Wednesday, February 06, 2008

In Memory Of The Busby Babes....

It is a sad day for the Manchester United Football Club today. It has been 50 years since the Munich Air Disaster. To those who do not know about the crash, well, as far as I am concerned if one professes to be a United fan he/she should know about this historical event that had changed the outlook of English and in fact European football altogether. We had lost what could have arguably been the best Manchester United team ever.

Eight United players were among the 23 people who lost their lives on 6 February 1958, when BEA flight G-ALZU crashed on the third take-off attempt after re-fuelling in Germany on the way back from a European Cup success at Red Star Belgrade.

Sir Matt Busby's side - back-to-back English champions and well positioned for a hat-trick attempt - were arguably on course to become the best-ever United team.

The players who died in the crash were Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan.


Sandy Busby (hereafter referred to a Busby Jr) has recalled the heartbreak he felt after the Munich air disaster claimed the lives of his friends - and almost his dad - in 1958.

In February 1958, Busby Jr celebrated his 22nd birthday by receiving a telegram from Belgrade, sent by the good friends he had made within the Manchester United squad.

Two days later seven of that team had been killed and Sandy's father, United manager Sir Matt Busby (hereafter referred to a Busby Sr), was lying in intensive care in a Munich hospital after their plane skidded off the runway while making a third attempt to take off in a snowstorm.

Busby Jr recalled: "I was associated with United through my father and I grew up with these lads.

"I used to train on Tuesday and Thursday nights when I was an amateur. We used to socialise - cinemas, dance halls, parties, altogether. They never treated me like the boss' son, they treated me like one of them.

"The team were in Belgrade and they sent me a telegram saying 'Happy Birthday and sorry not to be with you'.

"I took a while to get over the lads that had gone. Little Eddie (Colman) and Big Tommy Taylor were all great lads."

The Munich air disaster - which happened 50 years ago on Wednesday - ultimately claimed the lives of 23 people, either club officials, players or journalists following United, and including the fabulously talented Duncan Edwards, who died of his injuries 15 days after the crash at the age of 21.
Sir Matt Busby & Duncan Edwards

The events understandably took their toll on Busby Sr, and it was touch and go whether the manager himself would survive.

"He had the last rites twice," said Busby Jr.

"He was unconscious for four or five days. When he eventually came round he knew it was very, very serious and he turned to my mother and said 'I want to know who has gone and who is all right. You nod your head if they're all right and shake your head if they have died'. She went through the list and he said 'I'm finishing with football'.

"She later said to him 'Look, these players who have gone would want you to carry on and achieve what they would want to achieve'.

"I flew out the morning after the crash. I was concerned about my dad of course and the professor came to see us with his assistants and interpreter. He went through a list (of the casualties) and he came to my father and he said 'no, no, no' and my mother nearly fell through the floor.

"We were devastated. He was very strong my dad, mentally and physically. He came through it and then he started thinking about the lads that he would no longer be having fun with."

Jimmy Murphy took temporary charge of team affairs while Busby recovered, and in 1968 United's rebuilt team won the European Cup with a 4-1 victory over Benfica at Wembley.

Asked how much it meant for his father to claim the continent's top club prize, Busby Jr added: "We could see it in his face.

"There's a great photograph of Sir Bobby and my dad, cuddling each other straight after the final whistle. It told you what they wanted for the lads that had gone.

"Bobby's in tears but it was great. My dad was over the moon that they had won it, that was his goal."

This coming Sunday, United's players will wear a one-off 1950s style kit, free from sponsorship and numbered 1-11 for the Manchester derby.

"I wish I had seen those boys become men" - Sir Matt Busby-

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