www.red11.org DAILY NEWS
Date: Mon 13 Dec 1999 24:41 GMT
1. Better late than never - Florence, It never rains it Snows !
2. It Hit Home Sunday - is it really true?
3. Busby Babes had a fabulous Treble in their sights when tragedy struck
MANCHESTER UNITED DAILY NEWS Mon 13th Dec 1999:
Three first class RED articles today
1 Mick on Florence
2 Barry on Fa Cup
3 Excellent Busby Babes article in remembrance
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Better late than never - Florence, It never rains it Snows !
Way back in the merry month of May in a small German bar not far from the
Nou Camp, a small group of IMUSA committee members and activists celebrated
the end of a long season, the tremendous victory over Murdoch and the
addition of another pot to the trophy cabinet.
At some stage in the very early hours and in a very unlike Mick inebriated
style, I made an announcement to have a sabbatical during the 99/2000
season. The main reason being that I had followed Utd to 53 games that
season, and with a very young family I felt that I needed to spend time with
them. The youngest was only 3 weeks old when I travelled to Scandinavia with
Richard Martin for the pre season games.
So there I was first day of the season watching Utd v Everton on the telly
with our Conaill thinking that watching Utd on the TV with the next
generation of supporter sat on my lap wasn't too bad after all. Come
September I was in bits and while I don't regret giving up the season one
bit, it was clear that I was in desperate need of the Utd fix.
I'd planned to go to the Marseilles and Graz games at OT, but an ongoing
back problem put pay to the 4 hour drive via Leamington. When the draw for
the second round was made I realised that no amount of cold turkey was going
to work, so after a couple of calls to the lads that I normally travel to
Europe with (Richard, Sean and Ravenelli lookalike Gordon), I had myself
booked on a flight to Bologna and a match ticket v Fiorentina - Richard
unfortunately was unable to make the trip.
So Tuesday morning having got out of bed at 3.30am I was at Heathrow meeting
with Sean and Rav (it was now 6.30am) and after the customary blitz in the
duty free shops sampling any alcoholic beverage that was on offer we found
ourselves propping up the bar and having to neck a few pints before the
flight was called. A table near us was occupied by a group of older lads
returning to the Basque area of Spain from a fishing trip - I thought about
the time spent with DA and the several planned fishing trips we had cancelled
due to mechanical failure of the boat - more important was that the lads had
a slab of Parma Ham and a lump of cheese, so not being shy I approached,
introduced myself and for my troubles I got fed, had brandy thrust upon me
and I collected a Bilbao pin badge.
As with all Euro aways, you travel light - a small bag with your toothbrush
and a change of trolleys, nothing too bulky to wear you down on the long
trek from the terminal to the taxi rank ! The flight went relatively quick
with Sean and Rav doing a quick synopsis of the drinking and trips so far
this season (more beer on the plane ensured that we kept lubricated). On
arrival in Bologna, you could see shock on all the faces of those reds on
the plane, having traveled light we were greeted with 3 feet of snow and it
was bloody freezing - we shivered for the 20 minute trip to the train
station where we could travel to Florence from. Once on the train, we
quickly searched for the buffet car for more lubrication and nutrition.
Public transport in Europe is fantastic (it makes me embarrassed to see the
state of our facilities in the UK), the trains are comfortable, quiet, clean
and most importantly can be free ! At the buffet car we ordered beer and
spaghetti (well we were in Italy), the waiter showed us into what looked
like a first class compartment tables with cloths, flowers etc. and
proceeded to pour the three of us wine - "no thanks" we all said in unison,
"don't worry sir" came the reply - "it's complimentary". He hadn't finished
speaking before 3 empty glasses were thrust back for a re-fill (this
continued for the 1 1/2 journey). We passed some of the most breathtaking
scenery as we traveled through the mountains - little chalets covered in
snow, very picture postcard indeed.
We arrived at Florence central station and found that our hotel was a five
minute walk away, so off we went with our toothbrushes to check in and then
get back out within 5 minutes before any sobriety set in. Florence is a
beautiful place, it was sunny, but friggin cold and we were starting to rue
the lack of extra warm clothing - we headed for an Irish bar (quelle
surprise) that we had been directed to by the concierge at the hotel. The
Dublin bar was closed until later that evening, so we dropped in the first
building that looked to sell refreshments - it was a small typical tapas
style bar complete with the obligatory drunk (3 more to add), chain smoker
and solitary gorgeous local totty (did I mention it was cold ?). We had a
good natter with the owner, he was the local Paul Hinson and was really
knowledgeable about anything football - even though he tried the most
amazing blag that Becks and Cole had stopped by his bar not 5 minutes
before, he was really pleasant - after a few beers and several scouse / Juve
insults I made a call to some of the Blackpool reds, found out they were in
an Irish bar called the Fiddlers Elbow - we said our good-byes and made our
way there. Sean had arranged for a pal to meet us, so this was going to be
the best bet - it was mobbed with reds (what ? an Irish bar full of reds on
a Euro away - never). The Guinness was very poor, the draught flow canned
gear was nicer, but I was long gone anyway so complacency at this stage had
long gone out of the window. Inside were the familiar faces you see at Euro
games, some of the Withy group, the Blackpool lot with the London supporters
branch, Red news crew etc.... Barney was unable to make this trip (a very
rare occurrence), and must have been a bit down at not being able to make
the trip, so to cheer him up, his mam and myself left a comforting message
on his answerphone just to show him that we care :)))
I lose track of time, but at some stage we left to go back to the Dublin bar
(which was 30 seconds from the hotel), like everywhere else this place was
full of American students and Japanese tourists, we had a couple there,
established that the bar closed at 1.30am and made our way to the game.
The Stadi Franci is a huge open ground with only one stand covered - the
away section was strategically placed in the corner parallel to the goal
line, we were caged in, surrounded by steel and glass screens - the glass
was filthy, so even if the shit view of the pitch allowed a momentary
glimpse of the ball the grime on the glass obscured it - inside I bumped
into John Leigh, who in pythonesque fashion fell on his knees thanking the
lord and giving me a huge hug - ooooer missus - John it appeared had planned
to make the trip with a pal who at the last minute had to cancel - his place
taken by a complete stranger who had sent John potty. This lad John said was
on his first Euro trip and had come armed with all the goodies you'd expect
to take on such a trip - laptop, digital camera etc..... and had dragged
John around Internet cafes in Florence - to meet up with some pals that
liked to drink and discuss women and football was at this stage a minor
miracle for him - will you take him to Long Legs though mate ?
As I said the view was really poor, with John and myself running up and down
the front of the section following the action. One thing that pissed me off
big style was that between our cage and the cordon of police keeping the
Fiorentina supporters at arms length (about 50 yards) sat all the SPS
personnel that had accompanied the official trips, all had a perfect view
and some were wearing Fiorentina scarves, several even cheered and applauded
the first goal - freeloading tossers. There was no more than 1000 reds that
had traveled to the game and on the whole I was disappointed with the
atmosphere - OK there is only so much noise that 1000 voices can make, but
some just didn't try (in fact the most singing was done at the end of the
game while we waited for the police to let us out). My opinion of the game
is quite brief - whether it was the shit view, my over indulgence (or a
combination of both) I don't know, but I thought Utd dominated the game,
Bosnich appearing to pull of a couple of good saves, Scholes sending the
keeper the wrong way only to miss the target, when Utd gifted them a chance
which I'm told (as I could not see) Batistuta curled with some skill into
the net. Another gift and they were 2:0 up. The local crowd throughout the
game showed us what we lack now at OT, a'la days gone by when the stretty
was a great place to be, the locals rocked the stadium with noise and rhythm
- plenty of standing and swaying, giant flags, jumping up and down - just
what you should expect at a football ground, non of this statue, flask
drinking, fingers on lips shit you see at OT - I hope you took note of that
Edwards et al !
Giggs for me was the biggest disappointment, he just does not seem to have
the consistency that his fantastic skill promises - on several occasions he
refused to chase balls, pulled out of tackles and generally acted like he
just didn't care. We discussed reasons for this, I believe that he is just
shit scared of picking up another injury - meanwhile he then goes to Tokyo
less than a week later and plays a blinder (I am now shaking my head in
We looked forward (not) to the usual pressies that come your way from the
locals and at the end of the game so as not to disappoint us, we were
presented with nuts, bolts bottles and various fluids - nice folk in
The police escort out of the ground took us away from the direction we
wanted to be going so we slipped the police (the 3 amigos and John who had
managed to lose his companion) and headed back into town.
We found ourselves by the beautiful Cathedral and in Irish bar for a change.
It was really cold now, so we drank outside where Sean was trying to
persuade some American girls that he was a male stripper and was offering a
private showing for any of them - strangely enough his offer was declined !
John was booked on a train to Geneva that night for his flight home and had
decided to stay with the 3 of us for an evenings drinking and get himself on
our flight back the next day. John went to check out of his hotel and get
his bags whilst the rest of us got on with some drinking - Steve the Greek
appeared out of nowhere (and worse for wear), mumbled about having to get
back home and disappeared as quickly as he came. With John and myself the
only reds singing in this square about 20 lads came into the square singing
and dancing, John and myself went through the song books trying to restore
some pride to Manchester (thinking these lads were celebrating the
Fiorentina victory). It was established that the group in question had just
completed their national service training and were free again, they produce
a few bottles and invited John and myself to celebrate with them - well it
would be rude to turn down such an invitation.
We returned to the Dublin bar when the Cathedral bar closed (circa 1.00am)
to be told that all the bars were shutting - bollox and double bugger, we
were all still up for a party and the tanks were only three quarters full.
We found out that there was a private members bar next to our hotel so we
thought what the f..k, it's worth a try - Sean and Rav went on ahead of us
as we dropped Johns bag at the hotel - back to this club (via a 24hr pizza
shop) where we were refused entry - you're not members came the reply. But 2
friends of ours have just gone in we said and described Sean and Gordon -
another face appeared and with a Dublin accent we were told it was private
and we could not enter. "Which part of Dublin are you from"? I asked the new
doorman who was well surprised that a pissed up lad with a Manc accent and
covered in pizza should know where he was from - "erm a small area on the
south side" came the reply - "Churchtown" he added - well f..k me, my wife
is from Churchtown and doesn't it turn out that his mum lives 2 streets away
from Lorraines mum. So after a quick verification of the local pubs and
chippers we are let in, which is where we remain until 5.00am - long after
everyone else has departed that is, the owner having enjoyed the craic that
we were having produced a bottle of vodka and some other green liquid which
when mixed together produced a great tasting chaser - not that we were fussy
at this stage. The one abstention being John who dispelled any popular myths
about his drinking ability and was seen in a licensed building drinking iced
Back at the hotel (where Sean had been for an hour or so) we were confronted
by the usual security guard who at that early hour of the morning was
surprisingly alert and realised that only 3 guests were checked in and 4
were looking to sleep the night - "ah !" I said "that'll be my brother in
law - he always turns up out of the blue"......telling me that he couldn't
stay I mentioned that we would sort it in the morning, this he allowed, but
on the condition that I brought his passport down - this was going to be
tricky as they already had copies of the original 3 passports and he was
studying John very carefully. There was nothing else we could do but go
upstairs while I returned with Johns passport for the security guard to
photocopy. He looked at the photo without working out that it was the same
lad who had been stood before him 30 seconds earlier - anyway the rest went
without incident and we were up out of the hotel by 8.30 (yes 3.5 hours
We had a small wait for the next train to Bologna which was plenty to visit
the nearest McDonalds for breakfast - god I needed it after everything I'd
drunk the previous day. What with the Scotch, Irish and Guinness at
Heathrow, the beer and wine on the plane/train plus the rest of the days
intake including I'm told several pints of cider by the cathedral, it's no
wonder I felt like shit. At Bologna I felt really shitty and contemplated
chundering in the taxi several times, but managed to hold off - Still having
the odd good chunder story (and I have plenty) never fails to impress your
colleagues at the work Xmas party so I wasn't going to disappoint the fair
old city of Bologna - In the airport I bumped into some of the red news folk
and before I could exchange greetings, I was running back
outside (because there were no bins nearby) where in like something from the
Exorcist I was violently ill on the taxi rank. Sean and Gordon who were
paying the taxi driver stood and applauded, everyone else looked on in
horror, that is everyone except the driver of the taxi who had just dropped
us off, he realising how likely it was that it could have been his cab and
not the gutter had a smile as big as the ship canal !
The flight back offered the scenic views of the Alps that were hidden by
cloud the day before - Sean and John had a deep and meaningful conversation
about sex (no change there), I sat back content at the previous 24 hours,
I'd had my fix, following Utd is a drug like no other and much more
As we landed at Heathrow, John, with perfect predictability announced to
anyone on the plane who would listen, that he was about to write a thesis
that getting married was more expensive and much more hard work than
visiting a brothel on a regular basis. Unlike Utd's performance on the
pitch, something's never change....
Here's to Valencia and Bordeaux in the new millennium, can't wait.
Copyright © 1999 by Mick. All rights reserved.
Not to be reproduced without permission of the author
Punishable by being chundered on.
|Click On pic - for latest interviews from OT|
It Hit Home Sunday - is it really true
Barry platform built ...... Sunday afternoon 15.30
Sky Sports start their live broadcast after the cricket - they just showed
a magnificent 3-4min clip "History of FA Cup" to Celine Dion's Titanic:
It ended with Dwight kissing his medal last year, clips of Hughsie volley v
Oldham, Eric scoring at Wembley, Giggsy v Arse and Scousers upset at OT.
There were many many more moments rolled into one and it brought a real
lump in my throat. Clips of player reactions crowd reactions from the
length and breadth of England was just too much. The Fa Cup is the best
known trophy in the world and a tradition which means more than any other
tournament in England.
Before today all this was just words, now its the truth, I think if I was a
member of the staff at OT I would be sick as a dog today. I will not be
watching the game on TV today nor the draw to take place after the game.
Reason? The main ingredient is missing and THAT is a travesty.
Ask Sir Matt if you you know how if not ask ANY Manchester United supporter
in the world NONE would disagree!
Over & out from Barry with that sick feeling on Sunday.
S..t I am not even looking forward to Brazil and now they have even gone
and postponed all the games from 14-17th Jan 2000 whilst I am in Manchester!
PPS I don't often complain but I DO have feelings!
`Dismantle the platform now, see you all at the Hammers'
|Click On pic - for all latest pics from OT|
Busby Babes had a fabulous Treble in their sights when tragedy struck
50 Stories of the Sporting Century; No 49
The coruscating Busby Babes had a fabulous Treble in
their sights when tragedy struck them on a Munich runway.
By Joe Lovejoy
Death of the Babes
The other team that was wiped out in Munich
All flights cancelled. Flying home tomorrow. Duncan."
If only. That fallacious telegram, sent by Duncan Edwards,
was delivered to his landlady in Manchester at 5pm on
February 6, 1958, by which time 21 people lay dead in the
wreckage of BEA flight G-ALZU, and the word "Munich"
was engraved tombstone-large in the dictionary of disaster.
After a plane with an alarming technical fault had aborted two
take-offs on a runway made treacherous by snow and ice, a
petrified United team were subjected to that fateful third
attempt. Matt Busby, the manager, carried a sense of guilt to
his grave, 36 years later. That it should never have happened
is a conclusion shared by at least two of the survivors, Harry
Gregg and Bill Foulkes.
The Busby Babes, Manchester United's 1957-58 team, may
well have become their best ever. Having dismantled his 1952
championship-winning side to give youth its head, Busby was
handsomely rewarded with back-to-back titles in 1956 and
By 1958 they were going for the same fabulous Treble that
saw Alex Ferguson knighted 41 years on. Busby had been
appalled when the Football League refused to allow Chelsea
to compete in the inaugural European Cup in 1955-56, and
when United won the League that season he was determined
that they should take part. Significantly, however, there were
dire warnings of draconian penalties in the event of United's
European excursions preventing them from fulfilling domestic
That first season, England's finest reached the semi-finals, and
in 1957-58 they were back. They made short work of
Shamrock Rovers and Dukla Prague, then scraped through
against Red Star Belgrade to reach the semi-finals again.
The leading lights of a coruscating team were Roger Byrne,
the captain and left-back, the titanic Edwards, just 21, in
midfield, and Tommy Taylor, a buccaneering centre-forward.
All were England regulars.
Third in the League, through to the fifth round of the FA Cup
and into the last four in the European Cup, the "Babes" stood
on the threshold of true greatness. Busby said: "I felt I was in
a position where I could have sat back for 10 years while they
played. They were that good."
United had chartered their own plane for the round trip to
Belgrade. The decision was taken after their experience in the
previous round, when they played in Prague, were delayed
during the return and got back for their League game away to
Birmingham City with only hours to spare. This time they
were to play Wolves, the League leaders, on the Saturday.
Busby wanted to be home as quickly as possible.
It had been snowing during the match in Belgrade, but in those
days teams stayed overnight after playing in Europe, and the
hope was that the weather would improve come the morning.
It didn't. During the flight to Munich, where the plane was to
refuel, it worsened, and it was snowing heavily when United
touched down. The players were meandering through the
duty-free shops when, after 47 minutes, the flight was called.
The captain of the twin-prop Elizabethan was a 36-year-old
Londoner, James Thain. His co-pilot, 38-year-old Kenneth
Rayment, was a friend, and Thain agreed to let him fly the
plane home. It was one of two breaches of regulations that
were to see Thain dismissed by BEA, never to fly again. The
other was his failure to check the Elizabethan's wings for ice.
The captain instead took the word of groundstaff that his
plane was airworthy.
With Rayment at the controls, the plane taxied to the runway
to attempt its first take-off, at 2.31pm. It was aborted, after 40
seconds, with the plane half-way down the runway.
The plane was dogged by a technical fault known as "boost
surging", whereby a too-rich mixture of fuel caused the
engines to fluctuate when accelerating. Thain and Rayment
discussed what was a familiar problem, and Rayment decided
he would try again. At 2.34 permission was given by air traffic
control for a second attempt, which met the same fate as the
first. Thain's voice came over the intercom. In matter-of-fact
tones, he said that due to a "slight engine fault" he was
returning to the apron for an engine check: "It is hoped it will
not be a long delay."
Everybody disembarked again, and after two screeching,
nerve-jangling halts on the runway, there was real foreboding
in the departure lounge. Foulkes, now 67, recalled: "When the
second take-off failed, we were pretty quiet when we went
back into the lounge. Some of the players felt they would not
be flying home that afternoon."
Edwards was among them, and it was now that he
telegrammed his landlady in Stretford accordingly. When the
flight was called again, there were misgivings all round. The
late Peter Howard, a Daily Mail photographer who survived
the crash, wrote days later: "I don't think we had been on the
ground more than five minutes. Frank Taylor, of the News
Chronicle, turned to me and said, 'That was quick work'."
The players had whiled away the first leg of the journey, from
Belgrade to Munich, playing cards, but they were in no mood
for that now, and Foulkes slipped his pack back into his jacket
pocket. "I was sitting about halfway down the aircraft, next to
a window, on the right-hand side of the gangway. Our cards
school was Ken Morgans, who was on my right and facing
David Pegg and Albert Scanlon. Matt Busby and Bert
Whalley [United's coach] were sitting together behind us, and
Mark Jones, Tommy Taylor, Duncan Edwards and Eddie
Colman were all at the back. David Pegg got up and moved to
the back. 'I don't like it here, it's not safe', he said.
"There was another cards school across the gangway from us
- Ray Wood, Jackie Blanchflower, Roger Byrne, Billy Whelan
and Dennis Viollet, with one seat empty." It was one Harry
Gregg, United's new goalkeeper, was planning to occupy later.
Gregg had signed from Doncaster Rovers two months earlier.
The new boy, sitting alone with his thoughts, noticed how quiet
the cabin had gone, and glanced across at Byrne, the captain,
in search of reassurance. Instead, he was struck by how
nervous Byrne looked: "He said, 'We're all going to get killed
here'. Whelan, who was very religious, replied, 'Well, if it
happens I'm ready to die'. Somebody laughed, but it wasn't a
normal, natural laugh."
Peter Howard again: "We were speeding down the runway.
As the seconds went by, I realised that we were
reaching a point where we either took off or stopped
again. Something was wrong. When were we going to
start braking? But we were careering on, beyond the
end of the runway."
On the flight deck, there was panic. Thain, who died in
1975, told one of the various inquiries: "I glanced at the
airspeed indicator and saw it registered 105 knots and
was flickering. When it reached 117 knots I called out
"V1" (velocity one, the speed at which it is no longer
safe to abandon take-off). Suddenly the needle dropped
back to 112, and then 105. Ken shouted, 'Christ, we
can't make it,' and I looked up from the instruments to
see a lot of snow and a house and a tree, right in the
path of the aircraft."
The undercarriage was lifted, but the Elizabethan went
through a fence and crossed a road. The port wing hit
the house, the wing and part of the tail were torn off and
the house caught fire. The tree came through the port
side of the cockpit. The starboard side of the fuselage
hit a wooden hut and a truck filled with tyres and fuel,
parked inside, exploded.
Inside the plane, there was sheer terror. Gregg said: "I
thought I was going to die. I braced myself and waited
for the end. In the blackness, I thought I had died, but
then I felt something trickling down my forehead and in
my nose. I put my hand to my face and felt the warmth of
"I began to crawl towards the hole in the aircraft. The
first person I saw was Bert Whalley, laying in the snow,
eyes wide open. He was dead. I thought, my God, I'm
the only one alive, but then the captain appeared with a
little fire extinguisher and bellowed, 'Run, you bugger,
she's going to blow'. At that moment I heard a child cry.
I crawled back into the plane, scrambling over the
bodies in the dark, before I found the baby. Suddenly, a
pile of rubbish erupted and out of it the child's mother
appeared. I shoved her past me and out of the plane.
"I made my way outside and Bobby Charlton and
Dennis Viollet were laying there, motionless. Then I
saw Matt Busby, sitting 25 yards away. I went back to
the front of the plane where the cards school had been
cut in two. I found Byrne and Blanchflower laying in a
deep pool of water. 'Blanchy' was complaining that he
couldn't move because of a broken back, not realising
that Roger was laying across him, dead."
Foulkes, on recovering consciousness, "jumped out
into the snow and just ran and ran. Then I turned and
realised that the plane wasn't going to explode, and I
went back. Harry Gregg appeared, and we did what we
could to help".
Busby was complaining of chest and leg injuries. "I
asked Bobby Charlton to take his coat off, and I put it
under Matt," Foulkes said. "He collapsed with a
terrible groan. I thought that was the end of him."
There were no ambulances or fire-fighters on the scene.
"Eventually," Gregg recalled, "a guy turned up in a coal
van, and we got Jackie in and little Johnny Berry and
the boss. We got into the van, with pieces of coal rolling
about, and set off for the hospital."
ALL THE passengers, living and dead, were taken to
Munich's Rechts der Isar hospital, where the first
people Howard saw in the casualty department were
Gregg and Foulkes: "They were sitting in armchairs,
wrapped in blankets. Gregg was crying. The British
consul took us from the hospital to the Stakus hotel,
where I went upstairs to a bedroom Foulkes and Gregg
were sharing. Foulkes tasted whisky for the first time
that night. He also puffed at his first cigarette."
Britain's first news of the tragedy came via teleprinter:
"Manchester United aircraft crashed on take-off . . .
heavy loss of life feared." The BBC interrupted its
afternoon programmes to broadcast news flashes.
Busby had suffered fractured ribs and a punctured lung,
as well as injuries to his legs. A hospital statement said:
"We do not have much hope of saving him." The last
rites were administered.
Twenty-one people had died; 18 survived, of whom four,
including Busby, were close to death. Eight of the nine
football writers on board had been killed, as well as two
other passengers - the travel agent who had organised
the trip and a fan.
The bodies were flown home and lay overnight in the
gym at Old Trafford before being collected by the
families. Thousands turned out to line the streets for
the funerals; memorial services were held all over the
country, and a two minutes' silence was impeccably
observed at matches everywhere.
With Busby still so close to death that he received the
last rites a second time, and Edwards fighting a losing
battle, football was the last thing on Mancunian minds,
but life had to go on, and 13 days after the crash United
played again. Busby told his assistant Jimmy Murphy,
who missed the trip because he was managing Wales in
a World Cup qualifier in Cardiff, to "keep the flag
flying". For the fifth-round FA Cup tie at home to
Sheffield Wednesday, Murphy signed two midfield
reinforcements. Ernie Taylor arrived from Blackpool,
and just 75 minutes before the kick-off Stan Crowther
moved from Aston Villa. "United will go on" proclaimed
the front cover of the match programme. On the
teamsheet inside, there were 11 blank spaces to fill in.
Wednesday were swept away on a tide of emotion,
beaten 3-0. Albert Quixall, who later left Hillsborough
for United, said: "United ran their hearts out. They
were playing like men inspired."
Two days later, Edwards died. Busby had stabilised, and
United's next home game, on March 9, had the News of
the World reporting how "women wept as the
tape-recorded voice of Matt Busby echoed across a
packed and silent Old Trafford yesterday".
The following week, Kenneth Rayment succumbed to
his injuries, taking the final death toll to 23. Still Busby
fought on. "I drifted in and out of consciousness," he
said. Nobody dare tell him what had happened. "How
are the boys?" he asked his son, Sandy. "They are all
right," came the reply - a white lie born of the best
It was left to Busby's wife, Jean, to reveal the worst,
albeit tacitly. "I came to one day and Jean was there,
leaning over me. I said, 'What happened?' She said
nothing, so I began to go through the names. She didn't
speak. She didn't even look at me. When they were
gone, she just shook her head. Dead . . . dead . . . dead .
. . dead." As the manager's physical injuries healed,
mental ones came to the fore: "To be honest, I suppose
I wasn't sane. I wanted to die. I felt that, in a way, I
might have been responsible. That I shouldn't have
allowed us to go the third time. What was so special
about me that I'd survived? I was absolutely
determined that I'd have nothing more to do with
Manchester, a city in mourning, was no place for a man
in such a depressed state, and United sent Matt and
Jean Busby to Interlaken, in Switzerland, for an
extended period of convalescence: "In our last days
there, Jean said to me casually one evening, 'You know,
Matt, the lads would have wanted you to carry on'." The
melancholic spell was broken but, Busby said: "It was
dreadful, facing up to going back."
He returned by rail and sea to arrive on April 18 - 71
days after the crash. In his absence, United had reached
the FA Cup final, where they played Bolton Wanderers
on May 3. Murphy led the team out, but all eyes were
on Busby as he made his way slowly to the bench, on
crutches. The players had run on adrenalin for a month
or so after the crash, but then the inevitable reaction
set in, and they had won just one of their last 14 League
games to finish ninth. Wembley was too much of an
emotional strain. Less than three weeks before the
disaster they had thrashed Bolton 7-2. Now they lost
It was all too much for the survivors. "I'd rather have
been anywhere but there," Foulkes said, "but somehow
we got through it." And get through it United did.
Appropriately, their shirts that day were emblazoned
with a phoenix rising from the flames. They had lost 10
of their best players (Blanchflower and Berry never
played again), but the following season they were
runners-up in the League.
New "Babes" had been born.
The other team that was wiped out in Munich
Eight journalists died in Munich and the only press man
to survive had his obituary printed in his own paper. By
FOR one of the most revered of the Munich dead, the
send-off was, perhaps, no more than he might have
expected. Vast crowds assembled along the six-mile
funeral route, many arriving in taxis that had no meters
running. They were there to pay their respects not to
one of the Busby Babes, but to a journalist, one of eight
who died in the crash.
Even in 1958 there was something anachronistic about
Henry Rose. An egotist in a trilby hat, he would
sometimes arrange his own paging in hotels. When he
attended a match for the Daily Express, a flunkey would
stand outside the ground carrying a placard which read:
"Henry Rose Is Here".
If the Manchester United team was devastated by the
Munich disaster, the band of northern journalists that
followed them to Belgrade was all but wiped out. Just
one of the nine football reporters on board survived.
Frank Taylor of the News Chronicle pulled through, but
not before his obituary was printed in his own
It was written by Ian Wooldridge, a young sports-writer
based in the paper's London office who went on to
national fame with the Daily Mail. "I'd been doing a
story in Crewe and the train stopped at Wolverhampton
on the way back," he recalled. "On the platform they
were selling papers and yelling out that there had been
an air crash. I bought the paper, came back to London
and went in the office. It was absolutely stricken. They
said, 'Frank Taylor's dead - sit down and write his
obituary'. It appeared in the first edition."
Back in the paper's Manchester office, where Taylor
was based, Mel Shanks was preparing to go in for his
evening shift as a sports sub-editor when his daughter,
watching television in the next room, cried out on
hearing the news. Shanks, now 80, is the only journalist
still living of those who gathered around his portable
radio in the News Chronicle sports department that
For the paper's news reporters and editors, it was the
biggest local story of the century. Panic swept through
their ranks. For the Manchester sports desk, it was
different. They were required to fulfil only the most
routine tasks - racing results, coverage of a local boxing
match. Tragically, the sporting heroes were making
front-page news. Shanks's abiding memory is of the
extreme difficulty of concentrating on the mundane
when, over the airwaves and across the newswires, the
horrific was unfolding. Concern for their colleague was
paramount. By 8pm, a list of survivors had been
released. Frank Taylor's name was not on it.
Taylor had been urged to take a seat at the back of the
plane by Frank Swift, the former England goalkeeper
who was representing the News of the World. He
declined and sat instead in a rear-facing seat near the
front. Taylor had once read that the sole survivor of a
plane crash had been in a seat facing the rear. "Be like
that," laughed Swift. "What's the matter, are you too
good for the rest of us?"
Taylor's colleagues started to sit down near Swift. The
News Chronicle man shouted down to them: "There are
plenty of seats up here."
"What's the point?" replied George Follows, a gifted
writer on the Daily Herald. "We're sitting comfortably
here. We'd have to shift all our hand luggage."
Taylor, so badly injured that it would be five months
before he returned to England, was one of the last to be
dragged from the wrecked Elizabethan. He is now 79,
but his memory of the crash remains pin-sharp, and his
gratitude to Peter Howard, the late Daily Mail
photographer who acted selflessly in rescuing some of
the injured, is touching: "What a man. He never ever
got the credit he deserved."
At the Rechts der Isar hospital, Taylor lay in the
operating theatre with "Andrew MacDonald" scrawled
across his chest in red ink. The confusion is thought to
have been caused by his passport, which carried the
name of his son, Andrew MacDonald Taylor, now a
Financial Times journalist. That night, Taylor came
round and revealed his true identity. Wooldridge's
obituary was pulled from the News Chronicle.
The following day, with the condition of Duncan
Edwards reported as "grave", Mel Shanks was asked to
prepare an obituary: "I was hoping it would never be
used." It ran two weeks later.
When Taylor returned to work 18 months after the
crash, his right leg was three inches shorter than his
left. The promotions manager of the News Chronicle
thought it would be a good publicity stunt if their man
arrived at football matches in a Rolls-Royce. Taylor
went along with it for a while, but he quickly tired of the
local spotlight. His fellow Lancastrians were kind,
always wanting to buy him a drink, but he didn't want his
whole life to be a permanent reminder of February 6,
Late in 1960 he moved to London, and there he enjoyed
a long and successful career.
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