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Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

Sir Robert Charlton

He was 18 and one of the best prospects in the game, yet he was frustrated. When Matt Busby's Babes were winning their first title little Bobby Charlton could not even get on the first team. The 56-57 season did not start much better for him. He impressed in the reserves regularly but was again left off the team sheet. Bobby wanted to play. In the latter part of September he got injured. However two weeks later on September 29th both Tommy Taylor and Duncan Edward were hurt at Highbury during a win against Arsenal. The week prior to the next match Matt asked "How is your ankle?" Bobby lied and said it was fine, he knew it was his chance, and he was desperate to play for the first team. He did, against Charlton, scored two goals.... and was dropped for the next two matches. He played again against Everton and scored. He played 3 more times till the end of the year and did not feature until February of 57. That season Bobby made 14 appearances in the League, played 2 FA Cup games and made his European debut in the European Cup against Real Madrid in the second leg. Altogether Bobby scored 12 goals in 17 appearances.

The next season he still was not a regular, prior to Munich Bobby played in 15 of United's 36 games. It is not a measure of how good or bad young Bobby was but how good the lads picked before him were. One of the best players to ever play the game could not get a regular spot on the team. In an age where most teams relied on older players United were the exception. Youth ruled on the team. So it was not age that kept Bobby of the team sheet. This just begs for the question "just how really good were the Busby Babes?"

Through tragedy we will never know, we only remember glimpses, hear stories, watch a part of an old match on the telly. Just how good would Duncan be in his prime? Or little Eddie? Or any of them? How far would that team go, how much would they achieve? Some of them survived, some played again, some did not. Little Bobby Charlton, the one who could not cement his place on the team, did survive. He went on to become on of the greatest ever players to grace the football pitch. And he went on to become associated with Manchester United Football Club for over 50 years. Sir Bobby Charlton is Mr. Manchester United.

Early Life

Sir Robert "Bobby" Charlton, CBE, was born 11 October 1937 in Ashington, Northumberland a mining town, to Robert and Cissie Charlton. Little Bobby, and older brother Jack, had football in their genes. Four of the Milburn brothers were not only their mother's siblings but also proffessional footballers. It was his mother who influenced Bobby the most in his childhood. It was a hard life they led, but generally a happy one. Once in a while Bobby and Jack would go off to nearby Newcastle or Sunderland to watch the big games to see their heroes. Bobby's was the great Stanley Mathews. They played football all the time sometimes for up to six, seven hours a day. Bobby was captain of the football team in his primary school. When he graduated to a grammar school almost all was lost. He was picked to go to a rugby school. Thanks to his mother and his primary school headmaster, he went to a football school. While there Bobby was picked to play for the East Northumberland Boys, then for the Northumberland Juniors and finally England Schoolboys. By this time it was evident that Bobby will have a professional football career. It was only a question of who would sign him. In all 18 clubs came looking to sign little Bobby.

Fortunately for us all came on Feb. 9 1953, after what he thought was a bad performance, a man came up to Bobby and introduced himself. "My name is Joe Armstrong and I am from Manchester. I want to know if you would like to play for Manchester United when you leave school this summer? United's great scout was a man of charm and persuasive powers, he also did not neglect Bobby in the time scouts were trying to sign him. Bobby also was aware of the revolution that was taking place in Manchester. He remembered how 5 years before United beat Blackpool in the FA Cup Final. He would sign for United.

Bobby at United

We know Sir Bobby, the humble, graceful man and footballer, but from early on Bobby realized he knew how to play. He knew things on a football pitch came easier to him than to his teammates and opponents. In short, Bobby knew he was good. When he was met at the Exchange Station by Jimmy Murphy he had his first taste of how good some of his new teammates were. "Bobby, I've got a player you will find hard to believe, he is so good. He has everything. He is tall and powerful, but has a wonderful touch...." Jimmy went on and on. "Bloody hell," Bobby thought, "No one can be that good." Bobby soon realised that someone was. Dunc made the others around him look ordinary. AT times Jimmy worried that the youth team was becoming too dependent on Dunc. He told the young lads to rely on themselves. When they were struggling against Chelsea in a Youth Cup tie, at half time Jimmy told the team: "Remember I told you not to automatically pass the ball to Duncan? Well forget what I said. Give him the fornicating ball whenever you can. Bobby picked Dunc out from a corner, he scored.... Bobby quickly adjusted to life in Manchester. He was accepted by the lads. They played together, went to the cinema together, lived together, spent holidays together. None was more welcoming then Eddie Colman, he along with being a great footballer, was a great friend and welcomed him into his home for Christmas. Bobby could not become a United player till he was 16, and his mother made sure Bobby went to school. However a conflict quickly developed. The schoolmaster insisted Bobby play for the school team. He had a choice, football or education. He called his mother and told her his problem. She supported him, football it was. However Bobby could not become a professional footballer until the following year, so for a year he worked at Switchgear and Cowans, to become an electrical engineer. But Bobby wanted to be a footballer. After a year his dream finally came true. He signed a professional contract for Manchester United Football Club.

Bobby Charlton begun his United career playing for the youth team. With them He won 3 Youth Cups. He slowly progressed into the reserves and became an understudy to the first team. In the meantime there was National Service to complete which he did at the same time as Duncan at Shrewsbury. As he progressed, more and more Jimmy Murphy took him under his wing. It was he who taught Bobby how to play the game professionally. It was Jimmy who taught him his strengths, it is thanks to Jimmy that Bobby shot so much. The only thing Jimmy could not teach Bobby was how to tackle. I guess we can forgive Bobby that deficiency as we do for Paul.

Something great was happening in Manchester and Bobby badly wanted to be a part of it. But as I mentioned above, he could not get in the first team that first championship season. Something special was also happening on the continent. A new tournament was formed. Even though Chelsea, the previous League Champions were told by the FA not to participate, Matt Busby was quite keen on testing his young team against the rest of Europe. Matt had his way and Manchester United entered the European Cup tournament representing England in the 1956-57 season. It started in a magical way. Drawn against the Belgian powerhouse Anderleht United beat them 2-0 in their away leg. Back in Manchester they slaughtered the continentals 10-0. A Legend was born. One that captivated the whole nation. Next came Borrusia Dortmund and Atletico Bilbao, both tough tests, but United persevered. On they went to the semi Final to meet the mighty Real Madrid. Bobby traveled with the first team for the first leg in case there was an injury, but did not play. United faced the great diStefano and Gento. They held their own for an hour. Then Real got two, Tommy Taylor got one back before Mateo made it 3-1. For the return leg Bobby was picked to play. However the second leg finished 2-2 and United were out. Bobby scored his first European Cup goal and there was a sign of greater things to come. These kids came out against the best and held their own. It could only get better from here. In the meantime United again won the League with games to spare. They scored 103 goals, only Tottenham had more (104) and had the best defensive record in the League (54 against), United finished on 64 points, the runners up had 56, this was in an age of 2 points per win. United were dominant in England. United were also on a verge of a historic double. They met Villa in the Final. We all know the story of Ray Wood and his broken cheekbone. It was not to be that season.

The future was bright, the future was United. The nation was witnessing something special and everyone knew it. The young team was on a verge of greatness, nothing could stop them, it was just a matter of time, and they would be winning everything under the sun. And they all knew it.

The 57-58 season started of well, there was a blip however and soon United dropped to fourth. By late December United were back on form and climbing the table. They were doing well in the European Cup too, beating both the Shamrock Rovers and Dukla Praha, in the quarter final they were drawn against the Yougoslav giants Red Star Belgrade. Bobby played in 15 matches before the trip to Belgrade, by then he scored 10 goals. He played in the first leg against Red Star, Bobby scored one of the goals, United were up 2-1 and only needed a draw away to advance. Prior to the second leg United still had 3 games to play. Bobby got both goals against Ipswich in a 2-0 win. He scored a hat trick against Bolton in a 7-2 pounding. Next came Arsenal at Highbury. THAT GAME, United won it too 5-4 with Bobby also scoring one. Both teams were applauded off the field. Even to this day many consider that to be the best game they ever saw. Off to Belgrade they went, full of confidence and feeling indestructible.

Munich

Things started off well. The lads were happy, the pre match workouts went well. They came out roaring. By half time it was 3-0 for United, Dennis Violet put United ahead in the second minute, Bobby added two more, in the 13th and 32nd minutes. However Red Star fought back, and tied the game 3-3, in the end it was not enough, United were through to another semi final. The lads celebrated into the night. The next morning however it was time to leave. New League regulations stipulated that teams playing in European Cups had to return to England at least 24 hours prior their next match, and League leading Wolves awaited them. The first leg of the journey passed without incident and the plane landed safely in Munich. There however, the weather was bad and there was six to seven inches of slush on the ground. While the plane was refueled the happy team had coffee in the terminal. There was an aborted take off, but that did not dampen the spirits of the team. After another round of coffee all went back to the plane. Then another aborted take off. This time the players were somewhat serious. Bu the time they were ready to take off again the plane was quiet.


Down it started on the runway for, what seemed to Bobby, forever. It is also the last thing he remembers, there was a grinding noise, when he came to, still in a daze he saw a scene of horror and tragedy. Bobby did not know how he got from the plane. He saw lifeless bodies of teammates, he took of his overcoat and laid it across the body of The Old Man who was groaning in pain. Not much later Harry Gregg helped the dazed Bobby into a Minibus that took him to a Munich hospital. He was cared for and given a shot to help the pain and to sleep. The next day Bobby realized he only had a small cut and a bruised head. Yet many of his friends did not survive. Geoff, Roger the Captain, Little Eddie, Mark, David, Tommy and Liam "Billy" were gone. Big Dunc and The Old Man were fighting for their lives. Bobby visited them before leaving for England, not knowing whether they would pull through. He was met by his Mum and Jack, they took him home up North. It was at home that he found out that Duncan Edwards lost his battle. While he was shielded from the ever present grief in Manchester, he was not shielded from his memories and pain.

United's matches were postponed, Jimmy Murphy took charge of the club. The first match after Munich was to be against Sheffield Wednesday. Bobby got his uncle to drive him to Manchester to see the game. With each minute, with each goal, the emotion at Old Trafford reached new levels. United won, and took their first small step toward recovery. Bobby returned to the team for a cup match against West Brom on March 1. An amazing run followed. United reached the final, the whole nation was cheering for the team from Manchester, but it was not to be, Bolton beat United 2-0. The European dream also ended, this time against AC Milan in the semi final. It was time for rebuilding. Matt and Jimmy went to work. The new team was focused around Bobby. In came Denis, and George. And ten years after Munich, Matt's European dream had finally been realized. United won the European Cup. Bobby of course scored, two goals.

After Munich Bobby Charlton went on to have an amazing career. A European Player of the Year, a World Cup Winner, He went on to win the League 2 more times with United, and also an Fa Cup. He holds the record for appearances and goals scored for both United and England. He was knighted in 1994. He became United's ambassador and Director. He will tell everyone that he's led a blessed and a happy life. But part of him is still there, dazed, on that slushy runway wondering why not him, why them, why has god deemed to spare him and take his friend away.


1956-1973 Manchester United 759 (249)
1973-1974 Preston North End 45 (10)

1958-1970 England 106 (49)





Credits
Charlton, Bobby. The Autobiography- My Manchester United Years. Headline, 2007
Connor, Jeff. The Lost Babes. Harper. 2007
Dunphy, Eamon. A Strange Kind of Glory. Aurum, 2007
stretfordend.co.uk






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My Munich agony: Why me? Why did I survive?

9 years ago

My Munich agony: Why me? Why did I survive?
- From the eyes of Sir Bobby Charlton.


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I need to go back before Munich if I am to provide any insight into what was the central drama of my life, something which informed, inevitably, all that came after. I need to try to recreate the sheer, uncomplicated thrill that came with being a member of this young team. A team which, perhaps more than any other in the history of the game, was filled not only with talent but with what seemed a grace which came from some unchartable source, something beyond even the planning and the vision of the great Matt Busby.

We felt nothing was beyond us as we talked so animatedly and laughed on that journey home from Belgrade, where we had played with great maturity to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup. In two days we were to face Wolves in another game of vital importance, one which could prove decisive in our pursuit of a third straight league title. The sky was low and filled with snow as we landed in Munich for refuelling, but we saw little or no reason to doubt that our own horizons stretched out seamlessly.

You looked around and saw one strength piled upon another. If we didn’t have Di Stéfano or Gento, we had virtuosos of our own: Duncan [Edwards] was touching new levels of authority, Dennis Viollet was playing with tremendous bite and was just irrepressible around the box, and Eddie Colman was producing a little more swagger and a little more confidence with every game. Harry Gregg had brought a lot to the team with his fierce protection of the goal and his fighting spirit. On top of all this was the extraordinary leadership of Roger Byrne.

It was a wonderful state of mind we took on to the plane. In the cabin there was a buzz of conversation and bursts of laughter and the card players were aggressively at work. We were heading home for yet another red carpet welcome, another return of conquering heroes.

Ushering us through the airport in Belgrade, Busby had no doubt been concerned by the need for a prompt departure and swift completion of our trip. The requirement to rush home to Manchester through the snow-filled skies of Europe had been spelled out by the Football League, which had been so emphatic in its refusal to give a blessing to our continental mission. Under new league regulations, any team competing in Europe had to be back in England a full 24 hours before they were due to play a championship game. League secretary [Alan] Hardaker no doubt argued that he was protecting the “integrity” of the Football League, preventing important matches being squeezed into the programme in the shadow of European action. Another interpretation was that he was making it as difficult as possible for the man who had defied him with his insistence that United would fight on this new frontier of football.

When we landed in Munich the weather was as bad as I had ever seen it on my football travels; beneath the low clouds the sky was filled with snowflakes, and when we touched down we saw there were six or seven inches of slush on the runway. However, we were assured that we would be on our way soon enough.

There was no point of concern until after the second aborted take-off. Then the mood dipped, not in any dramatic way but quite perceptibly; certainly conversation became less chirpy and the card players were less absorbed by their game.

By the third attempt at take-off, conversation had dwindled almost to nothing. I looked out of the window and as I did so I was suddenly conscious of the silence inside the plane. Outside, the snowy field flew by, but not quickly enough it seemed. I knew it was too long when I saw the fence and then we were on the house.

There was an awful noise, the grind of metal on metal. Then there was the void.

When I came to, I was on the ground, outside the wrecked plane, but still strapped into my seat. Dennis Viollet had been pulled out of his seat and was lying beside me, conscious but obviously hurt. Later, I learned that Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes had helped to get some of the injured out of the plane.

I could hear sirens blaring and then Dennis said, “What’s the matter, Bobby, what’s gone on?” Instantly I regretted my reply, which was, “Dennis, it’s dreadful.” He was not in a good condition and at that point I should have protected him from the worst of the truth, but as the horror was overwhelming me, I suppose I was removed from rational thought. I saw the bodies in the snow, though one small and passing mercy was that I didn’t recognise among the dead either of my closest friends, Eddie Colman, who with his family had befriended me so warmly in my early days at Old Trafford, and David Pegg from Yorkshire, who shared my roots in the mining community. In addition to my seven, ultimately eight, fallen teammates, the carnage that confronted my still blinking and dazed eyes had robbed another 14, and in time 15, souls of their lives.

Eventually, I was helped into a mini-truck. Gregg and Foulkes came with me as we raced through the blizzard into the city hospital. There, the walking wounded were taken to a waiting room.

I had one small bruise on my head and I was suffering from concussion. Reality came drifting in and out, but at one of its sharpest points I noticed an orderly smiling, as if to say, it seemed to me, that all this was a routine matter and that the world would still be turning when the dawn came. But of course it wouldn’t, not for the football team that was supposed to conquer the world. I was filled with rage and it was directed at this hospital worker who seemed to understand none of that. I screamed at him. What I said exactly is, like much of that night and the days that followed, lost to me now, but I remember vividly the pain that came to me so hard at that moment.

My next memory is of waking the following morning in a hospital ward. In a nearby bed was a young German, who was looking at a newspaper that was spread before him. I could see from the photographs that he was reading about the crash. He spoke little English, but when he looked up and saw me he managed to say, “I’m sorry.” At that moment I had to know who had gone and who had survived.

The German lad read out the names and then, after a short pause, said, “Dead.” It was a terrible roll call, and I make no excuse for repeating once again . . . Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan, Mark Jones and Geoff Bent. How could it possibly be? It was as though my life was being taken away, piece by piece.

There was some relief when I was moved into a ward with a few of the other survivors. I wanted to shout, “At least we’re OK,” but then I thought of Duncan Edwards, who was fighting for his life, and the badly injured Johnny Berry and Jackie Blanchflower, who would never play again, and that took away any such urge.

Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes passed through the ward on their way to what they saw as their duty to the dead, back at Old Trafford. I shivered when I thought how it must be in Manchester. We had been screened from much of the news, but then, as the days passed, you heard of the funerals and something deep inside you was grateful that you weren’t there, because it would have been so hard to say goodbye with so many eyes on you. All the time the question came pounding in: why me, why did I survive?

When you heard how Manchester was stricken, how many people were turning up at Old Trafford, aimless in their grief but just wanting to be as close as they could to the team who had so lifted their lives, who they had seen growing up before their eyes, you felt there had to be a match as soon as possible. A match would take away some of the horror. It was a small piece of escapism and it didn’t take you far. It couldn’t, because upstairs Duncan Edwards and Matt Busby were in oxygen tents and fighting uphill battles to stay alive.

Eventually, I was able to see them both. I went up with my heart pounding. Later, I was told that Duncan’s fight, which lasted nearly a fortnight, was the result of freakish strength and willpower. The German doctors did all they could and then just had to shake their heads in disbelief that anyone could fight so hard against such odds.

He was in obvious pain when I visited him, but his spirit was still as strong as ever. When he saw me he threw back his head and said, “I’ve been waiting for you. Where the bloody hell have you been?” I whispered my encouragement, feeling my eyes smart while wondering all over again how it could be that this young giant of the game was so stricken while I could prepare to walk down the stairs before packing for home. Big Dunc was more than the admired teammate and older friend. He was the embodiment of everything I admired in a footballer. He had skill and courage and tremendous power.

He could do anything, play anywhere, and the world awaited the full scale of his glory.

There was never an instinct to try to put Munich out of mind, to say that it was something terribly sad but had to be relegated to the past because how else could you deal with the present and the future? Munich was just too big, too overpowering, to permit that kind of reaction. It was something that you knew, right from the start, you had to learn to live with. It was a reality that was reinforced with every account of a funeral, every description by Jimmy Murphy [the United coach] of how it was at Old Trafford.

Jimmy, typically, was the strongest presence in those days when the Old Man was surviving only with the help of an oxygen tent. He said that we had to fight for our existence – and the memory of the teammates we had lost. He had been through a war when men had to live with the loss of so many comrades, had to fight on through the suffering and live with what was left to them. It was the same now at Manchester United, Jimmy insisted. But then later I heard that it was just a front that Jimmy put on. One day he was discovered in a back corridor of the hospital, sobbing his heart out in pain at the loss of so many young players.

Very soon it was clear that Jimmy Murphy, and everyone else at the club, needed one thing to happen more than anything. They needed another match, some sense of continuity, some belief that, however haltingly, the club was moving forward from the worst of the grief. For several days I had pushed away the idea of returning to Manchester, of picking up again the challenge of playing football, but now I felt a few stirrings, partly inspired by the courage of Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes, partly by the fact that before I left the hospital I was able to walk up the stairs and see both Duncan and the Old Man. Both of them were so ill that it was obvious we were in danger of losing them. To lose one would be the most terrible blow; to lose both, unthinkable. Something had to be done. Their work could not be allowed just to slide away – though saying that seemed a lot easier than dredging up the effort and the will to begin the job.

- On February 19, a patched-up United team beat Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup fifth round in the first post-Munich match. Charlton watched from the stands. There was a blank in the match programme in place of the United team list.

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babysenorita
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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

Here are some pics thought might just help out to find them..


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RedAngel
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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

I can't even begin to imagine how horrific of an experience it must of been for him to go through. He surely was brave.

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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

I loved this article Robert. It was written with lots of passion and compassion and really touched me. I also learnt a lot that I didnt know before about his early life. Thank you. A wonderful read.

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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

What hits me is, we usually weep for the dead, which is sometimes kinda stupid as they are in a better place(or so I believe), but I feel that we should weep for their families and the survivors that saw them die. And some guilt will surely hit them at some point.

What amazes me in this man is that he kept on going, no matter what happened, he still showed his love for the club, and that is why he is a truly honorable Legend.

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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

What hits me is, we usually weep for the dead, which is sometimes kinda stupid as they are in a better place(or so I believe), but I feel that we should weep for their families and the survivors that saw them die. And some guilt will surely hit them at some point.

What amazes me in this man is that he kept on going, no matter what happened, he still showed his love for the club, and that is why he is a truly honorable Legend.
To me he is the most dignified figure in World Football today. A true gentleman and the best possible ambassador for Manchester United

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liz jomaa
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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

Code: Select all

http://youtube.com/watch?v=YLXXL36EmJg#
what a wonder strike by bobby

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liz jomaa
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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

Code: Select all

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF8gg44FTbs&NR=1#
a few words from bobby about crying when they won.

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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

From the Telegraph
Bobby Charlton's tales rekindle Babes passion

"Dennis, it's dreadful." They were the first words Bobby Charlton spoke as he came round on the slush-covered runway at Munich Airport, grateful that he had kept his overcoat on as the plane made its third, fatal attempt to take off.
He had been sitting next to Dennis Viollet who, with Tommy Taylor, provided the deep cutting-edge to the Busby Babes. As the propeller-driven Airspeed Elizabethan, call-sign Zulu Uniform, ploughed through the airport's perimeter fence, Viollet, who at 24 already had a reputation as one of the more sophisticated members of this young, wondrously talented Manchester United side, turned to Charlton and told him, contrary to all the evidence splintering around them, to relax.
The next time they spoke they were still in their seats, some 70 yards away from the wrecked plane, Viollet with a deep gash to his head, Charlton outwardly uninjured except for bruising. As the rear section of the aircraft sheared away they had been thrown from the seats onto the runway, and been found by Manchester United's reserve goalkeeper, Harry Gregg, who proved one of the heroes of the disaster. Gregg initially thought them dead, before dragging them "like rag dolls" back into their seats, where they regained consciousness in the damp, bitter February air.

"Have we crashed Bob?" Viollet said, and Charlton gave the answer he always regretted before getting up and walking away through the snow, past dead bodies he did not recognise, though he did have the presence of mind to place his overcoat over his manager, Matt Busby, who, dreadfully injured, was thought unlikely to live.

Charlton was taken into a coal truck along with Gregg and Bill Foulkes and driven through the blizzard, skidding across the runway at breakneck speed to the Rechts der Isar hospital. When he woke up, he found himself next to a young German reading about the disaster in a newspaper. He asked for the names of the dead, and they came over. 'Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan, Mark Jones, Geoff Bent. Dead.'
"It was like someone reading out the names of pals you go to the dance with at the weekend," he remembered. "Friends who would invite you to come to their Christmas dinner, because I was living in digs. It is really, really upsetting, even today.

advertisement"But it is better for me to tell people how good they were; that's the most important thing. I would hate to think people might forget it, but people don't believe me sometimes when I tell them how good Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, David Pegg, Eddie Colman and Billy Whelan were. They had unbelievable talent."

He is always asked about Edwards, who died in the early hours of Feb 21 after a fight for life that the doctors in Munich could not quite believe. There is a passage in Charlton's autobiography, My Manchester United Years, in which he describes Edwards scoring against the RAF in a move in which he passed to and received the ball from every member of the team, shooting so hard that the goalkeeper ducked from its path.

Charlton was asked if Edwards could be compared to Wayne Rooney, and delivered a dismissive reply. "It is not even worth mentioning, we can talk about Wayne Rooney when he is retired.

"Edwards was just a massive, massive talent. That is the only way I can describe him. There's a picture on the wall of the old youth team, and he looks twice the size of anybody else. In stature, he was enormous.

"He was strong, he was tough and to add to that talent he could use his right foot, his left foot. He was a great long passer, he was a great short passer, he had great stamina and he could play in any position. He loved playing the game; all he wanted to do was to play football."
There was an enormous camaraderie in this Manchester United side, which had won successive League Championships and come achingly close to the Treble, 42 years before Alex Ferguson's side achieved it in Barcelona.

When Charlton joined United, one of his great thrills was staying in a hotel, and the quest for the European Cup appeared magical at a time when few, especially from working-class Manchester, took foreign holidays.

"Playing in Europe was a great adventure. We kept hearing about how good these teams were, but we had no idea who played for them," Charlton said. "We learned a lesson with each game. I was doing my National Service and one of the non-commissioned officers was a Manchester United supporter and took me to the first European Cup fixture the club played. It was at Maine Road [because Old Trafford, wrecked by German bombs during the War, then had no floodlights]. They beat Anderlecht 10-0, and everyone in the city was so excited."

The way Charlton, now 70, can instantly recall the remainder of that 1956-57 season demonstrates how deep and how unreal that thrill must have been. "The next match they lost 4-3 at Bilbao, but came back and won 3-0; we then played Borussia Dortmund, won 3-2 at home and drew 0-0 away. Then, in the semi-finals, we received the biggest lesson you could ever get in football from Real Madrid at a time when they had Di Stefano and Gento. We thought we were good enough to beat them, but it was a harsh lesson to learn."

Half a century before Kevin Keegan argued that football's primary duty was to entertain, it was a philosophy that Busby drilled into his young footballers. "Matt Busby always said to me, 'All those lads you see going to the factories in Trafford Park, they come to watch you on a Saturday. They have boring jobs, so you have to give them something a bit special, something they will enjoy.'

"He was always saying, 'Don't be afraid to express yourselves'. You look at old films of the players and you think everything is slow and ponderous. But I tell you in those days you had to earn your wage. The pitches were unbelievably bad, the ball was heavy, the weather was bad. The best way to describe it is that today everything in football is better."

A year later they reached another European Cup semi-final after beating Red Star Belgrade's Vladimir Beara, then considered the best goalkeeper on the continent, three times before the interval. Viollet and Charlton, the men who sat together as the Elizabethan attempted to clear the runway, scored the goals that cleared the path to Milan.

Bobby Charlton's tales rekindle Babes passion


"Dennis, it's dreadful." They were the first words Bobby Charlton spoke as he came round on the slush-covered runway at Munich Airport, grateful that he had kept his overcoat on as the plane made its third, fatal attempt to take off.

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He had been sitting next to Dennis Viollet who, with Tommy Taylor, provided the deep cutting-edge to the Busby Babes. As the propeller-driven Airspeed Elizabethan, call-sign Zulu Uniform, ploughed through the airport's perimeter fence, Viollet, who at 24 already had a reputation as one of the more sophisticated members of this young, wondrously talented Manchester United side, turned to Charlton and told him, contrary to all the evidence splintering around them, to relax.


Survivor: Bobby Charlton lies in his Munich hospital bed
The next time they spoke they were still in their seats, some 70 yards away from the wrecked plane, Viollet with a deep gash to his head, Charlton outwardly uninjured except for bruising. As the rear section of the aircraft sheared away they had been thrown from the seats onto the runway, and been found by Manchester United's reserve goalkeeper, Harry Gregg, who proved one of the heroes of the disaster. Gregg initially thought them dead, before dragging them "like rag dolls" back into their seats, where they regained consciousness in the damp, bitter February air.

"Have we crashed Bob?" Viollet said, and Charlton gave the answer he always regretted before getting up and walking away through the snow, past dead bodies he did not recognise, though he did have the presence of mind to place his overcoat over his manager, Matt Busby, who, dreadfully injured, was thought unlikely to live.

Charlton was taken into a coal truck along with Gregg and Bill Foulkes and driven through the blizzard, skidding across the runway at breakneck speed to the Rechts der Isar hospital. When he woke up, he found himself next to a young German reading about the disaster in a newspaper. He asked for the names of the dead, and they came over. 'Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan, Mark Jones, Geoff Bent. Dead.'

"It was like someone reading out the names of pals you go to the dance with at the weekend," he remembered. "Friends who would invite you to come to their Christmas dinner, because I was living in digs. It is really, really upsetting, even today.

advertisement"But it is better for me to tell people how good they were; that's the most important thing. I would hate to think people might forget it, but people don't believe me sometimes when I tell them how good Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, David Pegg, Eddie Colman and Billy Whelan were. They had unbelievable talent."

He is always asked about Edwards, who died in the early hours of Feb 21 after a fight for life that the doctors in Munich could not quite believe. There is a passage in Charlton's autobiography, My Manchester United Years, in which he describes Edwards scoring against the RAF in a move in which he passed to and received the ball from every member of the team, shooting so hard that the goalkeeper ducked from its path.

Charlton was asked if Edwards could be compared to Wayne Rooney, and delivered a dismissive reply. "It is not even worth mentioning, we can talk about Wayne Rooney when he is retired.

"Edwards was just a massive, massive talent. That is the only way I can describe him. There's a picture on the wall of the old youth team, and he looks twice the size of anybody else. In stature, he was enormous.

"He was strong, he was tough and to add to that talent he could use his right foot, his left foot. He was a great long passer, he was a great short passer, he had great stamina and he could play in any position. He loved playing the game; all he wanted to do was to play football."

There was an enormous camaraderie in this Manchester United side, which had won successive League Championships and come achingly close to the Treble, 42 years before Alex Ferguson's side achieved it in Barcelona.

When Charlton joined United, one of his great thrills was staying in a hotel, and the quest for the European Cup appeared magical at a time when few, especially from working-class Manchester, took foreign holidays.

"Playing in Europe was a great adventure. We kept hearing about how good these teams were, but we had no idea who played for them," Charlton said. "We learned a lesson with each game. I was doing my National Service and one of the non-commissioned officers was a Manchester United supporter and took me to the first European Cup fixture the club played. It was at Maine Road [because Old Trafford, wrecked by German bombs during the War, then had no floodlights]. They beat Anderlecht 10-0, and everyone in the city was so excited."

The way Charlton, now 70, can instantly recall the remainder of that 1956-57 season demonstrates how deep and how unreal that thrill must have been. "The next match they lost 4-3 at Bilbao, but came back and won 3-0; we then played Borussia Dortmund, won 3-2 at home and drew 0-0 away. Then, in the semi-finals, we received the biggest lesson you could ever get in football from Real Madrid at a time when they had Di Stefano and Gento. We thought we were good enough to beat them, but it was a harsh lesson to learn."

Half a century before Kevin Keegan argued that football's primary duty was to entertain, it was a philosophy that Busby drilled into his young footballers. "Matt Busby always said to me, 'All those lads you see going to the factories in Trafford Park, they come to watch you on a Saturday. They have boring jobs, so you have to give them something a bit special, something they will enjoy.'

"He was always saying, 'Don't be afraid to express yourselves'. You look at old films of the players and you think everything is slow and ponderous. But I tell you in those days you had to earn your wage. The pitches were unbelievably bad, the ball was heavy, the weather was bad. The best way to describe it is that today everything in football is better."

A year later they reached another European Cup semi-final after beating Red Star Belgrade's Vladimir Beara, then considered the best goalkeeper on the continent, three times before the interval. Viollet and Charlton, the men who sat together as the Elizabethan attempted to clear the runway, scored the goals that cleared the path to Milan.

"Everyone was so happy, there was so much laughter because we had qualified," Charlton said. "There was a first attempt to take off, but they said they had a technical problem and would have to go back. We did that for a second time, and again the message came through, 'We can't take off'. And then, the third time, the plane just went straight along the runway.

"When you fly, you have a general idea how long it takes to take off and I was sitting there thinking, 'There's something not quite right here'. Then, we went through a perimeter fence and I don't remember anything until afterwards. The accident simply happened because they didn't realise the speed of the aircraft, how much slush was on the runway and how much snow was coming down. These days, they wouldn't have taken off. I think about it quite often.

"I think about Captain Thain [the commander of BEA flight 609, who survived the crash and was afterwards made something of a scapegoat for the disaster]. I wonder what his thoughts were, and why we took off, but I suppose it will never be proved.

"For the people who survived, all you can say is that we were lucky. It was Matt Busby's family, and he probably felt the loss more than anyone because he had brought these players together, he had cajoled everyone's parents to make them sign for Manchester United and then took them into Europe against the FA's wishes."

Charlton's view is that the Football Association and the Football League indirectly played a part in the Munich Disaster. They were never keen on the European Cup, and had successfully put pressure on Chelsea not to compete in the inaugural 1955-56 tournament.

When Busby did enter Manchester United, it was on the understanding that they return to England at least 24 hours before their next league fixture, which was then against the eventual champions, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

These days, United return from Europe immediately after the game, landing at what used to be known as Ringway Airport in the small hours. In 1958, United spent the Wednesday night at an official banquet at which their three Yorkshire players, Tommy Taylor, David Pegg and Mark Jones delivered a public rendition of On Ilkley Moor Baht'at, took off from Zemun Airport in mid-morning and landed at Munich at 1.15pm on the Thursday. If they had aborted the flight, they would have to make it back to Ringway by 3pm the following day or incur FA sanctions"Alan Hardaker (the then secretary of the Football League) argued that he was protecting the 'integrity' of the League, preventing important matches being squeezed into the programme in the shadow of European action," Charlton wrote in his autobiography. "Another interpretation was that he was making it as difficult as possible for the man who had defied him with his insistence that United would fight on this new frontier of football."

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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

United's greatest ever player imo. Not only was he present in two of the most important features of our history (Munich and the European Cup win), he of course holds the appearence record, was an amazing player of the game, and is still involved with the club today, that's dedication!

It's so sad to hear him talk about Munich, it brings tears to my eyes. He was barely more than a boy then, must've affected him so much :cry:
[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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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

Bobby Charlton's tales rekindle Babes passion

By Tim Rich
Last Updated: 1:57am GMT 02/02/2008

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"Dennis, it's dreadful." They were the first words Bobby Charlton spoke as he came round on the slush-covered runway at Munich Airport, grateful that he had kept his overcoat on as the plane made its third, fatal attempt to take off.


He had been sitting next to Dennis Viollet who, with Tommy Taylor, provided the deep cutting-edge to the Busby Babes. As the propeller-driven Airspeed Elizabethan, call-sign Zulu Uniform, ploughed through the airport's perimeter fence, Viollet, who at 24 already had a reputation as one of the more sophisticated members of this young, wondrously talented Manchester United side, turned to Charlton and told him, contrary to all the evidence splintering around them, to relax.

The next time they spoke they were still in their seats, some 70 yards away from the wrecked plane, Viollet with a deep gash to his head, Charlton outwardly uninjured except for bruising. As the rear section of the aircraft sheared away they had been thrown from the seats onto the runway, and been found by Manchester United's reserve goalkeeper, Harry Gregg, who proved one of the heroes of the disaster. Gregg initially thought them dead, before dragging them "like rag dolls" back into their seats, where they regained consciousness in the damp, bitter February air.

"Have we crashed Bob?" Viollet said, and Charlton gave the answer he always regretted before getting up and walking away through the snow, past dead bodies he did not recognise, though he did have the presence of mind to place his overcoat over his manager, Matt Busby, who, dreadfully injured, was thought unlikely to live.

Charlton was taken into a coal truck along with Gregg and Bill Foulkes and driven through the blizzard, skidding across the runway at breakneck speed to the Rechts der Isar hospital. When he woke up, he found himself next to a young German reading about the disaster in a newspaper. He asked for the names of the dead, and they came over. 'Roger Byrne, David Pegg, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan, Mark Jones, Geoff Bent. Dead.'

"It was like someone reading out the names of pals you go to the dance with at the weekend," he remembered. "Friends who would invite you to come to their Christmas dinner, because I was living in digs. It is really, really upsetting, even today.
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"But it is better for me to tell people how good they were; that's the most important thing. I would hate to think people might forget it, but people don't believe me sometimes when I tell them how good Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, David Pegg, Eddie Colman and Billy Whelan were. They had unbelievable talent."

He is always asked about Edwards, who died in the early hours of Feb 21 after a fight for life that the doctors in Munich could not quite believe. There is a passage in Charlton's autobiography, My Manchester United Years, in which he describes Edwards scoring against the RAF in a move in which he passed to and received the ball from every member of the team, shooting so hard that the goalkeeper ducked from its path.

Charlton was asked if Edwards could be compared to Wayne Rooney, and delivered a dismissive reply. "It is not even worth mentioning, we can talk about Wayne Rooney when he is retired.

"Edwards was just a massive, massive talent. That is the only way I can describe him. There's a picture on the wall of the old youth team, and he looks twice the size of anybody else. In stature, he was enormous.

"He was strong, he was tough and to add to that talent he could use his right foot, his left foot. He was a great long passer, he was a great short passer, he had great stamina and he could play in any position. He loved playing the game; all he wanted to do was to play football."

There was an enormous camaraderie in this Manchester United side, which had won successive League Championships and come achingly close to the Treble, 42 years before Alex Ferguson's side achieved it in Barcelona.

When Charlton joined United, one of his great thrills was staying in a hotel, and the quest for the European Cup appeared magical at a time when few, especially from working-class Manchester, took foreign holidays.

"Playing in Europe was a great adventure. We kept hearing about how good these teams were, but we had no idea who played for them," Charlton said. "We learned a lesson with each game. I was doing my National Service and one of the non-commissioned officers was a Manchester United supporter and took me to the first European Cup fixture the club played. It was at Maine Road [because Old Trafford, wrecked by German bombs during the War, then had no floodlights]. They beat Anderlecht 10-0, and everyone in the city was so excited."

The way Charlton, now 70, can instantly recall the remainder of that 1956-57 season demonstrates how deep and how unreal that thrill must have been. "The next match they lost 4-3 at Bilbao, but came back and won 3-0; we then played Borussia Dortmund, won 3-2 at home and drew 0-0 away. Then, in the semi-finals, we received the biggest lesson you could ever get in football from Real Madrid at a time when they had Di Stefano and Gento. We thought we were good enough to beat them, but it was a harsh lesson to learn."

Half a century before Kevin Keegan argued that football's primary duty was to entertain, it was a philosophy that Busby drilled into his young footballers. "Matt Busby always said to me, 'All those lads you see going to the factories in Trafford Park, they come to watch you on a Saturday. They have boring jobs, so you have to give them something a bit special, something they will enjoy.'

"He was always saying, 'Don't be afraid to express yourselves'. You look at old films of the players and you think everything is slow and ponderous. But I tell you in those days you had to earn your wage. The pitches were unbelievably bad, the ball was heavy, the weather was bad. The best way to describe it is that today everything in football is better."

A year later they reached another European Cup semi-final after beating Red Star Belgrade's Vladimir Beara, then considered the best goalkeeper on the continent, three times before the interval. Viollet and Charlton, the men who sat together as the Elizabethan attempted to clear the runway, scored the goals that cleared the path to Milan.

"Everyone was so happy, there was so much laughter because we had qualified," Charlton said. "There was a first attempt to take off, but they said they had a technical problem and would have to go back. We did that for a second time, and again the message came through, 'We can't take off'. And then, the third time, the plane just went straight along the runway.

"When you fly, you have a general idea how long it takes to take off and I was sitting there thinking, 'There's something not quite right here'. Then, we went through a perimeter fence and I don't remember anything until afterwards. The accident simply happened because they didn't realise the speed of the aircraft, how much slush was on the runway and how much snow was coming down. These days, they wouldn't have taken off. I think about it quite often.

"I think about Captain Thain [the commander of BEA flight 609, who survived the crash and was afterwards made something of a scapegoat for the disaster]. I wonder what his thoughts were, and why we took off, but I suppose it will never be proved.

"For the people who survived, all you can say is that we were lucky. It was Matt Busby's family, and he probably felt the loss more than anyone because he had brought these players together, he had cajoled everyone's parents to make them sign for Manchester United and then took them into Europe against the FA's wishes."

Charlton's view is that the Football Association and the Football League indirectly played a part in the Munich Disaster. They were never keen on the European Cup, and had successfully put pressure on Chelsea not to compete in the inaugural 1955-56 tournament.

When Busby did enter Manchester United, it was on the understanding that they return to England at least 24 hours before their next league fixture, which was then against the eventual champions, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

These days, United return from Europe immediately after the game, landing at what used to be known as Ringway Airport in the small hours. In 1958, United spent the Wednesday night at an official banquet at which their three Yorkshire players, Tommy Taylor, David Pegg and Mark Jones delivered a public rendition of On Ilkley Moor Baht'at, took off from Zemun Airport in mid-morning and landed at Munich at 1.15pm on the Thursday. If they had aborted the flight, they would have to make it back to Ringway by 3pm the following day or incur FA sanctions.

"Alan Hardaker (the then secretary of the Football League) argued that he was protecting the 'integrity' of the League, preventing important matches being squeezed into the programme in the shadow of European action," Charlton wrote in his autobiography. "Another interpretation was that he was making it as difficult as possible for the man who had defied him with his insistence that United would fight on this new frontier of football."

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Re: Bobby Charlton

9 years ago

Bobby Charlton, throughout my 30 odd years of supporting our great club, has voiced his sad memories of that night, and each time, it makes me well up inside but he also has many great memories of the players. What he has been through over the years, only he knows, but when he says as he did a few days ago on TV "why did I survive? And why were others lost?" You can see and feel his enormous pain, he still feels that pain like it was yesterday. This is what always strikes me, when i am watching him talking on Tv about Munich, sometimes I myself have to look away from the glare of pain in his eyes. Them when he starts talking about Duncan Edwards, "the greatest footballer I ever played with" his eyes light up. I admire Bobby Charlton so much, my Mum and Dad used to rave about him as a player and we should all rave about him as a great gentleman also. I say no more..

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