Last night I watch a drama program on BBC TV called United. It covered the story of Manchester United between 1956 and 1958 concentrating on Jimmy Murphy, the assistant manager, and Bobby Charlton. It started just before Bobby made it to the first team. In those days the team were called The Busby Babes because most of the players were younger than the average footballer. One player, Duncan Edwards, played for England when he was just 17.
The story started with Bobby Charlton wondering if he would ever make it to the first team. Duncan Edwards and he became friends and Duncan encouraged him to fight for a place in the team. Bobby finally got his place in the first team against Charlton in a home game at Old Trafford and I was there. When I got home after the game I told my dad that United had a new player good enough to play for England. My dad smiled and say "Yeh, right." I don't think he believed me. Bobby went on to play 105 times for England.
The story moved on to February 1958. United had travelled to Belgrave to play Red Star in the second leg of the European Cup quarter final. United hired a plane to make the trip to and from Belgrave which in those days was still behind the Iron Curtain. The game ended 3 all with United through on aggregate 5-4. On the way back the plane stopped at Munich to refuel and crashed trying to take off from a snow covered runway.
The program brought back the memories of that time in Manchester, So many players lost, the sadness and the sorrow seemed like it would last for ever.
In the program it suggested the Manchester United Board even contemplated closing the club down for the rest of the season, something I never heard at the time. But Jimmy Murphy got a team together to play Sheffield Wednesday in a cup game at Old Trafford, again I was there and we won 3 nil. For the rest of the season United played and managed to reach the final of they FA Cup losing to Bolton. Bobby Charlton came closest to scoring for Man U when he hit the post with the score nil nil but Bolton scored twice Nat Lofthouse scored the second by bungling Harry Gregg out of the way. Had the game been played now he would have got a yellow card or even been sent off.
I'm still saddened when I think back to Munich and the program evoked so many memories, one more I will mention here. Duncan Edwards, who played wing half and my favourite player in the team (probably a lot of peoples favourite player he was so good) survived the crash but died on 21 Feb as a result of his injuries. A second sad event in a time of much existing sorrow.