Full name:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]William Augustine Whelan
Date of birth:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]1 April 1935(1935-04-01)
Place of birth:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Date of death:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]6 February 1958 (aged 22)
Place of death:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]Munich, Germany
Playing position:[tab][/tab]Inside Forward
Youth clubs:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]Home Farm
Honours:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]League Championship: 55/6, 56/7
[tab][/tab]1953-1958[tab][/tab]Manchester United[tab][/tab][tab][/tab]79 (43)
National team:[tab][/tab][tab][/tab] Ireland[tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab][tab][/tab]4 (0)
Liam Whelan was a soccer artist whose brains moved faster than his legs. On the ball he could look awkward, even clumsy, yet he had the knack of ghosting past opponent after opponent with the merest of shimmies. And once within shooting distance he was a man to respect, as his record of better than a goal every two games testifies. Indeed, in 1956/57 Liam netted 33 times in 53 senior outings - and he wasn't even playing as an out-and-out front man.
A vivid example of his talent came in the quarter-final of the European Cup in Bilbao that same season. He picked the ball up deep, shuffled half the length of the pitch leaving five defenders in his wake and scored with precision.
The quietly-spoken inside-forward, whose engagingly modtet personality was never altered by his success with United and the Republic of Ireland, played his football with a deceptively relaxed air. Certainly there was nothing casual about his work in the penalty area and he could be especially lethal with his back to goal. One of soccer's more persuasive dummy salesmen, he found an unwilling customer in the shape of a bemused Wrexham defender in January 1957. The subtle flick, which found the net when no danger seemed imminent, was the work of a conjuror.
If this dream of a dribbler had only possessed pace he would have ranked as one of football's all-time greats, even though his career - and his life - ended at Munich. As it was Liam didn't always get the credit he deserved and didn't realise just how good he was.
United's coaching staff, however, were under no such misapprehension, right from the moment he was signed as an l8-year-old from Home Farm with the urgent initial task of replacing the injured John Doherty in the 1953 FA Youth Cup Final against Wolves. Liam - or Billy as he quickly became known to Mancunians - starred in a 7-1 first-leg victory and was marked down for an illustrious future. Indeed, so eyecatching were his gifts that, following a fabulous display in a youth tournament in Switzerland, the club received a discreet inquiry from Brazil about his availability. Needless to say, further interest was not encouraged.
The boy's development continued apace; soon he was a major creative and goal scoring force at senior level and the honours began to mount. Yet such was the wealth of talent available to Matt Busby in that glorious era that, at the time of the Munich disaster, the 22-year-old Dubliner was being kept out of the side by one of his closest friends, Bobby Charlton. Of course, he had so much to give that, sooner or later, he must have reclaimed a place, even if it had not been at Bobby's expense.
Liam was a devout Roman Catholic and, to the last, his faith never wavered. As United's plane made its fateful third attempt at take-off from that slushy German runway, he was heard to murmur: `If the worst happens I am ready for death......I hope we all are.' The tragedy was that the soccer world was far from ready to lose Liam Whelan.
source:Hamlyn's `Manchester United Player by Player' by Ivan Ponting
Billy 'Liam' Whelan was born in Dublin on April 1st 1935. He began playing for Dublin side Home Farm from an early age but was soon spotted by English giants, Manchester United and in May 1953 - at the tender age of 18 years - he made the move across the Irish Sea to Old Trafford. Whelan spent a couple of seasons at United before he began to command a regular place in their first team. Playing at inside-forward for United, Whelan was to become one of their biggest weapons as they won back to back League Championships in 1955-56 and 1956-57.
Whelan was United's top goalscorer in 1956-57 with an incredible 26 goals from 39 appearances. Overall he scored a total of 52 goals from 96 appearances - a scoring rate that any player would have been proud of. Indeed, Whelan's talents were supreme - he was indeed the pick of a very fine bunch of players that were widely known as the Busby Babes.
As well as winning two League Championship medals with United, Whelan also won an FA Cup Runners-up medal in 1957. United lost the final to Aston Villa controversially - Villa scored after a challenge on United's goalkeeper resulted in him leaving the pitch to receive treatment for a fractured cheekbone! Had United won the match they would have also won the distinction of becoming the first side in the twentieth century to win the League and Cup double.
Whelan made his international debut for Ireland in the 4-1 win over Holland on May 10th 1956. He also played in Ireland's 2-1 win over Denmark in October of that year and in May 1957 he played in both matches against England - the 5-1 defeat at Wembley and the 1-1 draw in Dublin. He did not score any goals for his country in those four matches.
Whelan died in February 1958. He was on board the plane carrying Manchester United back to England following their aggregate victory over Red Star Belgrade, and was one of those who tragically died when it crashed following take-off at Munich. He was only 22 years old. The loss of Whelan to Manchester United was huge; however, his loss to Ireland is incalculable. Whelan promised to become one of the finest players to have ever pulled on the green jersey and would have played well into the 1960s. His United Team-mate Bobby Charlton once said that Liam Whelan was the only player whose skill he envied - as accolades go, they really don't get much higher than that.
Friends, fans hail 'Busby Babe' Whelan
By Fiach Kelly
Saturday February 02 2008
The relatives and friends of Liam Whelan, one of Manchester United's 'Busby Babes' to die in the Munich air disaster, gather today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.
Liam -- or 'Billy' as he was known -- was one of 23 to die on February 6, 1958, when the plane bringing the team home from a tie against Red Star Belgrade crashed during take-off at Munich.
The British European Airways plane had stopped for refuelling on its way back to Manchester.
In the run up to the anniversary, Liam's brother Christy told the Irish Independent he can still vividly remember the day of the crash.
He recalled Charlie Jackson, one of Liam's managers from Dublin club Home Farm, calling to the family home.
He said: "My mother used to look at the clock and, if they were due down at three, she would look at ten past three and say, 'They're down'.
"She came in and she says, 'Charlie, what's wrong?' And he says, 'Have you not heard anything?' She said: 'Charlie they're home, look at the clock'.
"He says, 'I'm afraid not Mrs Whelan'."
"Later on we got a phone call and it was Jimmy Murphy from Old Trafford who said: 'From what's left in Old Trafford we send our sincere sympathies'."
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Footage of Liam Whelan Memorial
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