Q&A with ‘Manchester United 1958-68: Rising from the Wreckage’ author Iain McCartney

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By Nathan Thomas

Manchester United Rising from the Wreckage 1958-68 Iain McCartney

Read Nathan’s book review of ‘Manchester United 1958-68: Rising from the Wreckage’ HERE.

Nathan Thomas: For those not familiar with your work, could you explain a bit about yourself and your background as a United fan and author?

Iain McCartney: Although I have always lived in south-west Scotland, United have always been ‘my team’, as they were the first team I can recall hearing about on my grandmothers radio on a Saturday night. I am always grateful that it wasn’t Stockport County!

Strangely enough, many years later, I discovered that my grandfather’s uncle actually played for, and captained Newton Heath.

Writing is simply something I do as a hobby I suppose. Just began as an odd article and the spiralled into books.

I have always enjoyed reading and with my books, I try to make them as interesting as possible, giving the reader something new, something they did not previously know.

NT: One thing that impressed me in ‘Rising from the Wreckage’ was the amount of detail that you went into in what was one of the most defining decades in the clubs history. How long does a book like this usually take to write and how do you go about accruing the information?

IM: When I received the finished book back from the publishers, even I was surprised by the size of the work and the number of lines on each page.

I can’t actually remember how long it took to write, but think it was around six months or so.

As for the information that is included with the 350 odd pages, I obviously knew the basic ‘story’ and it was just a case of adding some meat to the bones so to speak. Fortunately, I have a very large personal archive of United match reports and cuttings, which saves a huge amount of time and enables me to do almost everything here at home.

I did have to make a couple of visits to libraries in Glasgow and Manchester for one or two things, but most is at my fingertips.

NT: During my time at University I did a presentation on Munich, during the preparation I asked a few people who supported United through the disaster if they would talk about their experiences. Some were more forthcoming than others. How difficult is it to find people who are willing to divulge their memories of a time that must have been extremely emotional for them? And what is the best way to approach such an interview/conversation?

IM: Munich is still something of a strange subject, but I think over the years people have got more used to talking about it and to be honest, I have never had a problem with anyone I have spoken to about it.

Some reveal more than others and you respect their thoughts and you know what you can print and what is best kept quiet.

Speaking with Roger Byrne’s widow for the first time was a little nerve wracking, but everything went smoothly and she was really accommodating. I still remember one of the first things she said to me: “You will probably tell me more about Roger than I know”.

NT: What would you deem to be the defining factor that helped United overcome Munich?

IM: Two words will answer that question – Jimmy Murphy.

If it had not been for Murphy being the Welsh international team manager, he would have been on that flight and I dread to think what would have happened to the club, as there would have been no-one except for Les Olive really to pick up the pieces.

NT: For a man so well versed in all things United and being ‘United We Stand’ Magazine’s resident ‘Anorak’, did you discover anything new whilst writing this book?

IM: Yes, there is always something new to discover about United, as you can never know everything. There was one thing I discovered that I didn’t put in, as it could have caused problems and I just skipped round it. But I am sure that the reader, when going through it will say to him or herself more than once “Oh, I didn’t know that”. When I am reading a book, I always like to learn something new and different and I always like to make my books like that. Hopefully I succeed.

NT: One of the common United ‘pub debates’ is how far the Busby Babes would have gone were it not for Munich. Some even go as far to say they would have achieved similar feats to the famed Madrid side of 50’s. What are your thoughts?

IM: I think it is fair to say that they would have become the greatest team in the post war period, if not in the history of the English game.

They would certainly have won the European Cup (more than once) long before 1968 and I imagine that England would also have won the World Cup before 1966.

There are so many things to consider.

No Bobby Moore as England captain. Would we still have enjoyed Law, Best and Charlton together in one team? We might even have had those three alongside Duncan Edwards. Imagine?

Madrid were the benchmark and I think United could have equalled them, but then Madrid would have looked to improvement to match the threat that United were about to poise.

NT: Do you think that the days where clubs champions youth over expensive foreign imports are coming to an end? Or do you think that players with the calibre of those who played for the Busby Babes and the Class of ’92 will continue to graduate from Academy’s  both at United and elsewhere?

Obviously the lesser clubs will always rely on young players, but with the money on offer in the Premier League, some clubs buy not to win the title, but to simply remain in that league.

I do not think we will see the likes of the ‘Babes’ or the ‘Class of 92’ again. Look at the United junior side with its mixture of UK and foreign players. How many will make the first team on a permanent basis? Few if any, through no fault of their own.

In the fifties and sixties home grown players were the norm. Look at Celtic’s 1967 European Cup winning side. They were all born within a 20 mile radius. That will never ever happen again.

Times change and sadly for the worse.

NT: And finally, having wrote a book on United entering a new post-Munich era, what are your thoughts on the new era that beckons under David Moyes in 2013?

IM: Hopefully there is another book there!

Post Munich, it was a long road before success was again achieved and some of that story is the mirror image of the post- Atkinson period. Present day, however, the big difference between post-Munich and post-Atkinson is that David Moyes has the foundations of a good team already in place. He obviously knows where the weak spots are and he should have the funding to correct this.

I think he is a good choice, the only one really and I think the support will give him the time he needs. To win silverware in his first season would be great, but if it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen.

We were spoilt under that other Scottish manager, whose name escapes me, so if there are a few barren years, that’s what we must endure.

Moyes is well spoken off and hopefully he can achieve the success that most feel that he deserves.

NT: Thank you, Iain. You can buy ‘Manchester United 1958-68: Rising from the Wreckage’ from Amberley Publishing HERE, Amazon HERE or Waterstones HERE.

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Read Nathan’s book review of ‘Manchester United 1958-68: Rising from the Wreckage’ HERE.
Register with Stretford End Arising forum HERE.

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