A future filled with promise: The Busby Babes of 1958
Wednesday 06 February 2008
Sir Matt Busby's seemingly invincible Manchester United side line up before the European Cup quarter final against the Yugoslav capital's Red Star club that would see them into the sem-finals, with a 3-3 draw.
It was the biggest night of their lives – but within 24 hours five of the Busby Babes would be dead and others so badly injured and traumatised that they would never play football in the same way again.
This image, taken in Belgrade on 5 February 1958, now hangs on the wall of the Manchester United dressing room at the team's Carrington training ground, and for millions of fans still symbolises the sense of loss that surrounded the events of 40 years ago.
1 Duncan Edwards
Died at Munich, aged 21. Towered above all other members of the Busby Babes, and clung on to life for 13 days after the crash.
2 Eddie Colman
Died at Munich, aged 21. Was still working as an army signaller at Catterick Barracks in Yorkshire when he made his debut soon after his 19th birthday. What he lacked in stature, at 5ft 7ins, the wing-half made up for in skill. They called him "snakehips" after his inimitable body swerve – and his understanding with Edwards bordered on the telepathic.
3 Mark Jones
Died at Munich, aged 24. Widely acknowledged as one of the best headers of a ball in the history of English football after giving up his bricklaying career to join Busby's United. Until the crash, the centre half's long-awaited England call-up was rumoured to be imminent.
4 Kenny Morgans
Survived, now aged 68. Still traumatised by the crash, he left hospital in Munich in late March, and within a few weeks was pressed to play again for the depleted Manchester United, though his legs still felt "like matchsticks" during his comeback against Wolves reserves. The youngest player involved in the crash, Morgans was never the same again: after two unhappy years at United, he left for his home town team, Swansea, moved to Newport in 1964 and retired in 1970 after three years as Cwmbran Town player/manager. "I didn't really care any more. I missed the boys," he recalled.
5 Bobby Charlton
Survived, now aged 70. Manchester United board director since 1984, Charlton was only two years into his first team career before the crash occurred. Later, he became seen as a symbol of the indomitable spirit which saw the club lift the European Cup inside 10 years. His two goals in that 1968 final were among 249 for United, for whom he has played more times than any other player. Sir Bobby, as he is now known, was knighted in 1994.
6 Dennis Viollet
Survived crash but lost fight with cancer, aged 65, in March 1999. One of the best-loved United players of all, despite almost signing for Manchester City, his 32 league goals in a season just two years after Munich remains a club record. Viollet was, surprisingly, transferred to Stoke City for £22,000 in 1962 and eventually emigrated to the US where he coached several sides before his death there.
7 Tommy Taylor
Died at Munich, aged 26. Signed from his home town club, Barnsley, by Busby for a world record £29,999 in March 1953 (Busby had not wanted him to be saddled with the pressure of being the first £30,000 footballer so, the story goes, he gave the other pound to a tea lady). Indomitable at centre forward, Taylor was seen as a natural replacement for Nat Lofthouse in England's side until the crash occurred.
8 Billy Foulkes
Survived crash, now aged 76. Few players epitomise the different world United occupied back then more vividly. When the crash occurred, Foulkes was a part-time player, working down the mine in St Helens most of the week, and training Tuesdays and Thursdays with United. For Foulkes, returning to action soon after the crash was a financial necessity – and so it was that, still a skeletal figure with pains in his head, he acceded to stand-in manager Jimmy Murphy's pleas to take over as captain from Roger Byrne, who died. Retired in 1969, Foulkes coached United's youth team until 1975 and had spells coaching in the US, Norway and Japan. Not in the best of health, he still shows groups of fans around Old Trafford.
9 Harry Gregg
Survived crash, now aged 75. They call him "the hero of Munich" because of the way he crawled, bleeding, from the wreckage and then returned – ignoring the pleas of rescue workers – to pull passengers clear. Gregg, considered by some to be United's finest goalkeeper, saved a woman and her baby as well as team-mates. Returned to the side, though never collected a medal before leaving for Stoke in 1967 and managing Shrewsbury, Swansea and Carlisle. Now runs a hotel in his native Northern Ireland. Awarded MBE in 1995.
10 Albert Scanlon
Survived crash, now aged 72. About to sign for Arsenal when the crash occurred, leaving him with a fractured skull. Returned to the side, but did not flourish, playing another two seasons and finding himself dropped three games into the next. He never played for United again, moving to Newcastle and after that, Lincoln and Mansfield. Still struggles to talk about the events of 1958.
11 Roger Byrne
Died at Munich, aged 28. Busby's captain won three championship medals, and had played 33 times for England before he lost his life, two days short of his 29th birthday. A natural leader of men, the full back had switched to rugby during his war years in the RAF, after he was not deemed good enough at football. His wife, Joy, gave birth to their only child eight months after his death.
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