Published: 10 July 2002
I read in the newspaper that Ray Wood died on Sunday and so another of my boyhood heros, another Busby Babe, has gone to join his mates in the Old Trafford of the sky.
Ray Wood is the first (Manchester United) goalkeeper I can remember with any clarity. In 1957 I watched the Cup Final on the television and saw McParland deliberately hit Ray, breaking, we later discovered, his cheekbone. I didn't see my dad that evening for I had gone to bed by the time he got home from Wembley, but I can remember, with absolute clarity, his reaction when I spoke to him on the Sunday morning. Never in all the years I have been watching Manchester United with him can I ever remember him being so cross. My dad is a very honest and balanced man and he said at the time, and remains convinced to this day, that McParland got Ray Wood early in order to give Aston Villa a chance of winning. That McParland has never been man enough to admit that is to his eternal shame.
To a young boy (as I once was!) Ray Wood always appeared slightly ill at ease when we pestered him for his autograph at the training ground. Not, I hasten to add, because he was a nasty man, but because he was, I think, a little bit shy. Perhaps, I don't know, in awe of those around him. He seemed a quiet, gentlemanly sort of person, with little to say. But he always signed, without making a fuss and that was nice.
As a player he was a good, but no better, goalkeeper. It has to be said that playing behind a defence which included the likes of Byrne, Jones and Edwards must have been a big help. But the fact of the matter is that he won two League Championship medals and that is pretty good by any standards. Once Harry (Harry, Harry) arrived it was obvious (or so my dad told me) that Ray's days were numbered, and, indeed, this was the case.
We should not forget Ray Wood - I know we won't. He was a very fine goalkeeper and an even nicer fellow. May he rest in peace.
Keep the faith, The Old Fart
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