Obituary: Johnny Berry

John James Berry, footballer and sports outfitter: born Aldershot 1 June 1926; died Farnham, Surrey 16 September 1994.

JOHNNY BERRY survived the 1958 Munich air disaster, but his career as a footballer did not. The injuries he received in the crash, four months before his 32nd birthday, consigned to memory his nimble play on Manchester United's right flank as a seasoned professional in a team of prodigious fledglings.

Matt Busby paid Birmingham City pounds 25,000 for Berry in 1951, when the 'Busby Babes' were but a twinkle in the great manager's eye. The transfer began to take shape in Busby's mind two years earlier, when two goals by Berry helped sabotage United's championship prospects after they had led the First Division by four points going into Easter.

Busby's initial signing, Jimmy Delaney, a 32-year-old Celtic winger, had proved an inspired choice in galvanising the splendid United team of the late 1940s, and the fearless Berry's experience contributed immensely to the club's youth-based success in the 1950s. He won three championship medals and was selected for England on four occasions.

While distinctive in his own merit, Berry typified the diminutive winger: a fast raider with skilful ball control whose low centre of gravity appeared to enable him to bounce up when knocked down. He played during an era prolific in maestros of the wing, and while Stanley Matthews, of Blackpool, and Tom Finney, of Preston, were undoubtedly the most celebrated of the species one has particularly vivid memories of matches between United and Wolverhampton Wanderers featuring Berry in the red jersey and the equally light and lively Johnny Hancocks among the old gold.

Though Berry and David Pegg are remembered as the established wingers in the Busby Babes' team, neither played in the European Cup quarter-final away to Red Star Belgrade, after which the club's chartered Elizabethan crashed on take-off in snow and ice after stopping to refuel at Munich on 6 February 1958. Ken Morgans took Berry's place, and Pegg's left-wing position was occupied by Albert Scanlon. Pegg was among the eight players who died.

After being discharged from hospital in Munich, Berry spent a year in Manchester before returning to Aldershot, his birthplace. He opened a sports outfitting business in partnership with his brother Peter, a former player with Crystal Palace and Ipswich.

Johnny Berry showed early promise playing for St Joseph's School, Aldershot Boys and the YMCA, but on leaving school he worked as a projectionist at a local cinema. It was during service with the Royal Artillery that he was brought to Birmingham City's attention, and he signed as a professional at St Andrews in 1944.

After leaving Manchester, his visits to Old Trafford were rare. He once declared himself to be old-fashioned in thinking football was no longer what it used to be, though he admitted he would be happy to be paid the wages of the modern player. He consoled himself with memories of being one of a vibrant team which thrilled huge crowds. 'I enjoyed my football. Of course I did. I think it's the same in any job - if you have success at it, you enjoy it.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?