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.'

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam