Sir Bobby Charlton has led the tributes to Bill Foulkes, his fellow Munich air disaster survivor, who died on Monday aged 81, saying Foulkes had helped change the course of Manchester United’s history.
Foulkes became club captain following the plane crash in Munich that claimed the lives of 23 people and played a key role in their 1968 European Cup triumph, including scoring the winner in the semi-final against Real Madrid.
A central defender, Foulkes made his debut for United in 1952 and went on to play 688 times for the club – a figure surpassed only by Charlton, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
“He was as hard as nails, as tough as teak – I was always glad I didn’t have to play against him,” Charlton said.
“He was a really, really good defensive player and you could say he helped change the course of history for United.”
Foulkes, whose father and grandfather had both played rugby league for his hometown of St Helens, started work as a coal miner and was still going down the pit at the local Lea Green Colliery in the mid-1950s, by which time he was a regular member of Matt Busby’s United first team and won his only England cap, playing at right-back against Northern Ireland, in 1954.
United are expected to wear black armbands against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League tomorrow night and will also mark Foulkes’ passing at their next home match, against Everton a week tomorrow.
The club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, said: “Bill was a giant character in the post-war history of Manchester United.”