. As Jackie was to say; 'the thing was, Duncan was absolutely true to his word, I hardly did get a kick throughout that game and United won 5-2. I just could not believe how mature this young kid was, and what ability and self-belief he had'. His reputation had already started to grow, but it never went to his head. He had his feet firmly planted on the ground. Duncan knew he was special, I don't think that he ever doubted that. He just loved to play, be it in the first team or even the Youth team, he gave each game the same commitment. His appetite for playing was voracious. Jimmy Murphy recalled another game, this time a Youth team match early in the stages of the competition against a well known London team. From the very start of the game, there was a loud mouth sat behind Jimmy who kept on baiting him by shouting; 'where's your famous Edwards then Murphy, where's this so-called superstar?' Jimmy just gritted his teeth and said nothing until about ten minutes into the game, a tackle was won in the centre circle, and the tackler was away with the ball and moving towards goal. Several of the opposition players tried to get within touching distance of him, but he was just too strong. From full 30 yards he unleashed a tremendous shot that hardly got off the ground. Before the home goalkeeper could move, it was past him and nestling into the back of the net. Jimmy just smiled, turned around, looked the loud mouth straight in the eye, and said; 'that's Edwards!'

    The Youth team were formidable in those first years of the Youth Cup competition, and nigh on unbeatable - they won it for the first five years of its inception. I personally can recall a semi-final against the Chelsea Youth team. Ted Drake had also put together a really good team of youngsters in 1954/55. The first leg had been drawn at Stamford Bridge 2-2. In the return leg, played at Old Trafford on a Saturday morning in front of 30,000 spectators, Chelsea held the upper hand at half-time and led 2-1. In the second half, Edwards moved up to centre forward. Within minutes of the re-start, Terry Beckett floated over a cross from the right, and there was Duncan powering into the area, soaring above everybody, to really thump the ball with his head past the goalkeeper, and level the tie. Sometime later, there was a corner to United on the left hand side at the Scoreboard End. Denis Fidler floated it towards the penalty spot, and once again, Duncan's timing and power got him there b!
    efore anybody could react, and another bullet header was planted into the net. He then moved back to left half, and his influence on the young kids around him, made sure that they were never going to lose that tie.

    He was such a wonderful young boy. In those days, United players used to make their own way to the ground for home games. Duncan used to have an old Raleigh bicycle, and this was his mode of transport for getting to and from the ground. I would stand on the railway bridge and wait for him as he would come wheeling down what was then Warwick Road (now Sir Matt Busby Way). Once across the bridge he would turn left and free-wheel down to the old Ticket Office, with a stream of kids (me included) chasing after him. He would alight from his bicycle, prop it up against his leg, get all the kids to line up, and he would stand there signing the books and bits of paper before taking a piece of string out of his pocket, secure the bike to a drain pipe, and disappear inside to the dressing room. It was the same ritual in reverse after the game - out he would come, line up the kids once more, sign every book and bit of paper before untying the bike, climbing aboard it, and then he was off, back up Warwick Road, and on to his digs in Stretford.

    In April of 1955, he was selected to play for England against Scotland at Wembley - he became the youngest player ever to play for his country at senior level at the age of just 18 years and 183 days. Unheard of in those distant days - teenagers just weren't good enough, nor experienced enough to play for England - or so the thought process went! He had in fact represented England at schoolboy, Youth, Under-23, and B-team level before then. He took to international football like a duck to water, and was never left out of England's team again. In the Autumn of 1955, England went to Berlin to play the then World Champions, West Germany, at the Olympiastadion, in front of 100,000 spectators. For the first 20 minutes of the game, the Germans had given England a torrid time, but then Duncan made a tackle midway inside the German half and won the ball. His acceleration was so quick, it just took him past two startled German defenders, and from 25 yards, he just bombed the ball into the back of the net before the 'keeper could move. Even today, the Germans remember him by the nickname that they bestowed upon him that day - "Boom-Boom!" The following winter, the Brazilians arrived at Wembley, testing the water for their assault on the World Cup Finals to be held in Sweden in the summer of 1958. Most of the players the Brazilians used in Sweden actually played in that game at Wembley. They were outclassed by an England team that won 4-2, and missed two penalties in the process. Tommy Taylor led their defence a merry dance, but Duncan eclipsed the man who was to be their big star in Sweden - Didi. Didi was made to look more than ordinary, and believe me, this fellow was up there with the best of them - Pele, Best, Di Stefano, Puskas. Edwards won 18 caps in total and scored 5 international goals. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have played for England for a very long time but for fate. I also believe that England, and not Brazil, would have lifted the 1958 World Cup but for Munich, and also the cruel loss of Jeff Hall, the Birmingham City full back, to polio. The very heart was ripped out of a very, very, good England team.

    In 1955/56, Matt Busby's famous "Babes" team became of age and lifted the Championship with an average age of just 22 years, and by a margin of 11 points. They suffered a shock defeat in the FA Cup third round against Second Division Bristol Rovers at Eastville by the astonishing scoreline of 4-0. Last year, I had occasion to ask one of the 606 Substitute guys who lives in Bristol, to recall this fact to an old friend of his. This old friend looked at Steve when asked about that game and said; 'Aye, we won 4-0, but you have to remember that Edwards didn't play in that game'. That was the esteem that Duncan was held in by the British football fan.

    From late 1955 to late 1957, Duncan also had to serve his National Service, and did so in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. He hated having to do this time in the Services, but like most of the young men of that time, he took it on the chin and just got on with it. In 1956/57 he picked up another Championship winner's medal and also appeared in United's losing Cup Final team against Aston Villa. In that Final was the only time that he came close to losing self control on the football pitch. He was horrified to watch the vicious assault by Villa winger Peter McParland upon Ray Wood in the United goal, during the opening minutes of that game. It effectively put Wood out of the game with a fractured cheek-bone and reduced United to 10 men. As McParland lay on the ground Duncan strode over to him, but then held back before the red mist descended. He was scrupulously fair, and expected nothing less from opposing players.

    He played in European competition that year also, My abiding memory of him during that European campaign was not of him in any of United's victories, but in the semi-final, second leg defeat by that great Real Madrid team of that era. Although that game had been drawn 2-2, United had been eliminated by 5-3 on aggregate. Over the two legs, the Spanish Champions had employed some really dubious tactics, and also United were on the end of some very suspicious decisions from the referee in the away leg in Spain. Twice they had what seemed legitimate goals ruled out for offside. As he came off the field that evening, I could see the hurt, and dejection etched in his face. He'd run his socks off that night, but even his superhuman efforts were not enough to pull of an almost impossible victory. It hurt him, you could see that.

    The last time that I saw him play was on Saturday, January 25th 1958 in a 4th round FA Cup tie at Old Trafford, against Ipswich Town, which United won by 2-0. His last appearance in England was on February 1st 1958, against Arsenal at Highbury. It was fitting that it was a game that was an absolute classic, which United won by 5-4 and Duncan was outstanding, scoring very early in the game with one of his specials. The result was of little importance in retrospect - football won that day. It left a lot of fans with the memory of a truly outstanding young footballer who performed in a truly outstanding young team. His last appearance for United was on February 5th 1958 in the Army Stadium in Belgrade in the 3-3 draw with Red Star, and again, it was fitting that he gave another outstanding performance. On a treacherous pitch, he floated and glided over it with grace and power. In the second half, when United's defence was on the rack, he tackled like a demon and marshalled everybody superbly, again he was the outstanding player on the pitch.

    Duncan was very reserved off the field, almost to the point where he was shy, and retiring. He just lived for football and would have played everyday if he had been allowed. Oh! yes, he knew that he was gifted, and he knew that he was special - but it never put an edge upon him. He didn't feel any different from his team mates. For his age he was so mature, nobody took liberties with him. Bill Foulkes recalls a tale from a game against West Brom in 1957. Maurice Setters (who was later to join United) was a really tough, abrasive, intimidating in your face, wing half. Early on in the game, he made the mistake of trying to intimidate Duncan by standing nose to nose with him as Duncan tried to take a throw-in. Duncan just looked down at this craggy crew-cutted man - there was a slight movement of Duncan's chest, and Setters went back 10 yards on his backside. It was as though he had just swatted a fly. Setters was nowhere to be seen after that. How many players have played for England at senior level one week, and their club's youth team the next? He did. How many players have played for the youth team in the morning, and the first team in the afternoon? He did. He was never in the media for the wrong reasons, and in fact the only time that he ever got into trouble was one Saturday evening after a "derby" game at Old Trafford in 1955. City had trounced United 5-0, and as usual, Duncan was on his way home on his bike. An overzealous policeman stopped him in on Chester Road, and booked him for riding a bicycle without lights. On the Monday morning he was fined 10 shillings in the Magistrate's Court, and upon arriving at Old Trafford, Sir Matt fined him two weeks wages for bringing the club?s name into disrepute! He lived his life as the professional should. He conducted himself impeccably, looked after his body, and just loved the club that he played for. He was an icon to young boys like me, and without doubt was the perfect role model.

    He survived for almost 15 days after the tragedy. He fought, my how he fought to live. His injuries were so severe though, especially to his kidneys. Dr. Georg Maurer the eminent doctor and surgeon at the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich, where all the injured were taken and treated, said that any less mortal than Duncan could never have survived those injuries for as long as he did. His fitness, stamina and courage, were unquestioned. In the first few days after the tragedy, when Jimmy Murphy visited him as he lay there fighting for his life, his first words to Jimmy were; 'what time's the kick off against Wolves on Saturday Jimmy? I can't miss that one'. It must have broken Jimmy's heart to see his big champion lying broken and battered as he was. There was a very, very close bond between those two men. Jimmy tells a few stories about Duncan against himself. In an England v Wales game at Ninian Park in Cardiff, Jimmy as the Wales team manager was in the dressing room just prior to the game. One by one he was giving players their instructions on how to combat the England players. When he had finished, Reg Davies, the Newcastle United centre forward piped up; 'but Boss, you haven't mentioned this here fellow Edwards - what do we do about him? How do you want us to play him?' Jimmy looked Reg straight in the eye and said; 'stay out of his way son, stay out of his way. If you don't, you'll get hurt'. During the second half of that game, with England leading 4-0, Duncan had to collect the ball from close by the dugout so that he could take a throw in. Seeing Jimmy in there he looked up and said; 'hey Jimmy, what time's the next train back to Manchester? You're wasting you?re time here!' Jimmy exploded; 'wait till I get you back there on Monday young man - I might make you into a half decent player!' Yes, there was a special bond between them.

    Not long before the tragedy, Duncan became engaged to a young lady named Molly. He also bought a car, even though he couldn't drive. Sunday mornings would see he and Molly outside his digs, busily polishing that car! It was his pride and joy. It must have been heartbreaking also for his parents, and young Molly, to listen to him as he lay in that hospital. He told his Mum; 'I've got better things to do than lie here Mum. We?ve got an important game on Saturday'. She reminded him that he also had a car waiting at home for him, an he just replied; 'keep it on the road Mum, keep it on the road'. At 1:18a.m. on the morning of February 21st 1958, this giant of a young man succumbed to those terrible injuries which he had received in the tragedy of two weeks before. When the news broke in the City of Manchester later that morning, once again a great pall of mourning enveloped the people.

    My memories of him never dim. I can still see him today as he comes bounding out from the tunnel, taking those giant leaps into the air, heading an imaginary ball. Standing there in the middle of the pitch expanding his chest and shouting to his team mates in that thick Black Country accent; 'come on lads, we 'aven't come here for nuffink!' He was special alright - in some ways he was a freak, and I say that in the nicest possible way. He was the perfect human being, the perfect footballer with the perfect technique, temperament, the one player that I have seen that really did have everything and could play anywhere and still be the most outstanding player on the field. People often ask me today as to who would compare with him. Well, the honest answer is, I haven't seen anybody come near to him. To try and explain I tell them, take a little bit of Bobby Moore, a little bit of Bryan Robson, a little bit of Roy Keane, and a little bit of Patrick Viera - mix them together, and maybe! , just maybe, you may just get a little bit of Duncan Edwards. Have a look at the websites and and read the various newspaper reports and testimonials about him - it will give you an idea of just how gifted this young man was. There was a famous athlete years ago who used to proclaim 'I am the greatest, I am the greatest.' Well, unfortunately I have news for him, even he got it wrong. You see, "the greatest" was a young 21 years old wing half, who played for Manchester United and England, and in my opinion, was the most complete player the game of football has ever witnessed. Dear Dunc, I say it so often, the years roll by, but your memory never dims and your legend will live on forever.

    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below

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  • Red News
    Bobby Charlton’s debut

    copyright Tom Clare, Red News 2006

    October 6th, 1956

    Saturday, October 6th 1956, was a rather special day for a certain young man who was just approaching his 19th birthday, which would be celebrated on the following, Thursday, October 11th. He was at that time, serving his country doing two years National Service with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Shropshire. Manchester was his adopted city and home, and he had first arrived there in 1953, from his home town of Ashington, in Northumberland. He was a very shy, fresh faced, good humoured type of person with a mischievous smile. But most importantly, when not tied down by the rigours of his mandatory military life, he was employed by a very special establishment, that just a few months earlier had won the hearts of the English nation, when they lifted the First Division Championship title of the Football League, with a football team that had an average age of just 22 years each. That establishment, was of course, Manchester United.

    The person we are talking about had been a schoolboy prodigy, and his signature had been courted by a myriad of First Division clubs, including the team that he supported and who were his local team - Newcastle United. The village of Ashington, where he lived, was a mining village deep in the heart of the Northumberland coal field, and not unexpected, his father was a miner. His mother, ‘Cissie came from the famous north-eastern footballing family, the Milburns. The Milburns, I would think that it would be true to say, are probably the most famous family in the history of the game of football and are synonymous with the north east of England. The very first Milburn was named Jack. He played for Shankhouse, and also Northumberland, during the early pioneering days of the game. After him came a real feisty character who went under the name of ‘Warhorse’ Milburn and was famous in local football throughout the Northumberland area. This fellow had thirteen children and several of them went on to play football at a decent level. ‘Tanner’ Milburn was one of these children and he appeared for Ashington during their Football League days, and the Milburn family tree grew further branches when this particular Milburn had four sons, as well as three daughters. Inevitably, the boys played football.

    One of ‘Tanner’s’ brothers was named Alec and he also played for Ashington, after turning down the chance to travel south and play for ‘Spurs. It was Alec who produced the son who later, was to become so famous, and idolized on Tyneside, and known as ‘Wor Jackie.’ ‘Tanner’s’ four male offspring also all turned out in League football. Sons George, Jim, and Jack all turned out for Leeds United, whilst Stan made his name as a tough tackling full-back with Chesterfield and Leicester City, and he also appeared for the Football League. ‘Cissie Milburn was one of ‘Tanner’s” daughters and she married a miner named Bob and they too had four sons. Of these sons, two were to become famous in the football world in their own right, and one of them is the young man that you are reading about today– he is of course, Sir Bobby Charlton.

    Bobby Charlton was first recommended to Manchester United by a headmaster from a different school to the one which he attended. The headmaster was in fact the principal at his brother Jack’s school and was named, Mr. Hemmingway and little did he know at that time, that he was helping write as big a sporting history page as any masterpiece produced by the famous American author of the same name! In local Northumberland circles, it was widely believed that Bobby Charlton would join either of the big north-eastern clubs, Sunderland or Newcastle United. The ties with the Milburn family strongly supported that theory. However, on a cold winter’s morning, in the north-eastern town of Jarrow, something happened that was to write a glorious chapter in the later history of Manchester United Football Club. Jarrow Boys were playing Hebburn Boys in a youth game that morning, and was normal, it was ‘Cissie Charlton who had gone along to watch her son play. As he left the field of play, Bobby noticed a dapper little fellow talking to his mother. It was said in the dressing room that the person his mother was seen talking to, was a Manchester United scout. It proved to be that the scout was none other than little Joe Armstrong who had traveled up to the north-east to watch Bobby after receiving Mr. Hemmingway’s recommendation. Manchester united were in fact the first Football League club to show an interest in Bobby. The list of interested parties grew longer after Bobby scored a couple of goals for England Schoolboys at Wembley Stadium just a few months later!

    That Joe Armstrong had taken the trouble to travel up from Manchester to watch him play, and that it was United who first showed interest in signing him, made a big impression upon the young Charlton. His mother ‘Cissie, also turned to her famous cousin, ‘Wor Jackie’ for advice as to which of the clubs pursuing Bobby’s signature, would be best suited for her boy. Jackie Milburn didn’t even hesitate, and recommended that she send Bobby to Manchester United! His reasoning was, that with the youth policy put into place by Matt Busby, Bobby would have a better chance of progressing to League football with United, and that they were a club who had a big reputation for looking after their young players and giving them every chance to succeed.

    Bobby’s own words on joining United, sum it up. “I must have been smitten by whatever bug bites you here at Old Trafford. At that time, the cream of youth was here and I wanted to match myself against them. Wonderful young people like Duncan Edwards, Jeff Whitefoot, Wilf McGuinness, Albert Scanlon, Eddie Colman and many others. Duncan in fact became a great pal and he looked after me like a father! He was a lovely person, naïve in many ways; not crafty. He just loved life, and lived for United and his football, at which he was more gifted than any other player that I have everseen. Yes, that’s why I joined United. I just wanted to. It was as simple as that.”

    So in the summer of 1953, he joined United. For the next three years he worked exceptionally hard and listened intently to what the coaches drilled in to all the young players. Manchester United Football Club was awash with young talent and Matt Busby was at last starting the conveyer belt that took players to the first team. Bobby played in the junior, ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams, and these teams played in open age football leagues, often against players much older than they were. They were subjected to a lot a physical treatment as well as verbal abuse when they played, but it was all part of the toughening process. The surfaces that they played on back in those days would make people gawp in amazement in this modern day. But all those junior teams were successful – especially the Manchester United Youth team who from the inaugural competition started in 1952-53, made that trophy their own. The youngsters were also encouraged to join in some of the ad-hoc kick-abouts with the senior players that used to take place on the gravel, outside the ground, at the back of the Stretford End. These games certainly weren’t for the faint hearted! Jimmy Murphy would often cast an eye over these games and would watch the youngsters with a view to judging their temperament and heart and ‘bottle.’ Many a youngster failed the acid test on that area of gravel and the back of the Stretford End saw the demise of many a young career before it even got started!

    Bobby relished the challenge. He had a wonderful temperament and a huge big heart. In 1955 he had made it through to the Reserve team and it was here that he started to make people outside of the club begin to take notice. He had a thunderbolt shot in either foot and his name began to appear regularly on the scoresheet. His reputation at Reserve team level began to grow, and to the United fans of that era who went to watch the Reserves play (and back then it wasn’t uncommon for there to be 10,000 or more fans to be present) it was obvious that young Charlton was knocking on the door for selection to the first team. Already from his youth team days, Colman, Edwards, Whelan, and Pegg, were established in the first team.

    Although he was doing his National Service, he was getting plenty of football, not only turning out for United’s teams at weekends, but also playing in mid-week for his Regimental team, and when necessary, also for his Command and full Army teams. International football was played on sporadic weekends throughout the season back in those days, and clubs were not allowed to postpone League games because they had players who would be away with their respective international teams. If you had 4 or 5 players away on international duty, so be it – players from the reserve team were promoted to the first team to fill their places.

    So it was for the 6th October, 1956. Fixtures for the Home International Tournament were scheduled for that day, and England were away in Belfast, to play Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. Selected for England (there were no substitutes allowed in those days) for that fixture were three players from Manchester United; Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards, and Tommy Taylor. Manchester United also had a Division One Football League fixture to negotiate that day against Charlton Athletic at Old Trafford. Busby pondered his selection for this fixture knowing that he was without three crucial first team regulars. At full back, he drafted in young Geoff Bent in place of Roger Byrne. At left half-back, he drafted in Edwards’ regular replacement whenever he was injured, away on international duty, or playing at inside-left; Wilf McGuinness. The final selection was the one that most of the fans had been waiting to see! In place of the great Tommy Taylor at centre-forward, he selected Bobby Charlton!

    Busby had privately let Charlton’s parents know that he would be playing against Charlton Athletic that weekend, and both Bob and ‘Cissie slipped into Manchester on the Friday afternoon. Bobby traveled up from Shropshire also that afternoon and wasn’t aware of his selection until Busby called him at his digs the following morning.

    I attended the game against Charlton Athletic that afternoon and have fond memories of it. The United team lined up; Wood; Foulkes and Bent; Colman, Jones, and McGuinness; Berry, Whelan, Charlton, Viollet and Pegg.

    41,439 fans turned up to watch that afternoon, and little did we all know back then that we were watching the start of a real piece of soccer history. Johnny Berry was Captain of the team in Roger Byrne’s absence. Charlton were no match for United that day, and they had already made a dreadful start to the season, which was to end in relegation for them. I cannot clearly recall the sequence in which the goals were scored but do remember the moment that every young player dreams about. United were attacking the Scoreboard End, and Charlton received the ball pretty central to the goal and just outside of the area. Without any hesitation, the ball was dispatched as though fired from a canon, and high into the Charlton net past a stationary Willie Duffy (I think that was his name) the Charlton goalkeeper. Old Trafford erupted in appreciation, and it wasn’t too long after that that young Charlton got his second goal in a similar way. Billy Whelan and Johnny Berry also scored that afternoon and United were winners by 4-2. To say that the fans were delighted was an understatement. Another tremendous young player had emerged off the conveyer belt of youth. United were reigning Champions, and were on course to retaining their title. I can clearly recall the newspaper reports the day after the match, and in one of them, the headline ran; “W’or Bobby Will Do!” It was a quote from his father’s reaction the previous afternoon after the game had finished.

    From the day of his debut onwards, that “W’or Bobby” would do was never in doubt. What we didn’t know at that time was the tragedy that was lying in wait for us all less than 18 months hence. His playing career at United was to last for another 16 years after his debut, and during that time, he was only ever “booked” once – for a confrontation with of all people, Jimmy Scoular, the craggy, hard, Scot who captained Newcastle United. In a long career he carved a name as a chivalrous, scrupulous opponent. Yet for me, it will be the explosive facets of his play that will always stay fresh in my memory. To see him in full flight, was akin to watching a China Clipper cut its way through a tempestuous sea. That jinking run, the sudden swerve and change of foot and direction as he would turn so elegantly on the ball as he accelerated through a gap surrendered by a confused defender – he could be gone like a ship in full sail.

    Less than five years after he joined United, he was to suffer the agonies of the Munich tragedy. He lost those that were closest to him, namely; Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, and David Pegg. He was a veteran before his time and in the immediate aftermath of that tragedy his nerves were shattered. When he did come back, he played like a man possessed. Some of the goals that he scored had they been captured on video tape, would make today’s fan salivate at the sight of them. His first international goal was at Hampden Park, Glasgow against the ‘auld enemy’. 134,000 partisan Scottish fans packed the old stadium that April afternoon, and saw probably the greatest goal ever scored there, and certainly the hardest shot. Standing centrally and just inside the penalty area, he watched as Tom Finney jinked around the full back. Finney’s cross was inch perfect and above waist height. A slight movement to his left, and Charlton took off in mid-air, swinging that lethal left foot of his at the ball. It connected full on the volley and the ball thundered past Tommy Younger in the Scottish goal with such force, that it almost ripped the net pegs out of the ground. The Hampden Stadium thundered its applause and Younger, who had been left motionless and rooted to the spot, proceded to run half the length of the field to shake Charlton’s hand.

    He suffered internally after Munich and his character did change. It also happened to Bill Foulkes and Harry Gregg. He has often given out an impression of aloofness, but to those that really do get to know him, it couldn’t be further from the truth. His face can wear that elusive look of anxiety or fun, and as much as he wants to endure relaxation, he finds it hard to find. He is also difficult to get to know and get inside of, but that is not to say that he doesn’t care. He does, and passionately. His heart is genuinely betrothed to United, irrespective of what is said about him today. I’ll finish this article with a quote from his own words back in 1978;

    “I’ll always have a great affection for this place. I suppose that I have put a lot of blood and tears into it. And to see the place as it is now as opposed to when I first arrived here, makes me fully realize that I did have a little part in all that change. I find that so rewarding. Look at it now – it must be the envy of every club in the country.

    As for the man on the street, the guys on the terraces, they’re everything. They’re not a part of the backroom politics and all the in-fighting that goes on. They don’t really understand that side of it. What they do understand is that they have their team and their whole lives revolve around coming down here to Old Trafford.

    They are a part of a never ending story. They are a Theatre of Dreams!”

    He celebrates the 50th anniversary of his league debut today. And he’ll be 69 years of age come next Wednesday. I hope that he sees many more birthdays to come because he has given so much to Manchester United.

    copyright Tom Clare, Red News 2006

    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below

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  • Red News
    Tom Clare on Mark Jones

    That the “Busby Babes” were the glamour team of their era is beyond doubt. Sir Matt had quietly introduced his youngsters into First Division football between the 1952 – 53, 1953-54, and 1954-55 seasons. It had taken three years to assemble this array of mercurial young talent, and there had been some setbacks along the way as his young apprentices came to terms with First Division football. By the start of the 1955-56 season his young team had an average age of around 22-23 years – unheard of in those times. Talk to people about the “Babes” today and they will automatically come up with the names of Edwards, Taylor, Byrne, Colman, Pegg. But just as there has been unsung heroes in all of Fergie’s past and present United teams, so it was with the “Babes.” The man I am going to write a few lines about was certainly an unsung hero, but he was as essential to the “Babes” team as has been Vidic, Ferdinand, Stam, Bruce, Pallister, McGrath, McQueen, Buchan, Holton, who played in the United teams that followed afterwards.

    To meet Mark Jones was an absolute pleasure. He was so quiet, unassuming, modest, down to earth, and could even be termed shy. He was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire on June 15th 1933 and once again, details of early childhood are buried in the mists of time. What is known though, is that he developed into an outstanding young schoolboy footballer. A no nonsense type of centre half. He was so good, that he captained not only his school team, but also his City Boys team, Yorkshire Schoolboys, the North of England Schoolboys and finally, England Schoolboys. So it was no wonder then that he had come to the attention of many of the top clubs in England. He had only thoughts of joining Manchester United though because his idol was Allenby Chilton, the United centre half. I think that it is true to say, that Mark was certainly one of the “original Busby Babes” when he signed amateur forms for United in the summer of 1948.

    He would travel over from Barnsley twice a week to train with the juniors at the Cliff. It must have been a tiring experience for him because after leaving school, he also apprenticed as a bricklayer – hard work in a time when Britain had started to rebuild immediately after the war years. The work helped Mark fill out physically and before too long here was this big strapping young teenager standing over 6 feet tall and weighing around thirteen stones with the physique of a heavyweight boxer! He progressed through the junior teams and in the summer of 1950, finally signed professional forms for United. In the autumn of that year, 7th October to be precise, the day that he had dreamed about arrived when he was selected to make his first team debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford in a team that read; Allen; Carey, Redman; Gibson, Jones, McGlen; Delaney, Downie, Rowley, Pearson, McShane. United won 3-1 that day and it’s interesting to note that Harry McShane, actor Ian McShane’s father, was amongst the goal scorers. He was to play a further 3 more games that season and was never on the losing side defeating Everton 4-1 at Goodison, Arsenal 3-1 at Old Trafford, and the return fixture against Wednesday at Hillsborough 4-0 – a terrific start to his football career at top level. He was to play a further 3 games in season 1951 -52, United’s first Championship winning season since 1911, and again, he never finished on the losing side. But unfortunately, three appearances didn’t qualify him for a winner’s medal. In 1952 – 53 he played two games, only this time, he tasted defeat for the first time in both games.

    It was in early 1953 that he also left to do his two years National service and he never figured in any first team games again until after his demobilization in early 1955. That he’d been kept out of the first team before call-up by his boyhood hero Allenby Chilton, must have been of little consolation to him, but Chilton’s remarkable consistency of form and fitness over a period of four years when he was well into his thirties, was of tremendous credit to the older player. It has to be stressed that Chilton had a great effect on shaping the player that Mark was to become as he honed him into the centre half that United needed. Chilton’s days came to an end in early 1955 after some bad defeats – two of which were in games that I saw against Manchester City. I had attended my first ever “derby game” at Maine Road in late September 1954 when City won 3-2. On February 12th 1955, I watched my first “derby” game at Old Trafford, but it was a disaster for me, and United, as City went “nap” winning 5-0. The following week on May 19th, United were away to City again in the fourth round of the F.A. Cup and once again, City triumphed by 2-0 in a game that United really dominated but suffered because of their wastefulness in front of goal. It was also a game that saw Chilton sent off for foul and abusive language to the referee – how would the referees cope in today’s modern game! What an introduction for me to “derby” matches! Chilton’s last game for United was at Wolves the week after that Cup tie and once again United lost by 4-2. For the next game, because of Chilton’s suspension, Mark played his first game at senior level for two years and was to make the position his own from then on

    There was certainly no frills where Mark Jones was concerned. He was a bone crunching tackler and majestic in the air and after he had won the ball, there was no just hoofing it upfield as many of the centre halves back then were want to do. He was quite content to play it simple and give the ball to Colman, Edwards, Viollet or Whelan who could use the ball much better than he could. He was certainly a stopper, and he was very adept at it. For a former bricklayer, he became the rock, the cornerstone of the defensive stonewall!

    There is a little bit of a myth that abounds in United’s history that the centre half position was complicated by a continual battle between Mark and Jackie Blanchflower for the number 5 shirt. This simply isn’t true. Mark was virtually ever present during the 1955-56 season when the “Babes” secured their first Championship win. He was also almost ever present in the 1956- 57 season, until a knee injury in the sixth round F.A. Cup tie at Bournemouth in March of 1957 kept him out of the team. Jackie Blanchflower had played most of his career at inside right for United, but he was very versatile player, and Busby had experimented with him at centre half once or twice in the Reserves. Ronnie Cope was normally Mark’s deputy, but after the Bournemouth game, Busby went with Blanchflower, who it has to be said, played so superbly that he couldn’t leave him out. Blanchflower played for the rest of the season winning a championship medal and also playing in the F.A. Cup Final, and he also played into the November of the following season, when a dip in his form allowed Mark to reclaim the number 5 shirt which he kept until the time of the tragedy.

    After he was demobbed from the Army, Mark had married his childhood sweetheart June and they had settled down to married life in the Flixton area. It was well known back then that Mark Jones and Jackie Blanchflower were close friends; so much so that Jackie was best man at Mark and June’s wedding. He was never a man for the bright lights and after a game it was commonplace to see him emerge out of the main entrance wearing his trilby hat, smoking a pipe, and the gabardine raincoat. The pipe smoking was the point of a lot of banter from his young team mates who christened him with the nickname “Dan Archer” after the character in the famous “Archers” BBC radio programme. Off the field he was such a mild mannered person, quiet, and loved nothing better than to get off home to June, his labrador dog whom I think was named “Gyp” and his newborn baby daughter. He also had a passion for breeding budgerigars which often led to other bouts of mickey taking from his young mates. But he took it all in his stride. “The Gentle Giant” was a nickname given to the late, great, John Charles back then, but it was also a name that would describe Mark Jones so aptly.

    He put in some tremendous games for his beloved club and none more aptly than that glorious night at Maine Road when United triumphed over Bilbao in the European Cup. The Spaniards threw everything they could at United that evening, but they could not breach the defence at which he was the central lynchpin. He faced some of the toughest and hardest centre forwards of his era, but none ever baulked him – household names of the time like Lofthouse, Ford, Hickson, Milburn, Revie, Swinbourne, Allen, Wayman, Bentley, Smith. Unfortunately fate decreed that he would never ever realize his ambition of playing for his country. He was called up into an England party when he was named as a reserve but that was as far as it went – no subs or place on the bench back then. That dream would, I am certain, have been realised as he was certainly knocking on the door at the time of the tragedy. I also believe that had he lived, Billy Wright would not have reached the figure of 105 caps for England.

    My own experience of meeting Mark came on a couple of occasions through schoolboy football. In 1957 my school team had reached the final of a knockout competition and it was played at Newton Heath Loco in the Newton Heath area of Manchester. For us kids that night, it was like the experience of professionals reaching Wembley – an enclosed ground, nets, referee and linesmen, a large crowd (we played before the start of a game between Manchester Catholic Boys and Liverpool Catholic Boys) and we were all so starry eyed. My school team lost that Final by 4-2, and although I was disappointed at losing, I had played fairly well. It was great consolation to me that the medals were presented by Mark, and that for me was just thrill enough. I couldn’t wait to receive mine and as I did, he handed me the medal and ruffled my hair saying in his thick Yorkshire accent, “well played young ‘un.” In November of 1957, he again did the presentations for a school’s 5-a-side competition which was held at The Proctor’s Gymnasium and Hulme Lad’s Club in Hulme, which my school side won. That night he had the Labrador dog with him and it just sat at his side as he spent time with all the kids, signing every bit of paper that they put in front of him. Here was an established United player giving of his free time to schoolboy football in the Manchester area. He was such a very gentle man off the field.

    June, his wife, was five months pregnant with their son Gary at the time of the disaster. After it happened, the Labrador dog pined for him so badly and died in the March just a few short weeks afterwards. I have great memories of him playing for United and as I said at the beginning, he really was one of the unsung heroes. The doughty stopper, the uncompromising centre half, the archetypal pivot, the seam of Yorkshire granite. Most of all, I remember a man who loved his family, loved his club and was indeed a very gentle giant.

    Sleep on in peace Mark – never forgotten.

    Mark played in 121 games in all competitions scoring just 1 goal.

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  • Red News
    Bobby Harrop: A Tribute by Tom Clare

    Bobby Harrop – Gone, But Not Forgotten

    If you were to ask any Manchester United supporter today; “What does the name Bobby Harrop mean to you?” It’s my guess that very, very few would be able to give you an answer. It’s only old farts like me and who are in my age group who really remember this young man.

    Only one other player that I know of, had such a love and voracious appetite for the game of football than Bobby did, and that was Duncan Edwards. Bobby Harrop fell in love with the game as a young boy growing up in Manchester’s Benchill area, which was then a leafy suburb on the outskirts of Manchester. He carried that love with him until he passed away on November 8th 2007.

    Bobby was spotted by Manchester United scouts whilst playing for Benchill Youth Club in a local amateur league when he was just 16 years of age. He was a big strapping young boy who played at centre half. He joined United’s groundstaff in 1953, and during the following season he won a place in the Youth team alongside such celebrated youth players of the time such as Eddie Colman, Wilf McGuinness, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, David Pegg, and Albert Scanlon. He played in the Youth Cup final in 1954 against Wolves which United won by 5-4 on aggregate - a nice way to start his career at Old Trafford.

    Although he was a centre half, Bobby moved into the reserve team during the 1956 seasonut played in a number of other positions. The reason being was that his path to the first team was blocked by the likes of Mark Jones, Jackie Blanchflower, and Ronnie Cope. For the next eighteen months he played as a wing-half, a full back and even inside, and centre-forward. And then came Munich.

    After the tragedy, (he was just 21 when it happened) like other youngsters around him, he was suddenly thrust into the first team pool and on 5 March 1958, he made his first team debut against West Bromwich Albion, at Old Trafford in a re-played FA Cup 6th round tie. He made another 5 appearances in that season, and followed up with five more in the 1958/59 season. Sadly, like so many of his contemporaries at Old Trafford at the time, it was probably the wrong time for him. Too early, too much emotion, too much pressure in that cauldron of sympathy that enveloped Manchester United immediately after the tragedy. It was hard for young men who were rally nothing more than boys to cope with. That he gave his all and played his part, there is no doubt.

    In 1961, after having played just those eleven first team games, he moved on to Tranmere Rovers for 4000 pounds in a move that also took goalkeeper Gordon Clayton with him. He stayed just two seasons at Prenton Park where he turned out in 42 games before moving down into non-league football with Margate. It was here that his love of the game really shone so brightly, just like the rising morning sun.

    Bobby Harrop was to play 567 games for the Kent club between 1963-1978, interspersed with spells at Ashford and Canterbury, where he notched up another 177 matches. He left Margate in 1978 at the ripe old age of 42 and he joined Ramsgate and played 52 games for them until 1980. Bobby still had that insatiable love of the game and he spent season 1980/81 playing for Nottingham Castle in the Thanet Premier Sunday League. In 1981/82 he took over as plaer/coch of Thanet United’s reserve team and performed so well during that season that at age 45, he earned their ‘Player of the Year’ award! Bobby finished active playing at the end of the 1984/85 season, a season which had seen him hold the appointment of Reserve Team Manager at Dover.

    His playing days may well have finished just before he was 50 but that didn’t diminish his love of football. In 1986 he turned to refereeing and became a well respected referee in the Thanet local football leagues. He gave back to the game which he loved and in 2005, was elected President of the Thanet and District Football League. Bobby was still refereeing right up until a few weeks before his passing ….. he was by then 71 years of age!

    In today’s world, and certainly in today’s game, where money abounds and seems to be the prime motivator on and off the field, it is stories like Bobby’s that warm the heart. He played because he loved to; he gave back because he loved to; and he never ever lost his love of the club closest to his heart – Manchester United. As I said, not too many United fans will remember him but I do. The dark haired, good looking, big centre half who had enormous appetite for a game that he played.

    Rest in peace Bobby, you are gone, but you are certainly not forgotten.

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  • Red News
    this was sent into RN about Tom's piece on Eddie Colman

    'served with Eddie Colman 1955/56 in the 7th.Trg Regt. Royal Signals at Catterick, Yorks.Eddie's post was the Unit Rat Catcher and we had many a laugh over this as it enabled him to have many weekends off to play for Utd.Our unit had enough players to fill an England squad. Albert Quixall (Man.U) Graham Shaw (Sheff Utd) Alan Finney (Sh.Wed). Billy Punton.(Newc.Utd) and Peter Swann (Sheff.Wed) later disgraced for a betting scandal)not to mention others, Eddie was the 'Daddie' of them.
    Although myself a Scouser and a Koppite Liverpool were then in the 2nd. Div. so I never got the chance to see him play at Anfield.
    I cried after the Disaster and I still say a prayer for him at this time of the year.
    Richy Owen.'

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  • Red News
    Harold Hardman - Restoration of His Resting Place

    Harold Hardman served Manchester United as a player, director, and chairman, for almost 60 years. He saw the club through the darkest hours in its history in those harrowing days after the Munich Disaster. For so many years this little fellow played an enormous part in the club and dedicated his life to serving it. He never once took any remuneration nor ever sought or asked for any. He died in June 1965. His resting place in Sale Cemetery has become so neglected and run down - so much so that it has become almost unrecognisable. In an era where statues are built for managers and stands are even named after them; when a CEO has his name on a plaque in the Munich Tunnel when he had no connection with Munich at all, it is a sad and sorry state of affairs that a little man who gave his life in service to the club, is another sad endictment of an unsung hero long forgotten by the establishment which he served so loyally.

    To right this, a group of Manchester United supporters have got together to work on a project whereby the resting place of this great little man will be restored to the respectful and dignified state that it so rightly should be.

    Paul Farrell, a local stonemason (who did the word carving on Sir Matt's statue) who is a huge United fan, has willingly volunteered his services to restore the masonry. The basic cost of the restoration will cost between 700-800 pounds. With this in mind, we are asking United supporters to remember this unique little man who contributed so much to the club, by making a donation, no matter how small, in order that we raise the necessary funds to see the job through.

    Donations (again - no matter how small) can be made into my Paypal account - [email protected]

    The Harold Hardman Restoration page on Facebook can be found here -

    This is a fan project and has absolutely nothing to do with the club, and we wish to keep it that way.

    It may well be that some of our members may know little of Harold Hardman or about his life. Below is an extract from my latest book "The Original Trinity" which will be published in July 2014.

    Harold Hardman

    Harold Hardman served the club for over 60 years… as a player, director, and Chairman of the club. His story and part in Manchester United’s history makes fascinating reading.

    Manchester United’s illustrious history is filled with people whose presence in one way or another, has had huge effects on the club. When the word “hero” is mentioned, for most fans, their thoughts automatically turn to players. But there has been a number of persons whom I term, “unsung heroes” who, even though they never ever trod the hallowed turf, nor even pulled that famous red jersey onto their bodies, they played more than a huge part not only in keeping the club afloat during the most difficult times, but they also helped shape the foundation and direction which the club would take.

    Four families immediately spring to mind – the Davies family, immediately after the turn of the 20th century; the Gibson family from the 1930’s through to 1970’s; the Edwards family from 1958 – 2003; and now the Glazer family. There has also been a number of individuals who have left their mark on the club, people like Louis Rocca, Walter Crikmer, Ernest Mangnall, Les Olive, Billy Inglis, Joe Armstrong, to name just a few. For most of those people, theirs was a labour of love, and they gave that labour out of devotion and love for Manchester United Football Club. Sadly, in relation to the Edwards and Glazer families, that ethos is as far removed from the mark in regards to those standards that were laid down before them, all those years ago.

    It takes a very special kind of man to be Chairman of Manchester United Football Club, and hold on to the reins of what probably is the most famous football club in the world, and yet at the same time, remain quietly in the background.

    Harold Payne Hardman was just such a man. For most Manchester United fans, during the tenure of his reign at Old Trafford, Mr. Hardman remained, and was content to be, somewhat of a distant, shadowy figure. Modesty was certainly a keynote of his character, but that modesty could never be said to have projected him as nothing more than a figurehead. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    Even by today’s standards, the life of Harold Payne Hardman, which spanned some 83 years, makes remarkable reading. Hardman was born on 4 April 1882 in the Kirkmanshulme area of industrial Manchester, an area which is now known as Gorton. As a very young boy he was frail and his local doctor was to inform Hardman’s family that he was not strong enough to play games. Because of their son’s alleged poor health, the Hardman family decided to leave smoky Manchester and move to the seaside town of Blackpool on Lancashire’s North-West coast.

    The purer seaside air seemed to do the young boy good because his health rapidly improved, and he decided that come what may, he was going to play football and not worry about any consequences. Football had been developing in Blackpool since 1877 when the first club, Victoria, a local church club played their games at Cuance Street. The team disbanded after just three years, but some members joined up with some old school friends and formed called Blackpool St. John’s. However there was internal discord between the players, and this led to a meeting being called on 27 July 1887, which was held at the Stanley Arms public house where it was decided to form a new football club which would represent the whole town, and so it was given the name of Blackpool Football Club.

    Harold Hardman played for a number of junior teams, which eventually led to him playing for South Shore Choristers who were considered rivals by Blackpool FC.. In 1896, Blackpool FC had been accepted into the Football League and were playing in Division Two. After finishing third from the bottom of the league in 1898-99 season, they were relegated into the Lancashire League. On 25 May 1900, the Football League decided that Blackpool FC should be once again allowed to play in the Second Division in the 1900-1901 season, and it was during that season that they amalgamated with the South Shore team, and so Harold Hardman’s football league career began.

    On 8 September 1900, the beginning of the 1900-01 football season, young Harold Hardman made his league debut in a match against Gainsborough Trinity, which was the very first Football league game ever played at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road. Over the next three seasons, Hardman was to be an almost permanent fixture in the Blackpool. An outside-left, he had great pace and the ability to switch flanks and was equally at home playing on the right hand side. He was known as a ‘dribbler’ and while not a prolific goal scorer himself, he was the fulcrum from which many goals were made for Blackpool forwards Bob Birkett and Jack Parkinson.

    His form was so consistent, that it was inevitable that First Division clubs began to take notice of him. Blackpool were a struggling club and it was no surprise that in 1903, Everton were able to secure his services for £100. The ironical thing is that Hardman remained an amateur all through his playing career. He had made 71 appearances for Blackpool and netted 10 goals.

    When he joined Everton, he was combining a football career with studies to become a solicitor. It was during his time at Everton that he first gained international recognition representing England at both amateur, and full international level, and it was there that he enjoyed most of his success, playing in two successive F.A. Cup Finals, winning an F.A. Cup winner’s medal in 1906, and a loser’s in 1907.

    In 1908 he was selected for the Great Britain team which played in the Olympic Tournament held in London and was a member of the Gold winning team which beat Denmark 2-0 in the final at Crystal Palace. During the next few seasons he was also capped eight times for England at amateur level, and also four times as a full international. Then came his first link with Manchester United when he signed for them in 1908 – but it proved to be not as successful as the one he was to enjoy in later years.

    When he left Everton in 1908, business commitments were making increasing demands on his time, and he moved to Manchester. When he signed for Manchester United, he entered into a bizarre kind of agreement with the club in that he would only play in alternate matches – why he should have done this is a mystery. Obviously it didn’t suit him as he only played four first team games for United, but the reality was that he was kept out of the first team by the consistent form of United’s brilliant Scottish international left winger, George Wall. So it was no surprise therefore when he left the club in 1909.

    The newspaper ‘The Manchester Guardian’ reported on January 16, 1909, “The Bradford City Club have secured the services of Harold P. Hardman, the well-known amateur outside left of Manchester United, and formerly with Everton. Owing to the brilliance of Wall, Hardman has not played regularly with the United team this season and he wishes to go to a club where he can appear more oftener in First Division football. He was signed on yesterday afternoon by Mr. Peter O’Rourke in Manchester, and will probably play against Liverpool next week."

    Upon completion of his transfer, Hardman wrote to the Chairman N.W. Pollock stating; “I know that I am coming among true sportsmen, and I shall throw myself heart and soul into my pet pastime. I feel sure that by the end of the season we shall hold a secure and honourable position in the League. Not the least controlling force that led to my decision was your present lowly position in the chart, for there is nothing I love better than a good, hard fight well won.”

    His stay at Valley Parade was as short lived as it was in Manchester, and he played just 20 matches for the Yorkshire club. He was hampered by a broken arm and after sustaining the injury he decided to retire from active playing. However, the lure of the game proved too much for him and he came out of retirement and threw in his lot with Stoke City. He was to stay three years in the Potteries, and the biggest landmark in his career during those three years, was that once again he was selected for the Great Britain soccer team which played in the Olympic Tournament held in Stockholm. He picked up his second gold medal when Britain contested the final, and again beat Denmark by 2-1.
    In 1911 Hardman became a Director at Manchester United and his role in the club was one that today we would probably term Director of Football. Again, it was another strange situation, because whilst he was also a Director at United, he was also still continuing his playing career with Stoke City! He played for Stoke for two years whilst still a Manchester United Director – surely the only Director who ever helped pick one club’s team whilst playing for another.

    He was to stay on the Old Trafford board until 1931 when the club encountered serious financial difficulties and almost went into liquidation. A local Manchester businessman, by the name of James W Gibson bailed the club out but one condition of him taking over, was the resignation of the board… However, just three years later, at the invitation of James Gibson, he re-joined the board.

    It’s my opinion that Harold Hardman must have the record as the longest serving Football Director in the history of the game because he was a member of the Manchester United Board until his death in 1965 – a period of some 54 years. Hardman was connected to the famous Manchester Amateur club, Northern Nomads as serveing in varying capacities at different levels of the game; President of the Lancashire County F.A., President of the Central League, and served in many positions at the F.A. notably on the F.A. Council. In 1949 he was awarded the long service medal for his 21 years of service as Treasurer of the Lancashire County FA.

    Nature endowed him with a modest physique, but he more than made up for it with a sharp and shrewd brain, lively powers of conversation, and highly developed sense of humour, toleration, and integrity. His profession was readily identified even by complete strangers as that of a solicitor, and one straight out of the pages of Dickens and he would have been the ideal partner for Mr Wickens. His diminutive appearance was very deceptive, and he was certainly nobody’s fool.

    In 1952, after the death of James W. Gibson, he became Chairman of Manchester United. After the Championship win of 1952, United entered into a period of transformation as Matt Busby began the introduction into the first team of his beloved “Babes”. Many in the Board Room became restless and not altogether in agreement with this happening. Busby’s staunchest ally was one Harold P. Hardman. He was as tough as granite and this side of his character also came out in 1956 when he backed Busby’s recommendation that the Club should enter the new European Cup competition, despite the reluctance of the Football League, and initially the Football Association’s agreement. He accompanied Sir Matt on his visits to both headquarters, fighting the battle with him, and eventually, through tenacious determination and argument, they won the day and helped change the direction of English football.

    In February of 1958, Mr. Hardman had to see the Club through the saddest, and toughest time in its history. The Club was devastated by the Munich tragedy.. Who can ever forget his inspiring words immediately after Munich when he wrote on the front page of the United Review match programme for the game against Sheffield Wednesday on 19 February 1958,

    Although we mourn our dead and grieve for our wounded, we believe that great days are not done for us. The sympathy and encouragement of the football world and particularly of our supporters will justify and inspire us. The road back may be long and hard but with the memory of those who died in Munich, of their stirring achievements and wonderful sportsmanship ever with us, Manchester United will rise again.

    By this time he was 76 years of age but despite that longevity, he entered into the task of restructuring and rebuilding the Club with the energy of person of much younger years. Over the next few years, the Stretford End was rebuilt and various parts of the Old Trafford ground were improved. He oversaw the financial processes that allowed Sir Matt Busby the funds to improve the team – and never baulked when Busby asked for monies that would shatter the British transfer record as was the cases when he signed Albert Quixall and then Denis Law. He was without doubt, Busby’s staunchest ally.

    Manchester United’s gradual rise to pre-eminence before the Munich tragedy, and their resurgence after it, were inspired to a great extent by the unwavering faith of a man who might never have been heard of in football, if he and his family had accepted the advice of a doctor all those years before.

    His smile lit up Wembley Stadium in May, 1963 as Noel Cantwell led the victorious Manchester United team up those famous old 39 steps to collect the F.A. Cup from HM the Queen, after defeating Leicester City 3-1 – United’s first trophy win after Munich. Sadly, shortly after this his health started to fail him. He had also become aware at this time of Louis Edwards’ surreptitious attempts to gain control of the Club, and he tried to block this by having an agreement with the other Directors on the Board that they would not buy any more shares in the Club. Unbeknown to him, Edwards continued doing just that, and upon the death of Mr. Hardman on June 9th, 1965 (shortly after United’s first Championship win after Munich) he acceded to the position that he always coveted – Chairman of Manchester United Football Club.

    To some in today’s modern era, the name of Mr. H. P. Hardman may just be that – a name in the Club’s past history. However, here was a man who gave 54 years of his life to the Club, and who was there through probably the most austere and trying times in its history. A man who never asked for recompense in any kind of way, and would never have even dreamed of taking his bus fare out of Club funds. He was a man who served the Club with great dignity, and put the Club’s standing and good name before everything else. He was indeed “red through and through” and indeed – “A Real Hero”

    He died at his home in Sale on 9 June 1965, just a few weeks after Manchester United had won the First Division Championship. He was buried in Sale Cemetery, but sadly, over the years his resting place has fallen into neglect and it just shows how a ‘real hero’ was so quickly forgotten by the club which he served fort most of his life.

    by Tom Clare

    The Men Who Were The Busby Babes by Red News' Tom Clare - now out

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    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below

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  • Red News
    Tom Clare on Johnny Berry

    “The Wizard of the Wing”

    He was the smallest, the oldest, and the vice - captain of that great “Busby Babes” team of the 1950’s. Born on June 1st 1926, in the Hampshire town of Aldershot, he was considered as being “too small” to make a career in football with the “Shots.” How wrong could people have been! So when he left school, he took a job as a trainee cinema projectionist. He played his formative years of football with local amateur teams. In 1945, shortly after he began his National Service, he was sent to India, and it was whilst he was playing out there for the British Army team that he came to the attention of a man named Fred Harris who was the Birmingham City Captain. After being demobbed in 1947 the man I am writing about signed for Birmingham City, first as an amateur, and then later as a professional. That man is Johnny Berry.

    Johnny had a fairly productive time at St. Andrews and spent just 4 years there. His journey to Old Trafford came after he had destroyed United in a First Division league game in Birmingham, a performance that Matt Busby never forgot. With Jimmy Delaney having left a few months earlier for Aberdeen, United needed a fast, direct winger who had experience to help with their push to achieve their first championship win since 1911. So it was then that in August 1951, United paid Birmingham 25,000 pounds for the diminutive little winger. He had an immediate impact and United duly achieved their aim, being crowned Champions at the end of the 1951-52 season for the first time in 41 years. Berry’s debut game came on September 1st 1951, at Burnden Park in front of 52,239 fans, in a game against Lancashire arch rivals, Bolton Wanderers, which United lost 0-1. United’s team that day was; Allen; Carey, Redman; Gibson, Chilton, Cockburn; Berry, Pearson, Rowley, Downie, Bond. His first goal for the club came just two weeks later on September 15th at Maine Road in a 2-1 victory for United – a nice start to his “derby” career! He made a total of 36 appearances that season scoring 6 goals, and collected his first Championship winner’s medal.

    Johnny was extremely quick and would run at defenders with pace and could move the ball with either foot which enabled him to go either inside or outside of his marker. He was an exquisite dribbler and was a nightmare for a full back to mark. His crossing was deadly accurate with either foot and United’s strikers benefited a tremendous amount from the service that he provided. He was also dangerous in that he would also drift into the middle and suddenly arrive inside the penalty area unsuspected and would be there hammering the ball into the back of the net. For a little fellow, he packed quite a shot, again with both feet. He was a delight to watch especially when he was in full flight. That he only won 4 caps for England is again one of football’s travesties in my opinion. You have to remember that occupying the outside right berth in the England team during those years was a certain ageing, Stanley Mathews. The national team was also picked by a Selection Committee at that time which was made up of several League Club Chairmen – a sad state of affairs, and the reason why the England team was hardly consistent from one game to the next!

    I often wonder how today’s fans would view Johnny Berry. To be honest, as they adore a certain young Portugese young man who wears the current number 7 shirt, I am more than certain that they would also have taken Johnny to their hearts. For all of his short stature, Johnny had the heart of a lion. He faced some of the toughest full backs in the game during his time at United, and was targeted for brutality on many occasions. This was a time when there was so much robust physical contact in the game and defenders could tackle from behind and get away with it. He had an unflappable temperament and was just so exciting to watch. Like Cristiano today, Berry could certainly get your arse on the edge of a seat – he completely baffled and bewitched full backs with his trickery, and this produced an awful lot of end-product!

    As I said, his international career was so short. He went on the South American tour of 1953 and played in all three games. His next and last cap came some 3 years later in a game against Sweden in Rasunda which ended in a goalless draw. There was some tremendous wingers about during his time and no one could ever say that Tom Finney wasn’t worth his place in the team – but he operated mainly in the left wing berth, and there were many players who got caps during Berry’s time who were nowhere near as good as him. Stan Mathews, as Sir Matt once so aptly put it, loved to “play the Paladium” meaning he loved London and particularly Wembley, but he never liked playing at the likes of Old Trafford, Burnden, Hampden Park, Ninian Park, or Windsor Park!

    Johnny reveled in seeing the young “Babes” being introduced around him. He was vice-captain of the team and had the nickname of “Digger” which referred to his powerful shot. As the “Babes” came to the fore – in that Championship winning team of 1956, only he and Roger Byrne remained from the team that had won the Championship some four years earlier. As United entered the new European Cup competition, he was paranoid about flying and certainly didn’t like it, which was the same for a few of the younger players as well. He was always suspicious of foreign food and used to take his own “goodies” with him on the foreign trips, together with a primus stove, which was often the source of merriment from the young lads.

    He was an essential cog in that young team, and his form on the whole was so consistent. He also scored some very vital goals and amongst those that I can remember are the one against Bilbao at Maine Road that took United into the European Cup semi-final at their first attempt; the winner against Bournemouth at Dean Court in the F.A.Cup 6th round tie in 1957 that took them into semi-final; the winner in a crucial home League game against Blackpool at Old Trafford in April of 1956 which gave them a 2-1 victory that ensured the First Division title. He was also United’s spot kick expert for a number of years, having taken over the role from Roger Byrne.

    Unfortunately for Johnny, in the middle of the 1957-58 season, Busby decided he needed to freshen up his team, and in the December of 1957, after a run of bad results he took action. He bought Harry Gregg from Doncaster Rovers for a British record fee for a goalkeeper of 23,500 pounds. On Saturday, December 21st 1957, Gregg made his debut against Leicester City at Old Trafford, consigning Ray Wood to the Reserves. Also left out of the team were Johnny Berry, Billy Whelan, and David Pegg, and they made way for Kenny Morgans, Bobby Charlton and Albert Scanlon. Sadly for those left out, none would ever play a competitive game in the first team again.

    We all know that sad events of the tragedy, and it is amazing that Johnny Berry ever survived at all. His injuries were so horrific; fractured skull, broken jaw; broken elbow, broken pelvis, broken leg. When his wife Hilda arrived at the Munich hospital her first sight was one of him surrounded by packs of ice which was there to try and keep the swellings and bruising to a minimum. He was also in a coma and remained so for almost two months.

    Sadly when he returned home to Manchester months later, he still had no clear idea of what had happened, and initially thought that he had been in a car crash. On the flight home from Munich he was accompanied by two nurses who had a bag full of tranquilisers should he have had any sudden flashback to the disaster. He was admitted into a Manchester hospital upon arrival and even then had to undergo the removal of all his teeth to help with the jaw injuries. His first knowledge of what had happened came when he picked up a newspaper which had a report of a United game on the back page, and when he saw the team line-up, he could not believe it. He badgered the nurse and she had to call a doctor who explained to him exactly what had happened. After Johnny asked about his team mates, the doctor went through the team name by name, and the doctor told him whether they had survived or not. Although he had been inside that ill-fated aircraft, he must have been the last person in the world to know it.

    His injuries meant that he was never able to pursue his career in football again. He took a job with Massey Ferguson in Trafford Park but in 1960, United asked him to vacate their club house in Davyhulme to accommodate the signing of Maurice Setters. All I’ll say is that it was a sad state of affairs and one that made the Berry family understandably, very bitter. The family moved back to Aldershot his home town, and Johnny and his brother Peter opened a sports shop in the little village of Cove, close by. In 1963 I can recall that I was playing in a match at Aldershot, and needed some studs for my boots. I called in to Berry’s sports shop and it was John that actually served me. He spent great time advising me on what type of studs I needed and he actually fitted my boots with them for me. We spent time talking a little about Manchester but neither he nor I mentioned United. He looked a sick man even then. The sports shop business went on for 20 years, and Johnny spent the last few years of his working life as a storemean in a television retail chain warehouse. Sadly, he didn’t enjoy a long retirement passing away in March 1994 aged just 67 years.

    Johnny Berry played 276 games in all competitions for United scoring 45 goals.

    The Men Who Were The Busby Babes by Red News' Tom Clare - now out

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    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below

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  • Red News
    started a topic Tom Clare articles for Red News

    Tom Clare articles for Red News

    Eddie Colman - The Italian Marble Statue

    Shortly after Eddie died in the Munich Air Disaster, his family commissioned a small statue to be made of him, and for it to be carved in white Italian marble. The sculptor did a terrific job on it, but I can't remember if the family bore the 2000 pounds (which was an enormous amount back then) bill, or if the money was raised by public donation. My memory is a little hazy on this. However, the statue was done and stood on Eddie's grave in Weaste Cemetery, Salford, for years. It was a beautiful thing to see.

    However, as the years have rolled by, and tribalsim and vandalism amongst fans became more prevalent, the statue was damaged on more than a few occasions. Sometimes an arm would be broken - or both, and I believe later the head was taken off it. It became too much for the family to bear and eventually, a broken and damaged statue had to be permanently removed from his resting place.

    Talking to friends yesterday, I got to mentioning how I used to have a photograph of that statue, but unfortunately it had become mislaid. Thanks to my good friend Ian McCartney, I have received a couple of pictures of the statue as it originally was and I thought that it would be nice to share them with you.

    Cheeky, precocious, exuberant, effervescent, bubbly, exciting; all those words could be used to describe Eddie Colman. But as far as football is concerned, you could only ever describe him as supremely gifted and talented. He was certainly one of those players that left an indelible imprint on your memory with his own style of playing the game. He was definitely different from his contemporaries of that era – in many ways – but more of that later.

    Eddie was born and bred a Salford lad and entered this world on November 1st, 1936 – just one calendar month later than the indomitable Duncan Edwards. He was born at number 9, Archie Street, Ordsall, a really tough area that lies close to what is now Salford Quays, but back in those days was simply known as “the Docks.” Like most of Manchester’s inner city areas, Ordsall was an area of industrial buildings and streets made up of murky, dark bricked, two – up, two – down, terraced houses in cobbled stoned streets where the local people were housed. The original opening frames of the long running soap opera “Cornation Street” showing back to back terraced houses divided by an “entry” were of Eddie’s birthplace – Archie Street. They were honest, (well some of them!) hard working, God fearing people who lived there – but tough as granite and you had to be able to “look after yourself” to survive in those parts. He was born a few years before the outbreak of World War Two, and during those hostilities, with both the Manchester and Salford Docks and Ordsall’s industrial buildings being an obvious target for the German Luftwaffe, the area saw a lot of devastation. Many of those terraced houses were blitzed and there were many casualties. This was the initial environment that the young Eddie grew up with.

    Ordsall lies virtually alongside Old Trafford, and it’s no surprise then that the local kids grew up supporting Manchester United. If they were not at school, kids back then spent most of their time outside, and for the boys, it was always football through the autumn, winter, and spring, and cricket through the summer. Very few working class families owned television sets back then and computers were virtually unheard of – so kids did not have the distractions that they have today, and tended to expend their energies outdoors. It was unusual to find a boy who wasn’t interested in football. Games of football would take place in those cobbled stoned streets and on the “crofts” where houses had been demolished as a result of the bomb damage. The “matches” would go on for hours, and if a youngster had a ball, no matter what size (although usually tennis balls were the norm), then there was a game.

    This was how the young Eddie initially honed his footballing skills. Academically, he was an average boy. Physically, he was small in stature with a tiny frame, blonde hair, and a cherubic face. But that was misleading to say the least. To look at him, he was the angelic “boy next door”, but Eddie had an impish streak and was a born practical joker, which offtimes got him into trouble both at home and at school. However, he shone on the sports field and had great abilities both playing football and cricket. His size never deterred him on the football field and he was never ever afraid to get “stuck in” and “mix it” with boys that were physically more mature than him and in most cases, older. In the immediate post – war years, he began to develop and it was no surprise therefore that he started to attract attention as first he starred in his school team, and then made selection for the Salford City Boys team, a year earlier than was normal. Eddie was a United fan, and after playing school football on a Saturday morning, he would walk the short journey with his mates, along Trafford Road and across the “Swing Bridge”, to watch United. Busby’s team at that time was the team to watch, but it was also at this time that he was starting to implement his youth policy, gathering the best young talent available and bringing them to Old Trafford.

    Although there was a multitude of football scouts queueing up at the Colman household’s front door, there was only ever one club that Eddie was going to sign for – and that was Manchester United. He joined United in 1952, and immediately settled in trying to establish himself alongside a multitude of talented youngsters – many of them had been schoolboy internationals. But this never ever deterred young Eddie, he had absolute belief in himself and a temperament that was mature beyond his years. There was a lot of competition amongst the youngsters back then, but Eddie never shirked that challenge, and although still small, he put in some sterling performances for United’s juniors in his first year, playing in matches against teams where the opposition players were mostly adults.

    Eddie’s personality was impish but to see this side of him, you really had to know him. His team mates soon found out that Eddie was the complete prankster! It got him into a few scrapes, particularly with Jimmy Murphy, but I’m sure that Jimmy, after his initial annoyance, sat down and laughed also. Eddie was very popular amongst his team mates, and as he moved up through the “B” and “A” teams, that popularity never dimished. He captained a very successful Youth team for the first three years and amongst that team were the likes of Duncan Edwards, Billy Whelan, Bobby Charlton, Wilf McGuinness, and Shay Brennan. His style of play from the right – half position was different from the normal wing half of his day. Normally, wing halfs back in those days could be likened to “enforcers” – they were normally well built and most were destroyers. Eddie, because of his size and stature was full of guile and craft and had a quick footballing brain. He was an exquisite passer of the ball and could thread it through the eye of a needle. He could also tackle, a tact that a lot of pundits of the time failed to see. But he had developed this wonderful body swerve, the likes of which people had never ever seen, and haven’t since.

    Just eleven days after his 19th birthday, on November 12th, 1955, he made his first team debut in 1-3 defeat at Burnden Park, against Bolton Wanderers. At 5’7” and just 9 stones 2 lbs, against such a physical team that Bolton was back then, you would have feared for young Eddie’s safety! Not a bit of it – he was in amongst the “Trotters” like a Jack Russel hanging on to a trouser leg! This was the first time that his trade mark body swerve had been seen at the top level of the game in England. The man on the receiving end was none other than Nat Lofthouse, “the Lion of Vienna.” Lofthouse was the typical old fashioned centre forward, tough as teak and no-holds barred and was also a seasoned international player. He was very, very physical. As young Eddie carried the ball away from danger just beyond the 18 yards line of United’s goalmouth, Lofthouse made for him. It was a “David and Goliath” situation. There was this young, blond, angel faced kid making his debut, and was just about to be introduced to the tough professional game of First Division football, by the old wizened master of his craft. As Lofthouse moved in for the kill, the youngster made an exaggerated movement with his hips and arse - it was as though he was on the dance floor doing a rumba! It mesmerized Lofthouse into taking the movement and with just another little swift movement of those hips and arse – Eddie was off in the opposite direction with the ball, leaving Lofthouse in “no-man’s land!” Not only did that dummy confuse Lofthouse, but it also confused most of the people inside Burnden Park that afternoon, particularly those sitting in the Manchester Road Stand for there was a murmur went out like you’d never heard before! Eddie Colman had arrived.

    He was to remain a permanent fixture in the team after that and he played a huge part in “the Babes” winning their first title in that 1955/56 season. The fans took to him as one of their favourite sons and christened him “Snake Hips – the boy with the Marilyn Monroe wiggle.” He was the perfect foil for Edwards in the middle of United’s midfield. They complimented each other so well – were so precocious and feared nobody and no reputation, and they were a formidable partnership together. He was never amongst the goals and only twice scored at first team level. His first came just two weeks after his debut when he scrambled the ball home from close range at White Hart Lane against ‘Spurs in November 1956. His second was all important when again he forced the ball home from close range at Old Trafford against Red Star on that dark, January foggy night in 1958 that gave United a 2-1 lead to take with them on that ill fated trip. His sense of humor was to the fore when Henry Rose, the Daily Express journalist, asked him after that European game, what it felt like to score such an important goal. Eddie responded; “You know me Henry, I’m the most dangerous player in the world from two yards!” Just a year earlier, when United had flown to Spain for the European Cup Quarter Final first leg game against Bilbao, upon landing in Basque capital, he was one of the first players to alight from the sircraft. Instead of being met by glorious sunshine, it was sleeting heavily and Eddie was heard to remark; “Caramba! Just like Salford!”

    It was true to say that Eddie was now an established, and integral member of “the Babes” and once again, he picked up another Championship winner’s medal as well as playing in the F.A. Cup Final, in the following season 1956 – 57. I have no doubts at all in my own mind that he would have gone on to win full England international honours had fate not decreed otherwise. He was in superb form at the time of the tragedy, and together with the established English internationals of Byrne, Edwards, and Tommy Taylor, I also think that Eddie, Mark Jones, and David Pegg would have made both the World Cup squad that went to Sweden in 1958 and that they would probably have been the backbone of the England team for years to come.

    Off the field Eddie just loved life. His impish sense of humour was so infectious, and he became very close to Bill Foulkes, and Foulkes’s wife, Theresa. He was very fashion conscious and in the middle fifties when “drain pipes”, “winkle pickers”, and threequarter-length jackets became the style, Eddie was one of the first to be seen wearing that garb. Eddie’s best friend as I recall was a little guy whom I think was called Jimmy. They were inseparable and there was no show without “Punch” – where there was one, there was the other! They could both be seen around the local dance halls at weekends, but Eddie would never let on to the girls that he met, what he did for a living. Whenever they asked he would just tell them; “I work in Trafford Park” or “I’m a painter and decorator”.

    He loved a pint, and going out with the lads for a drink and a sing song. There was numerous times that Eddie, Wilf, Bobby, Tommy, David, Billy, would gather down at a pub in Sale. Eddie idolized Sinatra and fancied himself as a pianist/crooner. He used to do his “party piece” in the singing room – “Pennies from Heaven” – much to the delight of the locals. His liking for a pint did lead to some trouble for him though, and it came from none other than Roger Byrne, the United captain. No doubt the exuberance of youth was the main culprit, but on a couple of occasions Eddie did let his standards drop a little and once or twice turned up late for training. The occasion of Byrne’s intervention was after one of the famous “killer ball” games that the players used to play on the gravel at the back of the Stretford End. The players were stood around when it had finished and Roger barked at him that he wanted a word. He took him out of earshot of everybody and when their conversation was over, Eddie was white-faced. It transpired that Roger had certainly left him in no doubts that if he didn’t pull his socks up and get a grip on his lifestyle, then there was no doubt that he would be on his way out of Old Trafford. That he heeded Roger’s advice was to his good. Shortly after this, Eddie met a wonderful young girl named Marjorie and he was smitten.

    Eddie was another of “the Babes” who was idolized by thousands of young kids of that era. Again, like most of those boys that he played alongside, there was no airs and graces with him – just a plain little Salford lad that happened to play football for the Club that he adored. Nothing flash, no pretentiousness. It was a common site to see him walking off home after playing in a match at Old Trafford, chatting to fans as he went. My last sight of him was after the FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Ipswich Town at Old Trafford on January 25th 1958. United had strolled through the game to win 2-0. About half an hour after the game finished he came out of the main entrance wearing a big black duffle coat with wooden buttons, and was immediately surrounded by kids. He signed away smiling and laughing, and then joined some friends and they walked away down past the old ticket office and out of sight.

    After the disaster, I would often play “wag” (truant) from school, and walk from my home in Chorlton-upon-Medlock, through Hulme and on to Regent Road in Salford. I would trek up Regent Road into Weaste and then into Weaste Cemetery. Eddie was buried at the top of the main drive on the right hand side, on the corner, just in front of the church. His family had a beautiful white marble statue of him passing the ball, commissioned and sculptured in Italy. It stood about three feet tall and was so beautiful. I spent many an hour stood there in front of his resting place and that statue, reliving old memories and shedding many a tear. Unfortunately, I believe that the statue was vandalized many years later and is no longer there. In February next year, I will make another pilgrimage to his resting place, and no doubt the tears and the memories will flow once again.

    Rest On In Peace Eddie, you are never forgotten.

    Eddie made just 107 appearances in all competitions for United Scoring 2 goals.

    by Tom Clare, author of Forever a Babe, and the Men who were the Busby Babes, which can be ordered below