50 Years On – David Pegg – The Flying Yorkshireman
David Pegg was born in the Yorkshire village of Highfields just north of Doncaster on September 20th, 1935. Like most young boys of his age, David took to playing football and became so good at the game that by the time he was 14 years of age, all the top English professional clubs were after his signature. He became an established English Schoolboy international in 1948/49, and thankfully for Manchester United, their chief scout Mr. Joe Armstrong, did a wonderful job in selling the club to David and his family and securing his signing.
He joined the ground staff at Old Trafford at the same time as Albert Scanlon and initially, with David playing at inside left, and Albert at outside left, they formed a potent left sided scoring partnership in the junior and youth teams. When the FA Youth Cup first began in 1952/53, David had already made progress through to the Reserve team even though he had only just reached his 17th birthday. Jimmy Murphy had also switched him from an inside forward to an out and out left wing forward. He was probably the first of Busby’s young “Babes” to breakthrough at first team level. On December 6th 1952, he made his first team debut in a game at Old Trafford against Middlesborough and he was to enjoy a run of some 21 games during that season. He scored his first goal for the club at Roker Park, Sunderland in a 2-2 draw in February of 1953.
In March of 1953, Manchester United signed centre forward Tommy Taylor from Barnsley. He was placed into digs with David in Stretford, and it was the start of a friendship that would only be ended in the most tragic of circumstances. David and big Tom became inseparable! Together with Mark Jones, who was also from Barnsley, they formed a strong Yorkshire trio, and each of them were blessed with that strong Yorkshire wit and charm. David and Tom were two very good looking boys and were always so popular with the female fans. They were mischievous and fun to be around, and both of them had a smile that could melt even the strongest of hearts! They were both single, and enjoyed life to the full.
But football was their game, and with the arrival of Taylor, Jack Rowley was moved from centre forward to outside left and this cost David his place in the first team. The following season 1953/54 he started in the first three games of the season, but was only to make 6 more appearances at the top level after that. Early in the season Busby was still trying to find the right blend for the team and though he introduced several youngsters into the team for the game at Huddersfield on the last day of October, David was disappointed not to be one of them. The following season 1954/55 Jack Rowley was still hanging on to the left wing berth even though he was 35 years of age. By this time Albert Scanlon had also progressed and he too was knocking on the first team door. David played 4 games in early 1955 but sadly, three of them ended in defeat including a 5-0 home drubbing by Manchester City. Jack Rowley’s career at Old Trafford came to an end the week after that “derby” defeat when Manchester City knocked United out of the FA Cup b y 2-0 in a fourth round tie at Maine Road. David was in for the next two games which ended in defeat by 4-2 at home against Wolves, and then by 3-0 at Ninian Park, Cardiff. After the Cardiff game he was left out and Albert Scanlon became the first cholice.
It was in the following season that he made his breakthrough and made the left wing position his own. He had developed a strong running type of game and could run at defenders at pace, and his delivery of the ball into the penalty box set up so many goals for the other forwards. He played 35 league games and 1 FA Cup game that season, but helped the team win their first Championship. This enabled the club to enter the new European Cup competition the following season and meant that they were chasing three trophies; European Cup, First Division Championship, and FA Cup. Manchester United played 57 games that season and David played in 53 of them. Some of his performances were absolutely breathtaking and two I remember in particular came in the European Cup.
On 26th September 1956, in the first ever European Cup game played upon English soil, a second leg Preliminary round tie against Anderlecht at Maine Road; David ran the Belgian side ragged. United won by the astonishing score of 10-0 that evening and David was instrumental in setting up most of the goals, even though he did not get on the score sheet himself. Later on that season, in March of 1957, in the semi-final first leg tie against Real Madrid at their magnificent Bernabeau Stadium, he played magnificently and gave the big Spanish full back Lesmes a real chasing. So much so, that for the return leg at Old Trafford, Real Madrid used a very obscure competition rule, and signed the best right full back in Spain, Becceril, for a period of 14 days, just so that he could counter the threat of Pegg’s strong running game. Although United went out of the competition at that stage, they did retain their First Division title and David picked up another winner’s medal. He also appeared in the FA Cup Final at Wembley against Aston Villa, but with the injury to Ray Wood so early in the game, it disrupted United’s formation and playing 10 men against 11 on the tiring Wembley surface, proved just a little too much for them.
Just two weeks after the FA Cup Final saw David’s breakthrough at International level when he was capped in a World Cup Qualifying match against Eire at Dublin’s Dalymont Park which finished in a 1-1 draw. Byrne, Edwards, and Taylor from United also played in that match. Sadly, it was to be David’s solitary cap.
Season 1957/58 saw David play in the first 26 matches of the season. He had scored 8 goals ina forward line that on paper, was doing its job. They had scored 65 goals – 2.5 goals per game, no mean average. The defence had conceded 38 goals in those games, so although the team wasn’t supposedly firing on all cylinders, their form wasn’t that bad. They had dropped some silly points but mainly through careless individual defensive errors. On December 21st for the game against Leicester City, everybody knew that there would be a change in goal… Harry Gregg had been brought in from Doncaster Rovers. However, at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, when the stadium announcer spelled out the team changes, there was gasps of astonishment by the fans because three forwards who were virtually nailed on regular first team choices were left out – Berry, Whelan… and David Pegg. Sadly, we were not to see david play in the first team ever again, his final appearance being in a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge on December 14th 1957.
Nobody saw those changes coming, but United were trailing Wolves by some 6 points in the chase for the title and Busby explained himself by saying that he felt that the team needed freshening up… so in came 18 years old Kenny Morgans, 19 years old Bobby Charlton, and 22 years old Albert Scanlon.
David went back into the reserves and began the quest to win his place back. Over the next seven weeks, the first team went undefeated in 11 games scoring 34 goals in the process. Busby would not change a winning team. David went to Belgrade as a travelling reserve. Just before the third aborted take off, both he and Tommy Taylor moved from their original seats to the back of the aircraft as they believed that they would be safer there. Sadly, both of these great friends were to perish in the accident.
I have lots of memories of David Pegg. Seeing his happy smiling face emerge from the player’s entrance after a game. Always ready to stand and sign autographs and pass time of day with the fans. The days spent at the Galleon swimming pool during the summer months in the close season. He got to know several of us kids and always acknowledged us. I’ll never forget him coming off the field at Deepdale at half time on a day that was seeing torrential rain come down. As he got towards the player’s tunnel, he spotted me sat inside the trainer’s dugout and he just burst out laughing. He was a wonderful boy, full of life and zest and inseperable from his mate Tommy Taylor. They could be seen at weekends in the local dance halls enjoying themselves… never too big to spend time chatting with supporters.
David was laid to rest in the Redhouse Cemetery close to his home village of Highfields. He was just 22 years of age – one of the youngest to perish in the tragedy. Sleep on in peace dear David, you gave this youngster so many, many happy moments to remember and cherish… you’ll never be forgotten.
David Pegg played 127 times for Manchester United and scored 24 goals.
He was capped once at full international level and also won 3 caps at Under 23 level.