By Worried Turkey.
Unc was mad (at me); I had never seen him so angry before. His patience was wearing thin – he shouted if I didn’t hurry up he would leave without me and wouldn’t take me again. I then realised what tonight meant… Having snapped out of my little tantrum and from the look on Unc’s face I knew he wasn’t joking. The bob hat was thrown in a corner and with a heavy heart we set off for Old Trafford. The journey was strange – we didn’t go to the pub, there was very little talk regarding our opponents Sheffield Wednesday, how we would beat them or speculation on what the team might be. Something wasn’t right, well it wasn’t was it….
Anyway, as we neared the stadium (on the train) a few murmurings started and a slight atmosphere returned, which further improved as we sauntered down Warwick Road. As people passed (including all the Sheffield Wednesday fans) the ticket office (at the scoreboard end) they stopped for a brief second and donned their caps to acknowledge those we’d lost. A lot of talk was about Sir Mat and Dunc. News surrounding Sir Matt was more encouraging than Dunc’s – whether you believed or not, people were all saying little prayers for Dunc (as a consequence I later became an atheist).
There was certainly no pushing or jostling as we entered through the turnstiles – everybody was on their best behaviour. All told there was nearly 60, 000 inside the stadium. If you think Old Trafford is quiet now, well that night up until 15 minutes before kick off the place was like a ghost ground. People were talking, but in a whisper – no shouting, no noise from the Wednesday fans (I think their fans were waiting for United fans to start up first).
The programme was eerie – the Sheff Wed side was filled in, but United’s team was left blank – you had to fill it in yourself. The team was announced via the tannoy – United’s side that night: Gregg; Foulkes, Greaves, Goodwin, Cope; Crowther, Webster, Taylor.E, Dawson; Pearson, Brennan. The team then appeared – the wave of emotion that swept round the ground was unbelievable – grown men were crying (I am now). Up went the rattles & scarves and the noise became louder and louder. The level of noise is hard to describe, but for a young lad like me I’d never witnessed anything like the noise on that night (I have since), but at the time that was special. Everything just seemed normal for the next two hours – we outplayed Sheffield Wednesday (in all honesty I felt sorry for any team that turned up against United that night) we weren’t great, but we played on a wave of euphoria… The team wasn’t playing for United; they were playing for Sir Mat, big Dunc and all the lads who didn’t come back. The relief on their faces was plain for everybody to see when Brennan scored the first goal. Dawson made the score 2-0 and Brennan rounded the victory off with his second and United’s third.
The game was over in a flash. It only seemed ten minutes from kick off to actually walking back up Warwick Road. Whilst on the train I reflected on the programme – was this side a good side? The team would be better with Dunc and Sir Matt controlling everything – between them we’d be back, we had to for those unfortunate… United played Forest at home on Saturday, we were two games from Wembley and we also had the small matter of a semi final against AC Milan. Dunc could beat that lot on his own…. couldn’t he…
February 21 1958
After a day at school news came through that Dunc had lost his fight for life. The one thing I remember was standing outside Mrs Grimshaw’s watching the news bulletin and the doctor who had been at Dunc’s side all the way. He looked absolutely shattered and he was shedding tears as he read out the bulletin. In between bulletins Mrs Grimshaw had seen how I was crying (which I do to this day) and brought me inside. I cried into her pinny (all women wore pinny’s in those days). She was really good to everybody, but at that moment in time she was just what I needed. I had lost my hero; in fact it felt as though I’d lost everything….
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