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Johnny Berry

Mon Jan 07, 2008 1:49 pm

[center]" We are going to die......" - Johnny Berry[/center]

[center]Johnny Berry (1926 – 1994 )[/center]


[center]Name John James Berry
Date of birth 1 june 1926
Place of birth Aldershot, England
Date of death 23 September 1994
Nationality English
Position Right Wing
Appearances 276
Goals Scored 45[/center]

English born John Berry was too small to make a footballer thus he left school to become a trainee cinema projectionist after being rejected by his hometown team.

His talent were only spotted by Birmingham City at that time captain, Fred Harris while playing for his army team in India during the Second World War.

In 1947, he started off as an amateur at Birmingham City before later as professional & had a productive period at St Andrews before joining Manchester United in 1951.


By the start of 1951-1952, Matt Busby were so impressed with his performance against United at the end of the previous season where he had single handedly literally destroyed United, he went to purchase him right after Jimmy Delaney left Old Trafford.

Making his debut as a United player at Burden Park on 1st September 1951, he went on to collect a League Championship medal, appearing in the side 36 times & scoring 6 goals.

4 years later when united won another League Championship Trophy, Berry was one of only two players left in the side from the Championship winning team of 1951-52. He collected a third league medal in the 1956-1957 season & was an FA cup finalist in 1957 along with 4 England caps.

Berry, standing at only 5 feet 5 inches high, was a speedy right-winger who delighted football supporters where ever he played. Johnny Berry has rather more to his game than the typical winger's bag of tricks - though he has those too. In addition to this he also had an eye for goal. He scored 45 goals in 276 appearances for United, including the winner in the quarter-final of the European Cup in 1957 against Athletic Bilbao.


As well as the classic winger's abilities, in particular his tremendous knack for getting to the goal-line and sending in dangerous crosses, Berry has the heart of a real competitor - many an opposing full-back has been surprised by his determination to tackle back with the best of them.

Sadly he was one of the victim involved in 1958 Munich tragedy which killed seven of his team mates as well as three club officials eight journalists, two passengers and two members of the flight crew. It is known that the take off from Belgrade was delayed for an hour as Johnny is believed to have lost his passport before the plane then stopped to refuel on the return journey to Manchester in Munich.

Even though he survived the crash, which one describe as miracle, the injury he sustain didn’t allow him to ever play football again. He suffered horrific injuries including a fractured skull, broken jaw & a broken pelvis. When he woke up he was totally unaware of the plane crash, his injuries having caused a light form of amnesia. He received the sad news one month after he regained consciousness & that too after spending a very long time in hospital recovering from his injuries before working for Massey Harris in Trafford Park before returning to his home town of Aldershot.

In the 1960’s Berry went into the business with his younger brother Peter, selling sports clothing.

Johnny Berry died in September 1994, aged 68, after a short illness. He was the first surviving player of the Munich Air Disaster to have died.


@pictures credit to Getty

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Re: Johnny Berry

Mon Jan 14, 2008 9:24 am

Munich: the trauma has endured

Neil Berry recalls his grief at the misery and loss caused by the crash that nearly killed his father

Time to appreciate the glorious temple Busby created

February 6, 1958:

I HAD returned home from school and was playing alleys (marbles) in our street in Davyhulme. My mother shouted loudly for me to come in. I went in thinking that I was going to get a telling off for something, because I was usually allowed to play out until tea-time, and that was still a long way off. But my mother told me that she had just heard on the radio that the plane my father was on had been involved in a crash.

I was eight at the time and I thought that this was tremendously exciting news. I imagined him and the other players falling from the sky in parachutes wearing their football kit, much more exciting than being a footballer.

My mother became more and more anxious and within a few minutes some of the other wives and our friends came around to sit and wait for news. It was a night that it is impossible for me to forget and it still lives with me today. Nearly everyone at United was on the plane and there was no ready source of information. We relied totally on the television and radio, and as communications were much slower in those days we had to wait for hours and hours.

Granada TV gave regular news flashes about the accident, which I still had not fully comprehended. The thought of any of the young men, who had been so good to me as a child, being killed never occurred to me. I still thought that they would fly home on another plane and be ready to play again on Saturday. Then the news started coming through. Players' names were given out as being dead or as having survived. This went on throughout the night.

My father's name did not come up as being a survivor until six hours after we first heard about the crash. You can imagine the state we were all in. Manchester City Hospital had sent round some nurses, who administered tranquilisers to those who needed them. My mother flew out to Munich the next day, and my brothers and I would not see her or my father for the next three months.

I was sent to school as usual the following morning while arrangements were made for my brothers and I to be looked after. Mum and the other wives and relatives flew to Munich.

I still had no idea that the events of the previous day were real. My favourite children's television programmes were Champion the Wonder Horse and The Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger, especially, was shot at almost every week, fell off his horse and was wounded, but arrived in perfect condition for next week's episode. I felt no real anguish over the crash because my reality consisted of television drama on children's television, where the 'goodies' were never killed. Manchester United were the goodies as far as I was concerned. So they were indestructible.

When I arrived at school I was met by a shocked and silent group of children. Not one of them spoke, which I found strange. I remember some of the boys in the group, Billy Broomhead, Bertie Billingsley and Tony Fearnley. They just stared at me in disbelief. Not being able to comprehend the situation I went up to my teacher, Miss Thornley, and said: "My dad's been in a plane crash."

"I know," she said with tears in her eyes, and took me to the head teacher, Mr Shaw, who asked me how I felt and then asked me to wait outside his room. Everyone who saw me that morning was very kind and I enjoyed the attention, although I was still not sure why I was being treated in this way.

At lunch-time I was taken to stay with Harry and Rene MacShane and their son Ian, who went on to become a well know actor of stage and screen. My brothers stayed with family friends until my grandmother and aunt arrived to take us to their home in Folkestone.

Within a week we were put into junior school. It was exceptionally cold in February 1958, but we nevertheless insisted that our aunt, Mrs Gwyneth Williams, took us for a walk every day on the beach with her Pekinese dog. This she did in rain, hail and snow in an attempt to create as normal a life as possible for us in Folkestone at what was obviously a very difficult time.

The true extent of the Munich crash only struck home when I persuaded her to take me to the cinema the following Wednesday and I saw the Pathe newsreel of the crash. I saw pictures of the United party in hospital, including Matt Busby in an oxygen tent, and heard them mention that my father was in a coma. I asked my aunt what this meant, and she told me it meant that he was asleep, which I took to mean that it was night time in Germany.

I now realised that many of the young men who had given me chocolate bars, played football with me and who had always been kind - the likes of Tommy Taylor, Duncan Edwards, Billy Whelan, Roger Byrne and Mark Jones - were now dead. While my mother was in Munich we received regular supplies of German chocolate and at Easter we were sent some special Easter eggs.

My aunt did not have a telephone, so we never had the opportunity to speak,

and perhaps this was just as well because much later I discovered that my father was not expected to live in the immediate aftermath of the crash and had been give the last rites by a German priest.

Mum told me later that she could scarcely recognise him when she arrived in Munich as his head was swollen to twice its normal size due to the crash impact. He was surrounded by ice to keep the swelling and bruising to a minimum.

The nature of my father's injuries were kept from me at the time and I simply thought he was asleep and slightly injured. He was, however, to remain in a coma for almost two months, would never play football again and suffered a complete change in his personality.

He went away to play football as one man and returned as a completely different person. He was never able to drive or concentrate for any length of time, and though as he grew older his injuries caused him increasing pain, he seldom complained.

When my parents returned to Manchester from Munich, my father still had no idea what had happened. He thought that he had been in a car crash and knew nothing of the death of his team-mates. On the flight back they sat in front of two young male nurses, who had a bag full of tranquilisers in case he had a sudden flashback to the disaster.

On his return he was was admitted to a hospital in Manchester to help him to continue recovering from his multiple injuries, which included a fractured skull, broken pelvis, jaw injuries leading to the removal of all his teeth, and a broken elbow.

We were allowed to see him for the first time in 13 weeks in May of 1958. I remember being very nervous as my brothers and I went into the room. He was, of course, very pleased to see us and made a great fuss of us. It was shortly after this visit that he picked up a newspaper for the first time since the accident and turned to the sports page.

There was a report of a United game and when he saw the team line-up he could not believe it. Where were all his team-mates? He asked the nurse and a doctor was brought in to explain what had happened: that was how my father first learnt about the crash.

Although he had been in the aircraft he must have been the last person in Britain to know about it. He went through the team name by name and the doctor told him whether they were alive or dead. It was very tough for him.

Within a month he had left hospital and began a prolonged period of convalescence. After about a year he began working for a tractor manufacturing firm, who were then based in Trafford Park. Shortly afterwards we all moved back to the Aldershot area - my father's home town - where my father opened a sports shop with his brother, Peter, a former professional footballer with Ipswich and Crystal Palace.

Their partnership lasted for about 20 years and my father eventually finished his working life as a television warehouseman with Radio Rentals. He died two years ago at the age of 68.

The Munich air crash changed the life of my family forever. We were all personally traumatised by it, suffered indescribable private grief, and it has taken me 40 years to be able to write this.

The time before Munich has left me with many happy memories and, as a consequence of my father's involvement with the club, I am still a United fan, as are my four children. Sadly, living in London, I don't get the opportunity to watch United much, but I was at Wimbledon with two of my children when David Beckham scored that goal from the halfway line last season.

Neil Berry is head teacher at Chesham Park Community College in Buckingham


Re: Johnny Berry

Wed Jan 23, 2008 2:37 pm

50 Years On – “The Wizard of the Wing”

He was the smallest, the oldest, and the vice - captain of that great “Busby Babes” team of the 1950’s. Born on June 1st 1926, in the Hampshire town of Aldershot, he was considered as being “too small” to make a career in football with the “Shots.” How wrong could people have been! So when he left school, he took a job as a trainee cinema projectionist. He played his formative years of football with local amateur teams. In 1945, shortly after he began his National Service, he was sent to India, and it was whilst he was playing out there for the British Army team that he came to the attention of a man named Fred Harris who was the Birmingham City Captain. After being demobbed in 1947 the man I am writing about signed for Birmingham City, first as an amateur, and then later as a professional. That man is Johnny Berry.

Johnny had a fairly productive time at St. Andrews and spent just 4 years there. His journey to Old Trafford came after he had destroyed United in a First Division league game in Birmingham, a performance that Matt Busby never forgot. With Jimmy Delaney having left a few months earlier for Aberdeen, United needed a fast, direct winger who had experience to help with their push to achieve their first championship win since 1911. So it was then that in August 1951, United paid Birmingham 25,000 pounds for the diminutive little winger. He had an immediate impact and United duly achieved their aim, being crowned Champions at the end of the 1951-52 season for the first time in 41 years. Berry’s debut game came on September 1st 1951, at Burnden Park in front of 52,239 fans, in a game against Lancashire arch rivals, Bolton Wanderers, which United lost 0-1. United’s team that day was; Allen; Carey, Redman; Gibson, Chilton, Cockburn; Berry, Pearson, Rowley, Downie, Bond. His first goal for the club came just two weeks later on September 15th at Maine Road in a 2-1 victory for United – a nice start to his “derby” career! He made a total of 36 appearances that season scoring 6 goals, and collected his first Championship winner’s medal.

Johnny was extremely quick and would run at defenders with pace and could move the ball with either foot which enabled him to go either inside or outside of his marker. He was an exquisite dribbler and was a nightmare for a full back to mark. His crossing was deadly accurate with either foot and United’s strikers benefited a tremendous amount from the service that he provided. He was also dangerous in that he would also drift into the middle and suddenly arrive inside the penalty area unsuspected and would be there hammering the ball into the back of the net. For a little fellow, he packed quite a shot, again with both feet. He was a delight to watch especially when he was in full flight. That he only won 4 caps for England is again one of football’s travesties in my opinion. You have to remember that occupying the outside right berth in the England team during those years was a certain ageing, Stanley Mathews. The national team was also picked by a Selection Committee at that time which was made up of several League Club Chairmen – a sad state of affairs, and the reason why the England team was hardly consistent from one game to the next!

I often wonder how today’s fans would view Johnny Berry. To be honest, as they adore a certain young Portugese young man who wears the current number 7 shirt, I am more than certain that they would also have taken Johnny to their hearts. For all of his short stature, Johnny had the heart of a lion. He faced some of the toughest full backs in the game during his time at United, and was targeted for brutality on many occasions. This was a time when there was so much robust physical contact in the game and defenders could tackle from behind and get away with it. He had an unflappable temperament and was just so exciting to watch. Like Cristiano today, Berry could certainly get your arse on the edge of a seat – he completely baffled and bewitched full backs with his trickery, and this produced an awful lot of end-product!

As I said, his international career was so short. He went on the South American tour of 1953 and played in all three games. His next and last cap came some 3 years later in a game against Sweden in Rasunda which ended in a goalless draw. There was some tremendous wingers about during his time and no one could ever say that Tom Finney wasn’t worth his place in the team – but he operated mainly in the left wing berth, and there were many players who got caps during Berry’s time who were nowhere near as good as him. Stan Mathews, as Sir Matt once so aptly put it, loved to “play the Paladium” meaning he loved London and particularly Wembley, but he never liked playing at the likes of Old Trafford, Burnden, Hampden Park, Ninian Park, or Windsor Park!

Johnny reveled in seeing the young “Babes” being introduced around him. He was vice-captain of the team and had the nickname of “Digger” which referred to his powerful shot. As the “Babes” came to the fore – in that Championship winning team of 1956, only he and Roger Byrne remained from the team that had won the Championship some four years earlier. As United entered the new European Cup competition, he was paranoid about flying and certainly didn’t like it, which was the same for a few of the younger players as well. He was always suspicious of foreign food and used to take his own “goodies” with him on the foreign trips, together with a primus stove, which was often the source of merriment from the young lads.

He was an essential cog in that young team, and his form on the whole was so consistent. He also scored some very vital goals and amongst those that I can remember are the one against Bilbao at Maine Road that took United into the European Cup semi-final at their first attempt; the winner against Bournemouth at Dean Court in the F.A.Cup 6th round tie in 1957 that took them into semi-final; the winner in a crucial home League game against Blackpool at Old Trafford in April of 1956 which gave them a 2-1 victory that ensured the First Division title. He was also United’s spot kick expert for a number of years, having taken over the role from Roger Byrne.

Unfortunately for Johnny, in the middle of the 1957-58 season, Busby decided he needed to freshen up his team, and in the December of 1957, after a run of bad results he took action. He bought Harry Gregg from Doncaster Rovers for a British record fee for a goalkeeper of 23,500 pounds. On Saturday, December 21st 1957, Gregg made his debut against Leicester City at Old Trafford, consigning Ray Wood to the Reserves. Also left out of the team were Johnny Berry, Billy Whelan, and David Pegg, and they made way for Kenny Morgans, Bobby Charlton and Albert Scanlon. Sadly for those left out, none would ever play a competitive game in the first team again.

We all know that sad events of the tragedy, and it is amazing that Johnny Berry ever survived at all. His injuries were so horrific; fractured skull, broken jaw; broken elbow, broken pelvis, broken leg. When his wife Hilda arrived at the Munich hospital her first sight was one of him surrounded by packs of ice which was there to try and keep the swellings and bruising to a minimum. He was also in a coma and remained so for almost two months.

Sadly when he returned home to Manchester months later, he still had no clear idea of what had happened, and initially thought that he had been in a car crash. On the flight home from Munich he was accompanied by two nurses who had a bag full of tranquilisers should he have had any sudden flashback to the disaster. He was admitted into a Manchester hospital upon arrival and even then had to undergo the removal of all his teeth to help with the jaw injuries. His first knowledge of what had happened came when he picked up a newspaper which had a report of a United game on the back page, and when he saw the team line-up, he could not believe it. He badgered the nurse and she had to call a doctor who explained to him exactly what had happened. After Johnny asked about his team mates, the doctor went through the team name by name, and the doctor told him whether they had survived or not. Although he had been inside that ill-fated aircraft, he must have been the last person in the world to know it.

His injuries meant that he was never able to pursue his career in football again. He took a job with Massey Ferguson in Trafford Park but in 1960, United asked him to vacate their club house in Davyhulme to accommodate the signing of Maurice Setters. All I’ll say is that it was a sad state of affairs and one that made the Berry family understandably, very bitter. The family moved back to Aldershot his home town, and Johnny and his brother Peter opened a sports shop in the little village of Cove, close by. In 1963 I can recall that I was playing in a match at Aldershot, and needed some studs for my boots. I called in to Berry’s sports shop and it was John that actually served me. He spent great time advising me on what type of studs I needed and he actually fitted my boots with them for me. We spent time talking a little about Manchester but neither he nor I mentioned United. He looked a sick man even then. The sports shop business went on for 20 years, and Johnny spent the last few years of his working life as a storemean in a television retail chain warehouse. Sadly, he didn’t enjoy a long retirement passing away in March 1994 aged just 67 years.

Johnny Berry played 276 games in all competitions for United scoring 45 goals.

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Re: Johnny Berry

Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:40 pm

Finally, i get to read it from someone whom actually knew...a huge thank you for that Tom, that kind of information is what i cant find anywhere else. Thanks again. (Y)

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Re: Johnny Berry

Wed Jan 23, 2008 4:22 pm

Thanks Tom and Siti, very moving.

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Re: Johnny Berry

Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:53 am

Hi, I come from Cove and used to buy all of my sports kit from the shop, at a reduced rate, it was in Queensmead on the main road.

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Re: Johnny Berry

Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:19 pm

Its just horrific that the man had to live with such injuries after the crash and not be the same person after the crash.
But he was 31 at the time, so you got wonder how many seasons he would have played on hadnt the crash happened.
But if we pretend for moment that he was planning on doing a Cantona at end of the season an retire early form the game, Its still sad that he then wasn't able to play out the season and call it quits at the end of it, if that was the plan. But I want strech i'm only sepculating and I have no information and I cannot seen any thing in the posts above that he was planning retirment at end of season.

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