From the Daily Mail
How one mother's son personified the waste of so many young lives
The old lady's house was full of memories. There were scrapbooks and letters, pictures and postcards, all the poignant minutiae of a short and shining life. She handled each item tenderly, with the pride of a mother.
Several times she smiled, as incidents sprang unbidden to mind. And once she shed a tear, as she remembered her infant son, kicking a ball.
Sarah Ann Edwards closed her eyes and gently shook her head. "Mah Dooncan," she said, in the broad vowels of the Black Country.
He was a devil for the football. You couldn't take the football away from him."
She was a lovely lady, Mrs Edwards; a warm, kindly soul, always topping up your tea and producing more sandwiches. "There, that'll keep you going," she'd say, the way mothers do.
She died in 2003, at the great age of 93. But the light had gone out of her life more than 45 years earlier.
Whenever we think of Munich, we remember her lad, the one with the barrel chest and thighs like oaks. Of course, we acknowledge the pain of all those other grieving families, but the disaster was so vast and so randomly cruel that it resists comprehension; far easier to select one young man as the personification of the promise, the joy, and the heart-rending waste. Duncan Edwards has filled that role for half a century.
When the first reports of the crash came in, I remember my father calling home from the sports room at the News Chronicle. He knew many of the people on the plane, and some were good friends. An instinctively calm man, he sounded shocked and helpless. He called several times, but his voice kept on breaking. In the end, he left us to our tears.
To understand our anguish, it was necessary to understand how we felt about those men. We did not know them in the way we believe we know the modern players. For one thing, we rarely saw them play. There was no live football on television, save the FA Cup Final.
To watch these players, you went to the ground when they came to your town.
By definition, only a small number of people could take that option, so you grew to know the team by rumour and report.
And all the rumours, all the reports insisted that Manchester United were exceptional.
In his wonderful book on the tragedy, the journalist John Roberts illustrated the human qualities of young men thrust into the spotlight and blinking in its glare.
There was a young Dubliner, hugely gifted yet fearfully shy. When he arrived at Old Trafford, he was greeted by Johnny Carey, captain of United and Ireland.
"What's your name, then?" said Carey.
"Liam," said the lad. "Liam, is it?" smiled Carey. "Well, you hold on to that name, Liam. They'll try and take it away from you here."
And, of course, they did. To Mancunians, he was always the anglicised 'Billy'. But he never protested.
Apparently, when required to wear a club blazer on social occasions, he would throw a coat over his shoulder to hide the badge, so that nobody would think him grand. He was a fine man, was Liam Whelan.
And Tommy Taylor, the dramatically accomplished striker. Leave aside the strength and the pace.
Remember, instead, the youthful uncertainty.
After the crash, Taylor's sister-in- law went to his digs to collect his things. "We found two little black and yellow books," she said. "One was Teach Yourself Public Speaking, the other was Teach Yourself Maths. It broke my heart. They showed just how much he wanted to improve himself."
Mark that reference to 'digs'. That was the way of things when you earned £20 a week in winter and £17 in summer. You lived in digs if unmarried, and a club house when the knot was tied.
And that way was accepted by young men like Billy Foulkes, the miner who worried about leaving the security of the pit, and Bobby Charlton, of whom great things were expected.
They were essentially ordinary people, save for their talent.
And Edwards was the most talented of all.
As a boy, I saw him defeat the Scots at Wembley. I thought him a magical figure, yet I wondered if the years had inflated the legend.
So last week I consulted Sir Tom Finney, a contemporary of Edwards.
"Wonderful player," said Sir Tom. "He was so strong that people could only see the power. But he had a very delicate touch.
"He was 18 when he won his first cap, and some thought that was too soon. But I didn't. Duncan was already a good player who was going to be a great one."
But then it ended; suddenly, brutally. The airliner crashed at its third attempt to take off from a frozen airfield.
And the young men perished. "I remember the sadness," said Finney. "Terrible sadness. The club came back and prospered, but they never had better than the side of '58."
Mrs Edwards once told me how she had encouraged her son to take up a trade, in case his football should not live up to expectations.
"He said he might try his hand at cabinetmaking but he was only trying to please me."
And she said something else.
She remarked how touched she was to find fresh flowers on his grave in Dudley cemetery whenever United played at Wolverhampton or Villa.
"Fancy them remembering after all this time," she said. Yet, secretly, she knew they would always remember. For this was Duncan Edwards. Such men are never forgotten.
Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.
"My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their fornicate perch...and you can print that."SAF