Everyone remembers the names of the 8 players that lost their lives at Munich and everyone knows Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes recovered and went on to have long and illustrious careers with the club. But what of the other babes? The babes we shall call the forgotten heroes.
Johnny Berry was a right winger with terrific technique and pace. He was the old man of the babes at 31. Johnny never recovered sufficiently from his injuries to play professional football again. Johnny retired and set up a sports retail business. Johnny made 277 appearances for United scoring 45 goals. He collected a trio of League Championship winners medals (52, 56, 57). He died September 1994 at the age of 68 following a short illness.
Jackie Blanchflower was 24 at the time of the disaster. He had joined the club as a schoolboy and rose through the youth team to establish himself as a talented and versatile player. From forward to wing-half, Jackie found his best position at half-back (center back in today’s equivalent) and was very cool and collected on the ball and a wonderful long passer of the ball. Jackie’s elder brother, Danny, would go on to make an international name for himself as captain of the great Tottenham side of the 60's. Many considered Jackie to be a much better footballer and could have gone on to great things. The injuries Jackie sustained meant that he was never able to play football again. Jackie made 117 appearances for United scoring 26 goals, collecting 2 League Championship winners’ medals on route. After retiring in 1958 Jackie went into retail and ran a local grocery shop. He died of cancer in September 1998 at the age of 65.
Dennis Violett was an instinctive and clever center forward. Similar in many ways to the great Denis Law that would follow him, he had an eye for goal unlike others before him. His goal scoring record was phenomenal at 100 goals in 171 appearances yet he was still only 24. Remarkably Dennis recovered from his injuries very quickly and resumed his career with United at the end of April 1958. He would play for United another 4 years notching 176 goals in his total 294 appearances and won 2 league championship medals. Yet many observers of the day could see he was a yard shorter on pace and not so brave in the challenge as he had been. At the age of 28 he was struggling to stay match fit and this endangered his career at the top. In 1962, he was sold to Stoke City for whom he would play until his retirement in 1967 making 187 appearances and scoring 59 goals for the Potters. Dennis is a great in the history of United. His goal scoring ratio and total put him up there with the best strikers of all time. Still, many fans of both clubs, would reflect and wonder at what goal scoring record the man would have set but for the toll he paid at Munich. Dennis later made a name for himself as a coach in the North American league. He would be inducted into the NASL hall of fame for his record of coaching in America. Dennis died, at the age of 65, in 1999 after a hard 2-year fight against cancer.
Ray Wood was an agile goalkeeper who was tremendously fit, especially for that era. He was a keeper approaching his prime at 27 and was extremely lucky to suffer only cuts and bruises in the crash. However, with the emergence of stand in keeper Harry Gregg, Ray only made one appearance for United after the Munich disaster. Ray had 2 League Championship medals and before Munich was considered the #1 keeper at United yet, with rumours of shaking hands, Ray was sold to Huddersfield within 10 months and later Bradford City and Barnsley. Between all four clubs he made over 500 appearances. On retirement, Ray coached both club and national sides throughout the world. He died in 2002 at the age of 71.
Harry Gregg, the backup keeper that made the trip was to be labelled the hero of Munich for his bravery in returning to the plane 3 or 4 times to pull Bobby Charlton, Jackie Blanchflower, Dennis Violet and Mrs Vera Lukic and her baby daughter from the plane. He would go on to first claim the #1 goal keeping spot from Ray Wood and later be regarded as one of the greatest keepers in United's history, yet due to injuries in 1963 and in 1965 would never win any medals missing out on both the '63 FA cup win and the '65 League Championship. Harry made 249 appearances in his 9 year with United. Harry would go on to a long career in lower league football management before retiring to his native Northern Ireland to run a family hotel. Harry turned 75 years young last October.
Kenny Morgans was just 18 and the youngest player involved in the crash. He was a very talented right winger and seen as a natural successor to the aging Johnny Berry. In fact, Kenny was keeping the experienced Johnny out of the side leading up to the trip to Belgrade having played almost all the matches since December 1957. There were whisper and rumours that Matt Busby saw the boy as something special and hopes were high for another wing-wonder. Sadly, how special we will never know. He survived and recovered from his injuries but looked a shadow of the bright star that had shone before. He would stay with United for 3 years but made just 13 appearances after that fateful day. A promising career was slightly rekindled when in 1961 he joined Swansea City but again suffering lacks of form he would make just 54 appearances in 3 years before moving onto Newport County where he would see out his career until his retirement from football in 1967 at the age of 27. Kenny will turn 69 in March this year, (2008).
Albert Scanlon suffered what many doctors of the time feared, a fractured skull yet remarkably Albert recovered very quickly and was back playing for the 1958/59 season. At 22 years of age and the darling of the ladies for his good looks and dimpled chin, Arsenal were trying to buy Albert before Munich. He stayed at United though for another year but had lost the gloss that made him shine. In 1960 he joined Newcastle United but quickly fell out of favour due to lack of form and consistency and ended his career at lowly Lincoln City and Mansfield. Albert retired in 1966 at the age of 30. In May 2007, Albert, along with Bill Foulkes, presented the Premiership trophy at Old Trafford. He will be 73 next October.
The forgotten heroes: Of the 9 surviving players, 6 careers were either cut short or suffered as a result of the Munich disaster. The disaster was a tragedy for football and decimated a team and affected so many people. But on a professional level, of a small first team squad of 18 players only 3, Bobby, Bill and Harry were able to achieve their promise - that in itself is the second tragedy. While we remember those that died with honour and respect, let us also not forget those players who’s careers and lives were also so tragically affected.
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