Saturday, February 5, 2011

Remembering Munich.

    They were some of the finest in the land. None were older than 28 and as many as four were 22 or younger. 53 years ago, Old Trafford's finest went up in flames.

Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Liam "Billy" Whelan. That's almost an all star line up right there; all up in flames.

When Wayne Rooney wakes up this morning in his mansion, having made another wad of money for an absolute no show, no one knows if he will think about Duncan Edwards or Tommy Taylor. But if he did, it's hard to imagine how he would live with himself.

Edwards was the greatest English player ever seen. A wing half, he had played for England by the time he was 18. By the time of the crash, Edwards had played 151 league games for United. In a 2003 article picking the greatest English XI for the FA website, Sir Bobby Charlton said about Edwards, "He was incomparable; I feel terrible trying to explain to people just how good he was. His death was the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football. I always felt I could compare well with any player - except Duncan. He was such a talent, I always felt inferior to him. He didn't have a fault with his game."

    He was 21 years old 53 years ago.

    Geoff Bent only made 12 league appearances for United over seven years between 1951 and that fateful day. He had become a father a mere four months prior.

    He was 25 years old 53 years ago.

    That Gary Neville could be called as merely the modern day Roger Byrne would be something the recent retiree would pride himself on. A full back, famous for his surging runs on the flanks, Byrne was also Captain Marvel for Busby's young side. He was also set to captain England in the '58 World Cup. He had already made 245 league appearances for United, along with 33 for his country, winning three league titles, and, as expected, nothing with England.

    He was 28 years old 53 years ago. The oldest of the Babes.

    Eddie Colman was the youngest victim of the tragedy. He was a wing back who had just scored his first European goal against Red Star Belgrade.

    He was 21 years old 53 years ago.

     Mark Jones' 103 league appearances came despite the presence of the talented Jackie Blanchflower, brother of the legendary Danny Blanchflower, as a centre half in the team. Jones was another one of the youth team products, the kind of United had made a habit of producing. Highly talented yet assuredly loyal.

    He was 24 years old 53 years ago.

    David Pegg was an outside left, what one would call a left-winger these days, who looked set to make that spot on the English team his own. 127 league appearances for United, and two titles later, he left a gaping hole for both club and country.

    He was 22 years old 53 years ago.

    Tommy Taylor was the catalyst to United's back to back league titles between 55 and 57. Famous for his ability off the ground, Taylor, a centre forward, had a fantastic strike rate, scoring 112 league goals in just 166 league appearances. But his England records of 19 games, 16 goals sets him apart as one of the greatest strikers to play for England ever. A player who could have possibly held the world transfer record if Busby had accepted a £65,000 for him from Internazionale in 1957, he was brought to United for the stellar price of £29,999. Busby paid the last pound to the tea lady serving them tea in the boardroom, because he did not want Taylor to live with the tag of a thirty thousand pound player. (*cough* Berbatov *cough*)

    He was 26 years old 53 years ago.

    Liam "Billy" Whelan played 79 league games for United, scored 43 times. A great strike rate for a forward, especially one as young as he was.

    He was 22 years old 53 years ago.

When the Fergusons, Mourinhos, Guradiolas, heck, even the Shanklies and Paslies are discussed, let's ask ourselves how many had the soul crushing experience of losing these men, nay boys.

That Sir Alexander Matthew Busby lived through a plane crash that claimed players who were old enough to be his grandsons, destroying his nurtured team, setting back nearly 13 years of work, is fantastic enough. That he did so by making United the kings of Europe, producing a team consisting of three Ballon 'd Or winners is just further testament as to why Bill Shankly called him the greatest manager ever.

There were others who lost their lives that day too, lest we forget.

Walter Crickmer was club secretary, and also a former manager of Manchester United from the 1930s.

Trainer Tom Curry was a former Newcastle United half back. He was 63 years old.

Chief coach, Bert Whalley was a former United midfielder, and was 45 years of age in 1958.

Willie Satinoff was a fan, and close friend of the manager. There were eight journalists who lost their lives that day. Among them, Frank Swift, the Manchester City goalkeeper who made 376 appearances for them between 1933 and 1949.

RIP, The Flowers of Manchester, United staff, journalists, travel agent and the lone supporter who lost their lives 53 years ago.

You Are Never Forgotten.

1 comment:

sai said...

i am the last person to appreciate anything related to Manchester United but BUT ,abay sundaram, you brought a tear to my eye and an ache to my heart.

RIP, all those legendary players whose overwhelming talent would have filled the pages of world history.