54 years on, The Flowers of Manchester.

by Teo Teng Kiat

The Busby Babes

Did you know Duncan Edwards, Dad, I mean really really know?
It’s just you’ve kept so many cuttings from all those years ago.
And were the Babes the greatest, the greatest ever team;
Or just enshrined here in this history, just a bygone boyhood dream?
Now I know you idolised them, Dad, you gave each one their own page;
the pictures are well faded now, but I suppose that comes with age

Dad, did Tommy Taylor really head a ball against the bar,
which Harry Gregg collected, it had rebounded back so far?
And was Duncan Edwards really the greatest of them all,
with silken skills and feathery touch, thirteen stone and six foot tall?
Now there’s a contradiction surely Dad, but I’m going to let it pass,
but Billy Whelan must have played once, without first going to Mass.

And was Harry Gregg a goalkeeper supreme?
Were Eddie Coleman’s hazy runs like red blurs on swards of green?
And Dad, can you explain to me how it ever came to pass,
that Roger Byrne, just five foot nine, covered every blade of glass?
Or how David Pegg whose swerving runs, like a scorpion you said,
always struck the ball with venom, yet left no one for dead?
Or how it was that big Mark Jones could soar into the sky,
yet still patrol his area, so that nobody got by?

Then there’s the team of Sixty Eight, and Dad I’d like to know,
how George Best was always missing, yet played five hundred games or so?
And how was it Bobby Charlton, who played so many vital roles,
could be both a great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals?
Or how Denis Law had chipped a ball from forty yards or more,
it came back off the crossbar, and yet Law was there to score?

What use was it that Pat Crerand could split defences with one pass,
when the ball only ever landed on a sixpence on the grass?
And was Stepney’s save at Wembley, the best you’ve ever seen,
or was it just that it resulted in the fulfilment of a dream?
So now to Matt Busby, or Sir Matt as he’s now known,
from a mining town in Scotland, yet still one of our own?
Then finally there’s the Munich clock, the disaster time still shown;
why do people say that they never intended coming home?

The boy looked up with pleading eyes, and his father gently said:
There’s a lifetime of old memories in the scrapbook you’ve just read.
And of course there is some fiction, most fact, some strange yet true;
that’s what makes players into legends, now I’ve passed them on to you.
Those pictures may be faded son, but I can see them all so clear,
as if it were just yesterday, and I hold each memory dear.

Now I’ve passed this scrapbook on to you, to treasure for all time,
And you too will find your heroes, and build to them a shrine,
and you’ll add your bits of fiction, but don’t worry son that’s fine,
to make legends of your heroes and then place them alongside mine.
And you’ll understand in years to come, as you watch great United teams,
why it is we call Old Trafford, The Theatre of Dreams.

I could not manage to find out who wrote this piece of prose, but it is such a brilliant bit of writing. It encompasses the feelings of most United supporters, who will always keep in remembrance our fallen heroes, while the club itself moves forwards constantly and new ones emerge.

Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Roger Byrne, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Liam Whelan were the players who perished immediately, along with club staff Walter Crickmer, Tom Curry and Bert Whalley. Sir Matt Busby managed to survive too, but a certain Duncan Edwards wasn’t so lucky. Tipped by many for greatness, the footballer who used to make Sir Bobby Charlton feel inferior sadly passed away fifteen days after the crash in hospital.

Incredibly, despite the Busby Babes having been torn apart by the tragedy, assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, who took control in Sir Matt’s absence, led a patched-up team to the FA Cup final that year. Despite the loss to Bolton, it showed that the club would fight on.

And that they did. Sir Matt returned the next season to helm the club, and he set about building another great team. Ten years later, the likes of George Best and Denis Law led United to their first ever European Cup, as they beat a Benfica side led by Portuguese great Eusebio. As Sir Bobby held aloft the trophy, emotions couldn’t run any higher, as all of the team embraced Sir Matt on the pitch.

Manchester United had risen from the dead, and it was something which they would continue to do ever so often in the coming years.

The events that happened in Munich 54 years ago will forever be associated with the club, and remain one of the greatest tragedies in football. It is a loss which is felt dearly, and it continues to shape and define the club today.

It is something which should unite all supporters, regardless of club, and so it is incomprehensible why there are still rival fans taunting us with Munich chants, and it is also unforgivable for sections of us who continue to jeer at our Liverpool counterparts about Hillsborough.

Rest in peace all those who laid down their lives in the cold snow of Munich that fateful 6th of February, for you will all be forever remembered in our hearts.

United’s flag is deepest red,
It shrouded all our Munich dead,
Before their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their heart’s blood dyed it’s ev’ry fold.

Then raise United’s banner high,
Beneath it’s shade we’ll live and die,
So keep the faith and never fear,
We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here.

We’ll never die, we’ll never die,
We’ll never die, we’ll never die,
We’ll keep the Red flag flying high,
Because Man United will never die.

You can follow me on Twitter here.


About Teng Kiat

"strong heart."
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