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Romulus

Geoff Bent

9 years ago

"Geoffrey Bent was my personal friend and was always recognised within the club as probably the best player who could not get into the first team. He could not nudge out Roger Bryne, the best left back in the country, but would have walked into any other First Division team" - Ian Greaves


Geoff Bent

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He was not supposed to go!

He can easily be considered the unluckiest of the Babes. At 25 he was one of the elders on the team, yet he only made 12 first team appearances in his 7 years at United. He was supposed to take over from the great John Aston, but it was not to be. Roger Byrne made the switch to left-back, Geoff Bent was pushed aside. He went to Belgrade because the Roger got a calf strain in THAT GAME against the Gunners. The Old Man needed Geoff as cover. In any event he did not feature, Roger was well enough to play.

Geoff Bent was a local lad, a true Busby Babe, and one of the first ones. Born in Salford on September 27th 1932. He was brought up in Jacksons Buildings in Irlams o' th' Height. Jeff was an only child, and a promising footballer. He captained the Salford Schoolboys when they had won the English Schools Trophy in 1947. A year later he was picked up by United. Before he was able to sign as a professional Geoff was a trainee joiner.

A tall composed defender, Geoff was well built and a good tackler. He was unfortunate to play in a position of the undroppable club Captain. So Geoff languished in the United reserves, often playing along with 7 or 8 internationals. Geoff made his first team debut in the 1954-55 season at Turf Moor, against Burnley on December 11th, United won 4-1. He went on to make only one more appearance that season. Four in the following campaign, and six on the way of the Babes' second League Championship. In the 1957-58 he did not feature at all. He was getting frustrated, he knew, as did everyone else, that he was good enough to start for almost any other team. The problem was, as with Bobby and many of the reserves, this was Manchester United Football Club, Matt Buby's team. How does one break into a line up full of great players. How can anyone drop an Edwards, or a Taylor, or Byrne? Even after a few sub-par performances everyone knew they would be back and in style. So he waited, there were rumours of him asking for a transfer. Matt (reportedly) refused, he told him he too valuable to the squad, just in case. A lot has been written about Matt Busby, but it is generally acknowledged that the man could be as ruthless and head strong as another great Scottish United manager decades later. If it was good for United, he went with it, if not, tough. Individuals did not matter, the club mattered. So it is quite conceivable that Geoff did ask for a transfer and it was rejected.

In any case the possible move away from Manchester was off the agenda for Geoff. He was one of the few married Babes, and became a father in late 1957. The club offered the Bent family a house on King's Road, Geoff settled in. At Highbury Roger got hurt, Geoff was told he will fly with the squad to Belgrade. Geoff did not want to go. He was terrified of flying, as were some of the lads were. He also suffered from nose bleeds even at modest altitudes. Again he did not play, and in Munich was lost forever. He left a young wife and a baby daughter behind. And is largely forgotten by all.

Usually the last to be mentioned when people are recounting the Babes; even his grave went unattended for a while a few years back. Geoff was laid to rest in the churchyard of St. John's CE at Irlans o' th' Height. In 2004 a fan took her two young grandsons to visit the grave and was shocked to discover that weeds were growing on the grave. She contacted the club and they were supposed to sort it.

So if you are passing nearby, please visit Geoff and pay your respects, make sure the grave is being taken care of, and lay a rose for one of England's finest. He deserves it, he was one of Busby's Babes.






1951-1958 Manchester United 12 (0)



Credits
Condor, Jeff. The Lost Babes. Harper. 2007
Dunphy, Eamon. A Strange Kind of Glory. Aurum, 2007
Salford Advertiser






© UNITEDLOUNGE.COM Reproducing this material, either in whole or in part, without the permission of unitedlounge.com is strictly prohibited



RedSte
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

Some pics of Geoff's grave that we visited earlier today....

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RedSte
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

Image

RedSte
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

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RedSte
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

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Romulus

Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

Thanks for posting those Ste, the club or even the fans should take better care of the grave. He deserved better.

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liz jomaa
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

thanks for posting those pictures ste,i'm glad some fans remembered to visit him today.

are his wife and daughter still around?

RedSte
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

I have reposted those pics a little larger and clearer.

Actually when we visited the grave a man was there who said he had worked as an apprentice with Geoff and had met Duncan Edwards too. He obviously had many memories of his times shared with Geoff all those decades ago. We would have loved to stay talking to him longer but time was against us by then. He said the grave didnt look so bad last year but I think age is just taking its toll on it - be said he was going to get some bleach to clean it up a bit. It is possible that United are not even aware of the state of the gravestone..it is in a very small churchyard plot and not one of the larger cemeteries in the area.
My old man said be a City fan...

Nothing significant and lasting will ever come of FFP! - RedSte (2012)

RedSte
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

I have reposted those pics a little larger and clearer.

Actually when we visited the grave a man was there who said he had worked as an apprentice with Geoff and had met Duncan Edwards too. He obviously had many memories of his times shared with Geoff all those decades ago. We would have loved to stay talking to him longer but time was against us by then. He said the grave didnt look so bad last year but I think age is just taking its toll on it - be said he was going to get some bleach to clean it up a bit. It is possible that United are not even aware of the state of the gravestone..it is in a very small churchyard plot and not one of the larger cemeteries in the area.

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Luthien Tinuviel
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Re: Geoff Bent

9 years ago

Thanks for the pictures Ste :)
[center]Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen
And light of stars was in her hair
And in her raiment glimmering...
[/center]

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Tom Clare
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Re: Geoff Bent

8 years ago

50 Years On – Geoff Bent – Mr. Loyalty

On February 1st 1958, Geoff Bent and Ronnie Cope, two young Manchester United Reserve players, played together in a Central League fixture at Old Trafford. Events that afternoon down at Highbury where the first team were playing away to Arsenal were to impact both their young lives significantly. For one of them, Geoff Bent, it would end in tragedy.

Geoff Bent was born in Salford on September 27th 1932 and in August of 1948, just before his 16th birthday he joined the Manchester United ground staff. For a young boy who was Manchester United crazy, coming almost immediately after the ravages of the Second World War, it must have been a dream come true. My good friend John White,

“In many respects, Geoff was probably like any number of understudies anywhere - good enough in his own right to get a place at almost any football club in the land Little could he have known then that secure and valuable to his club as he certainly was, his United career was to be a brief and not so glorious one, being kept well in the background at Old Trafford as cover for the man who would ascend to the captaincy of Manchester United - and also automatic left back for England - Manchester-born Roger Byrne.

All this was in the future back then and Geoff must have been on cloud nine as he signed his name on that first contract for Matt Busby in August 1948. I’ll bet he was even more ecstatic in May of the following year when he signed his professional contract!

I genuinely hope that Geoff gleaned every moment of personal joy from those two highlight events - because the lad wouldn’t be getting much joy in the way of appearances for the Reds! It was actually well over 5 long years later before he made his first team debut in the away game at Turf Moor in the 4-2 win over Burnley in late 1954 which IMO speaks volumes for the health, form and consistency of performance from Roger Byrne who kept the lad out for all those years.

Probably THE highlight of his career (in his own view anyway) was taking the ball off the legendary Tom Finney in a game against Preston (one of his total of only12 first-team games). He treasured the newspaper cutting of the event he valued so much. I think that it is simultaneously wonderfully poignant and yet carries in it the joy of a footballer who was also a huge fan of the game's finest.”

Although Geoff’s appearances in the first team were sporadic and spread out to say the least, there was no histrionics from the likeable, quiet Salfordian. No banging on the Manager’s door demanding a transfer. On February 1st 1958, Geoff was already 25 years old and I think that it would be a fair assumption that given the amount of talent that was coming through from the junior teams at Old Trafford, if he wanted to progress his career as a First Division footballer, then a move to another club was almost inevitable.

The party to travel to Belgrade on February 3rd had already been named, and big Ronnie Cope was one of the 16 players scheduled to be in the party. However, after the game at Highbury on February 1st, Roger Byrne reported a slight thigh strain. On the way back to Manchester that evening, Busby mulled over the matter and then the following morning made the decision that Cope would not travel, but that Geoff Bent would as cover in case Byrne was not fit to play in Belgrade. He was reasonable in his thinking – the original party contained two centre halfs – Cope and Blanchflower. Notwithstanding Blanchflowers versatility – Bent was an out and out full back and left sided at that. So it was logical that Cope would be the one to be left behind.

Big Ronnie wasn’t happy about the situation and spoke to Jimmy Murphy about it on the Sunday morning before Jimmy left for Wales to become involved in their World Cup Qualifying match against Israel, which was scheduled for the same day as United were playing in Belgrade. Cope said that he would be handing in a transfer request, and Jimmy told him to sleep on it.

Geoff Bent was a very quiet individual. He was married to Marion, a local Salford girl and just four months previously, they were over joyed with the arrival of their baby daughter, Karen. Geoff was probably the lowest profile player with the “Busby Babes” and was quite happy to keep it that way. Like the rest of the married lads in the club, once training or a match had finished, he just wanted to get home to his family.

The day before the game in Belgrade, skipper Roger Byrne declared himself fit to play, and Geoff had to be content with a seat in the stands. Sadly, the following afternoon in Munich, he was one of the seven players to lose their lives. It was so tragic and broke Marion’s heart. I also often think about how this affected Ronnie Cope in the years that followed. Geoff’s daughter Karen, grew up not knowing her father. She went on to have a fairly successful career in the music and entertainment industry.

Geoff was laid to rest in St. John’s CE Church, Irlam o’th’ Heights. God grant you eternal rest Geoff and on behalf of all those many fans who never got the chance to say it, a huge retrospective thank you to you for your absolute loyalty to United's cause.

Geoff Bent played 12 first team games for Manchester United.

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Hughsy
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Re: Geoff Bent

8 years ago

Enjoyable read everyone,Thanks. (Y)

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Lozenge
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Re: Geoff Bent

6 years ago

Poignant and moving - thank you to all contributors.
Never forget the club's proud history; no other club can ever match it.

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