Munich Memories of A Manchester Lad – Part 4
By Worried Turkey.
February 9th 1958
Trev knocked on my front door (I stayed home that night). I was wearing a jumper, overcoat and bob hat (there was no central heating in those days, unless you lived next to a bakery and the heat came through the walls, or had a dog). Trev had come with a message from my Unc, “Unc has asked will you go to Gran’s when ready”. I began to wonder what was wrong. No please, not more bad news – Duncan was still fighting for his life when I had gone to bed and Sir Matt was unconscious…. Quick wash, round of doorstop bread and jam, shoes on (the front of them scraped off after I scored Manchester United’s sixth goal against Real Madrid with a tin can on my way home from school one day), scarf on, bob hat (no need to ask, no I hadn’t taken it off) and finally my overcoat as the weather was bloody cold!!
I ran to Gran’s and burst through the front door (doors were always open in those days), “Unc, Unc, what is wrong Unc? What has happened?” Unc was sat talking with his girlfriend, she wanted to go shopping… blah, blah, blah… She must have said something, which upset Unc – he suddenly stood up and with a face like thunder told her to get out not to come back. He turned to me and said ”come on, we’re going out. We’re treating today like a match day; we’re going to Old Trafford”. We went through the same match day routine – down to the pub, but in all honesty the atmosphere was a lot quieter, there was no joking and little drinking. As the weather was so cold, I was allowed inside the pub on the proviso I sat in the corner near the coat stand and stayed quiet.
So the routine began, but again no pushing and shoving on the way to the station. It was just hands in pockets, heads down and putting one foot in front of the other. On the train the talk got around to the air crash and it was only then I realised who had died and who we wouldn’t see again: Roger Byrne (the Captain); Mark Jones, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Liam Whelan; David Pegg and Geoff Bent. Their average age was 24. Furthermore with hindsight, Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower never played again. We still had big Dunc, he was still in there fighting, he won’t let me down… he can’t…
We got off the train at Warwick road and started that long walk… Normally, the walk is done in no time, but not today… The place was eerie, there were so many people, but you could hear a pin drop – a sheer silence. No vendors shouting the price, no little chants, nobody shouting across the street to people they recognise from where they stood in the ground. There was nothing.
We arrived at the ground and people were walking around in a daze. Many wanting to pay their respects, men took off their flat caps & trilby’s, said a few words and then returned home. It was then I realised if Man United meant so much to me, who had only started to attend games – the older fans had lost everything.
We did a lap of the ground and as we neared the player’s entrance the severity of the air crash hit home… No longer would I see those players again, how I wish I’d got their autographs when I had the opportunity. What this team could have achieved we’ll never know. One thing is for sure, they would have brought an awful lot of happiness to those cheering them on, but through no fault of their own there was only sadness…
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