14th May 1947: Manchester City and England goalkeeper, Frank Swift, who died in the Munich air disaster while working as a journalist. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Frank Swift never played a game for United, in fact he spent his entire career keeping goal for city rivals Manchester City. And yet his name will be forever linked with red side of Manchester. As a journalist for the News of the World, Frank was on board Flight 609 along with the United players and staff. He was one of the 23 passengers to perish that day.
One of the greatest pre-war goalkeepers, if not of all time, Frank Swift was signed from non League Fleetwood Town in 1932 aged just 18, and was thrust into first team action a day before his 19th birthday. Once there, he remained the last line of City's defence until 1950. After making his debut against Derby County, he played in every game for four consecutive seasons, missing only one match in the final full season before the onset of war. During this streak, he helped City to the FA Cup in 1934, and his finest moment, the League Championship in 1937. The emotion of winning the Cup was too much for the young keeper, and he fainted after the final whistle. He recovered sufficiently to receive his medal, and the King, George V, later sent a telegram to ensure he was alright.
Despite the interruption of the Second World War, he was to play nearly 400 times for the club. Even that wasn't to stop him though, despite the conflict he made more than 150 wartime appearances for City, and played for his country 14 times in the same period. He would go on to play a further 19 times in official competition between 1946 and 1949.
31st January 1948: Manchester City and England international goalkeeper, Frank Swift (1913 - 1958), punches away a shot during a match against Arsenal FC. Original Publication: Picture Post - 4498 - Britain's No. 1 Goalie - pub. 1948 (Photo by Charles Hewitt/Picture Post/Getty Images)
In 1948, he became the first goalkeeper since 1873 to captain England when he was given the armband for a game in Turin against Italy. The match was an emphatic victory for England who ran out 4-0 winners, the game being described as England's most emphatic and arguably best win, and is almost certainly England's best win on foreign soil. The next day, whilst sightseeing in Turin, Swift chanced upon a poster of the England team, completely covering a restaurant front.
His final medal was to come the year before, when City claimed the Second Division Championship. It was to prove his last hurrah, as in 1949/50 he retired from the game, much to the general shock of all. At 36, it was reckoned he could have played on for several seasons yet.
On retirement, he became a journalist. It was in this capacity, covering United's European Cup tie against Red Star Belgrade for the News of the World that he came to be on the plane in Munich. Though he was pulled alive from the wreckage, he died on the way to the hospital. He was 44.
Widely respected as both a player and journalist, he was named in the Football League 100 Legends
in 1998. In 2004, he was inducted into the newly created Manchester City Hall of Fame.
1933-1949 Manchester City 376 (0)
1939-1946 England (Wartime) 14 (0)
1946-1949 England 19 (0)
Born: Blackpool, Lancashire. December 26th, 1913.
Died: Munich, Germany. February 6th, 1958
Sporting hero: Frank Swift: Keith Roberts
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