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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral