Book Of The Week: Munich tribute to the living and the dead - Sport - The Independent

Book Of The Week: Munich tribute to the living and the dead

The Day A Team Died

Frank Taylor (Souvenir Press, paperback, pounds 8.99)

This book arrived with the morning post. I glanced idly at it. An hour later, with tissues scattered across the kitchen table, the telephone rang breaking the spell and I realised I was about to be late for an appointment. Even then it was hard to put down.

We all know the story, or think we do, but the details have been clouded by time leaving a hazy legend. Manchester United are again the best and biggest team in the land, but visiting (home) fans have been known to ask "Who's that" at the Old Trafford statue of Sir Matt Busby. Many who worship David Beckham have no real idea of Duncan Edwards' majesty, while opposition fans, although less often these days, have sung mockingly of the Munich disaster.

It is difficult for anyone under 45 to imagine the impact of the tragedy. I personally cannot, but my grandmother, who has little interest in football, still remembers the stunned reaction of everyone in the bookmakers where she then worked when news of the crash first broke on the telegraph wire.

Like the death of Princess Diana or President Kennedy, everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news.

This book brings back the human and footballing tragedy of that wintry afternoon in a German city 40 years ago on Friday week. Originally published in 1983, on the 25th anniversary, it is written by the only surviving journalist, a man who was reported dead, then spent 21 weeks in hospital and was unable to walk unaided for 18 months. Even then he feels guilty at surviving, the only man to do so among nine journalists.

Twenty three people were killed as a result of the crash, including eight players. Two more players had their careers ended, and others blighted, by their injuries. The quality of those who survived to prosper, Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes and Harry Gregg, who between them played 1,678 matches for United, is indicative of the team's potential had it survived.

That team and its players are recalled with the clarity of celluloid. So too is the crash and its aftermath, those long days and longer nights in hospital, while Taylor, Busby, Edwards and others fought for life and health. The sense of loss, of both a great team and of personal friends, and the strain placed upon relatives is vividly described.

It is not all sombre. The camaraderie of players and press during happier European adventures is fondly recollected.

An unkind critic might say Taylor is profiting from being an eye- witness to British sport's biggest-ever story, but one senses this is a book he had to write, both as a tribute to the dead and to the medical staff who saved him, and as a cathartic exercise. It is also a book that deserves to be read.

News
Residents of James Turner Street such as White Dee will have a chance to share their experiences of benefits on a Channel 4 spin-off show
peopleBenefits Street star says mixed-race children were subjected to trolling
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Extras
indybest
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Life and Style
Jourdan Dunn gave TopShop’s Unique show some added glamour at London Fashion Week
fashion week
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

McAfee Security Engineer

£42000 - £48000 per annum + Site allowance: Ashdown Group: McAfee EPO Speciali...

English Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experience...

Higher Level Teaching Assistants in Bradford and West Leeds

£65 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are currently seeking Higher L...

EYP

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Job opportunity for an Early years ...

Day In a Page

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
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories