Post Munich when Dennis ran out as Captain [click for full size]
DENNIS VIOLLET 1933 - 1999
Passed away: 6th March 1999
The following is a poem written by Geoff. geoff and his wife
were with Helen and Dennis on their day out to St Augustine which turned
out to be Dennis' last day of freedom on earth. They were there too during
the traumatic aftermath.
Geoff read the poem at Dennis' memorial gathering at Old Trafford
Though I am sad to leave you
Fortune has dealt me shorter term
For I have shared and treasured
I have tasted the thrill of victory
And if as they say a life is rich
I think of the comrades I have loved
My life has been fulfilled
Oft I have dined at the feast of joy
And so farewell yet do not grieve
During a family trip to the US last June I arranged a visit with one of the all time Manchester United greats.
Dennis Viollet was badly injured in the Munich crash and had a gaping wound over his right ear when Harry Gregg pulled him out of the wreckage. He recovered from his injuries and made his comeback just in time for the FA Cup Final against Bolton. He went on to play for United until his transfer to Stoke City in January 1962. All in all Dennis Viollet made 291 appearances and scored 178 goals and still holds the club record of 32 league goals from just 36 games during the 1959-60 season.
Dennis never wanted to leave United but one day, right out of the blue Tony Waddington rang him from Stoke City and introduced himself as his new manager. Dennis felt let down but said things had never been quite the same since Munich. He loved Manchester United but the family he had known were gone. It had devastated everyone and made it difficult to cope because so many of their friends had died. So as his friend Denis Law arrived, he departed.
He had five great years at Stoke and enjoyed every moment, picking up a Second Division Championship medal along the way to add to the First Division tally from his time at United.
Dennis and Helen went to the US in1973 where Dennis was renowned for his coaching skills and had recently been awarded the Freedom of the City in Jacksonville where he was based.
Ironically the injury he received in the crash caught up with him at Munich. Just prior to the European Cup Final reunion he had had a couple of dizzy spells and moments of deja-vu but had still been very busy with his coaching. He was in two minds whether to go to Munich but was eventually persuaded to meet up with his old team-mates. After the Final and on his way back, Dennis disappeared at the airport. When he was found he didn't know where he was and was immediately rushed home and into hospital where the brain tumour was discovered.
The thing that struck me about Dennis was that he may have looked different facially because of his condition, but his body was still the same as I remember when he played for United. His forearms were still as strong and it was easy to imagine him gliding gracefully over the pitch on his way to yet another goal.
Dennis Viollet played a huge part in the history of Manchester United and significantly during the re-birth of the club after the crash and it was one of the greatest thrills of my life to have spent time in his company.
A few days ago Helen phoned me and told me that Dennis had gone into hospital. He had been admitted into intensive care and put on life support.
The day before he was admitted to hospital Helen had taken him out to St. Augustine. She drove him around rather than pushing him as Dennis hated to be seen in the wheelchair.
He hadn't been very responsive the last few times he had been taken out as his condition had deteriorated, but this time was different. She commandeered the help of one of his physios, an ex football player of about six foot four or five and they drove him the short distance to the old Spanish town.
Jimmy Murphy, Dennis & Kenny Morgans
St Augustine is a beautiful place, one of those special places you get to visit every now and then. It is stacked full of history. You can be sitting by a trickling fountain under the fronds of a swaying palm in an ornate Spanish courtyard and dream yourself back in time.
The day Dennis was driven to St Augustine he didn't fall asleep as he usually did. His eyes were wide open and staring as he took in everything around him visiting all the places he used to love.
They didn't stay long, but long enough, and when they returned home to their house in Jacksonville Dennis was helped from the car by the ex football player, but before he was seated in his wheelchair he was stood upright by an interior wall.
And then something remarkable happened. He stood bolt upright by himself and very slowly but deliberately he moved that famous right foot of his and took a single step forward. It was something he hadn't done under his own volition for some considerable time.
When seated back in his wheelchair you could easily detect the look of satisfaction which had crept over his face. When he was asked whether he had enjoyed himself he smiled and murmured as best he could to indicate that he had. It turned a nice day into a very special one.
There are moments in a life that are memorable for various reasons. Dennis' life had always been concerned with football whether it was playing or coaching, but that day in St. Augustine and the brief aftermath was every bit as good as an injury time winner.
Just after 3pm local time on Saturday 6th March Dennis passed away. The time and date significant.
His memory will linger in the minds of those of us who were privileged enough to watch him play. I will always remember his power and grace and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, the hallmark of a good striker.
That day in St Augustine was the right place at the right time. He could well have been on his way into the opposition box and latching on to a knock down from Tommy, gracefully encouraging the ball into the back of the net and turning away to take the adulation of his team-mates with just a hint of a smile.
Dennis was a man who played life as he played football, with as little fuss as possible, but he played it very effectively. We will remember him as one of our own.
Message Board March 1999: [set up to remain on the web for 999 days]
Tributes to Dennis Viollet or family messages can be left here
Tribute from Peter Hargreaves,
This piece is written from the heart:
Dennis Viollet - A small and personal tribute
It could well be because, as a young man, he lived near to where I lived. Or it could be because my mum had known him as a young boy (he lived next door to her auntie in Clinton Avenue, Fallowfield) and therefore she talked about him, rather than the other wonderful young boys, delighting everybody with their marvellous skills at Old Trafford. Or perhaps it was because he always had time for us, the pestering, mithering nuisances, down at the training ground asking him for his autograph - for the hundredth time, that day! Or maybe it was because he was such a wonderful footballer, who ran with such beautiful poise and elegance, with knees-pumping style and, always, with great footballing purpose.
Perhaps it was any, or all of those reasons. Whatever the reason, I loved him.
Although, until more recent times and due to his terrible incapacity, those of us based in and around Manchester had not heard of Dennis for a while, we still thought about him often. When me and my dad were together in the pub, discussing the Manchester United greats, as you do, the name of Dennis Viollet ALWAYS came up. There have been so many players in my forty-five years of watching Manchester United, some great, some not so great. Memories of some fade quite quickly, some linger for a time and then fade away, but with some the memory is as fresh today as it was, oh so many years ago. Dennis Viollet fell into the latter category, for he was a player with 'presence'. You NEVER forget the players with 'presence'.
Make no mistake, those of you who were never lucky enough to see him play, Dennis Viollet could play the game. His movement was not unlike that of another Denis, Denis Law. He was quick, not just fleet of foot, but in his mind; in his mind over that vital first two, three yards. He was a goalscorer you see. He could 'see' situations that no one else could. He could read the game. That footballing gift cannot be taught, you either have it or you don't, and if you don't you never get it. Dennis had it and had it in abundance. He was mercurial. Another facet of his game was bravery. Like all great goalscorers he would dash in amongst the flailing feet without regard to his own safety. Although he was quite a small man he had the heart of a lion. He has demonstrated his tremendous strength more recently and I have, once again, so admired his bravery.
Albert Quixall, Sir Matt, Dennis and Bobby [click on pic for full size]
Over the long years since the crash I have spent hours, hours which would add up to weeks and months, thinking about what would have become of Manchester United had the terrible thing not happened. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about how great a player Dennis Viollet would have become. He would have become something very special; my word on that. So many boys lost their careers as a result of that crash, but I have always believed that Dennis lost something too. He lost the potential for true greatness that was and would have been his. You see he played on in those dark days that were the post-Munich days. He had lost all his mates and the team he was playing in were just not up to his standard. I know that is an awful thing to say, and I'm sure that a man like Dennis would never have said it, but it was true. To have seen Manchester United pre-February 1958, and then during 1959, '60 and '61 was to see two teams poles apart. That to me was also a tragedy.
Like a great number of people I was both shocked and saddened to hear that Dennis had decided to leave Old Trafford. I never knew why and it is a mark of the man that, to this day, I have never discovered what caused a man with United-red in his veins to leave. Perhaps the arrival of David Herd and the imminent arrival of Law were factors (though as an outsider I knew nothing of the Law transfer), probably we shall never know.
The last time I can remember seeing Dennis play was for Stoke City in the F.A. Cup at Old Trafford in 1967. That day another Manchester United old boy, Maurice Setters, gave Denis Law a torrid time, but Denis had the last laugh, scoring a goal - in fact beating Dennis Viollet to a cross and scoring with a header.
It is now a long time ago but it seems, to this old man, like yesterday. The memories and memory of Dennis Viollet will always be there. His exploits were legion. He was one of us.
He now joins the other Babes and will be immediately selected to partner the wonderful Tommy Taylor up front as the heavenly Manchester United sweep all before them.
God bless him, Keep the Faith, Pete
Copyright © 1999 Peter Hargreaves.
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.
My Hero, My friend
Belgrade the last match the Busby Babes played
From: DA <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The tragic news of Dennis Viollett passing away shook me to the ground, although I realised that my friend was very ill, you can never really be prepared for situations like this.
Denis was a hero to me, I was also lucky enough to call him a friend. As a tribute to Dennis I would like to tell a couple of stories about the great man, so we can celebrate his wonderful life.
I met Dennis in Florida about 15 years ago, at that time I was coaching a boys youth team and we were playing in a tournament in Orlando. I had a friend (Andy Warner) who had played some league football and usually came to our matches, when we played near his home, he would give me tips and generally help out with the team when he could. This particular match I was stood on the sidelines and noticed that my friend was stood behind me with a group of spectators, he was deep in conversation with a man that looked vaguely familiar, I gave him a wave and got on with the match. About 10 mins later I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see that the 'familiar face' was stood behind me, he asked if I had a fag (cigarette) I could spare, I did smoke and reached down into my pocket, and gave him about 5 ciggies. He stood next to me for about 10 mins, making some observations about my teams play. Although I still didn't recognise who it was, it was obvious the man was very knowledgable about the game.
At the end of the match, he asked if I minded him having a few words with my two strikers, seeing that he was obviously very informed about the game, of course I told him to go ahead.He shouted to the two boys in question to grab a ball and follow him to the goalmouth. At this time there were two other teams waiting to take the field, but the referee crew had ordered the two teams to wait on the sidelines, such strange respect I thought?
Andy Warner walked up to me, and I asked him how this stranger got so much respect, and that I was amazed that the ref's hadn't ordered him off the field, Andy turned to me and said "you silly bugger, don't you recognise Dennis Viollett"? He could stay there all day if he wished, no one would ever move him. Dennis went through a couple of exercises with the boys (from what I remember, he was teaching them how to shield the ball) and then when he came off the field I walked to him and shook his hand and poured out my 'little boy' admiration for him, to which he replied "shut up, you make me feel old, lets go and have a pint"
Of course I accepted and my friendship with the great man had begun.
Dennis and Tommy Taylor when they were in the army together
Another story, only this time more recent: About 6 months ago I called Helen Viollet to see how Dennis was, she told me that a friend of his (an ex team mate from Stoke, whose name I don't recall) had visited with them, and that Dennis was in high spirits. She then told me that the previous day Dennis and his friend had been sitting reminiscing, and Dennis was enjoying it so much that she decided to leave them for a few hours and go to do some shopping (this was rare, since Helen had been at Dennis's side constantly during his sickness). She was gone around 2 hours and upon returning she saw that Dennis and his friend were gone, and Dennis's wheelchair was also missing, thinking that they had gone for a walk around she dismissed it and went about putting her groceries up. after two hours they had not returned and Helen began to worry, she got in her car and started to drive around the neighborhood searching for the wayward pair.
After about 45 mins and no sight of them she really started to panic, where could they be?
She saw a group of youngsters playing football in a nearby street, she knew that every child in the neighborhood knew, and loved Dennis, so she asked if they had seen Dennis anywhere.
Yes!...he went into that bar over there..she was told.
By this time her worry was changing to anger, she barged into the bar and looked around until she spotted Dennis's friend, but no Dennis! There was a group of young Ladies around this friend of Dennis's and Helen screamed over the bar towards them that Dennis was missing.
That's when Dennis popped his head up over the bar, pint pot in his hand. He had been sitting in his wheelchair, and he could not have been seen from the other side of the bar, he told Helen that he would be home soon, and that he was just talking to the young ladies..
We have all lost a friend, but I know that he is know taking up his rightful place in the Babes team, wonder who they are playing tonight?
Dennis Viollet Fund:
As many of you know, one of the original Busby Babes, Dennis Viollet recently passed away. Dennis finally succomed to his brain cancer on Saturday 6th March around kick-off time at 3pm.
Dennis had been given the best treatment available and thus for many months the Viollets faced huge financial outlays because of the high cost of medical care in the US.
We decided to set up the Dennis Viollet Fund to try and help with those expenses and to this end, we offered two prints of original artwork for sale. Each drawing includes Dennis and has been done by Paul Windridge, in order to try and raise money which we could then forward to the Viollets.
The prints are A3 in size, and have Dennis'
signature added electronically to each of them. The signatures were sent
over by Helen and show one of Dennis' early signatures from around 1957
and a recent one.
The prints are professionally printed and you can see them on this page or by going to
The prints are #6 pounds sterling each or #10
pounds sterling for both or $10/$16 in American dollars.
This price includes shipping.
In light of some of the previous problems that
have arisen from similar attempts on list, we are including a cost breakdown,
and will also be making frequent updates to both lists about how much has
The breakdowns are as follows:
The drawings will be donated free of charge by Paul A print run of 300 of each type 60 pounds sterling Second class postage within the UK, for 1 or both prints 38 pence Postage to Europe from UK for 1 print 67 pence Postage to Europe from UK for 2 prints 73 pence Postal tubes 39 pence each (US Prices differ and will be announced when clarified)
You can order prints in the USA from myself (email@example.com), in the UK or Europe from Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org), or through Barry's Simplenet website.
Currently we can only accept money orders in
UK Pounds sterling (to Paul) or US Dollars (to Me), or same currency cheques
(to reduce transfer fees). The cheques should be made out to the Dennis
You can expect the package to arrive approximately 4-5 weeks after the clearance of funds.
Dennis helped forge our Red tradition, and we believe we owe it to him and to his wife, Helen and daughter Rachel to keep this fund in operation for the time being.
Please get in contact with us if you or someone you know would be interested in the prints. Please make the contact brief, such as - number of prints, which ones (1957 or 1958) and address to which they should be sent.
To order these prints please click on your location:
The UK, Rest of the Europe
North America (USA and Canada)
The Rest of the Globe
Cheers - Sean, Paul, Barry & Bill.
Roger Byrne holds the 57 Championship trophy Dennis helped win!
Left is Ray Wood then Mark Jones , Duncan Edwards & Tommy Taylor.
Right is David Pegg & Jackie Blanchflower.
Subject: UEFA and the Viollets
I have a message to pass on from Helen Viollet who would like to thank everyone once again for their support during a very difficult time. I know this has been said before but she wanted me to reiterate.
She also received a letter from the General Secretary of UEFA the other day which she faxed over to me so that I could copy it for you all to read:
Dear Mrs Viollet,
We hope that you will not mind if we write a few lines to express how distressed we were to hear of the death of your husband.
The last time we saw Dennis was in Munich - one of the places (if not THE place) which left indelible traces on his life. As you will remember, we invited him to attend the 1997 UEFA Champions League Final between BV Borussia Dortmund and Juventus FC and, at the same time, to 'lay the ghosts' of 1958 by re-visiting the hospital where the survivors of the crash received treatment. We can only say that Dennis was tremendously good company. We don't know what he said about the visit afterwards, but he not only seemed to enjoy it himself but also helped to make it a memorably enjoyable occasion for everybody else who was there and everybody he met inside and outside the Olympic Stadium.
In the letter we sent to Dennis inviting him to Munich, we wrote that UEFA is proud of having Manchester United FC as a member of the European footballing family and we said to Dennis that, to quote the exact words in the letter, "you are one of the gentlemen who have made this club great and contributed to the development and improvement of European football."
We don't think we can do much better than to repeat these words to you and, in offering you our most sincere condolences, we would like to promise you that football people will never, ever forget Dennis Viollet.
With Kindest regards,
Gerhard Aigner General Secretary
From the epic last game the Babes played on UK soil. Munich tribute
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DENNIS VIOLLET 1933 - 1999