I thought they were dead and I dragged their bodies, like rag dolls, into the seats which had been thrown about twenty yards from the plane. I started calling out for Jackie. I found Matt Busby, who was conscious, but holding his chest in pain, crying out "my legs, my legs. I propped him up and found Blanchie crying, with Roger Byrne lying across him dead. I pulled it so hard that my tie snapped in half but I managed to tie his arm with what was left.
I shouted at him to go and help the injured in the aircraft but suddenly there were some explosions from the burning half of the plane and the force through the doctor off his feet. He was a strange sight falling on his backside in the snow, with his legs in the air holding the syringe in his hand. I was so relieved, I thought they were dead. Shortly after this, when it looked as though the rescuers had everything under control, I sank to my knees and wept, thanking God that some of us had been saved. I had never seen death before and I never wanted to see it again.
The heart and soul of the club had been ripped asunder. United only won one league game after Munich and they ended the season in ninth, the did however reach the FA Cup Final, with thanks to players like Gregg, which is a huge testament to their courage and professionalism. The FA Cup final came as a massive anti-climax for the club, after getting to Wembley the team had to wait six long weeks to play. And in that time there was a lot of reflection. The team who took to the pitch against Bolton were mentally drained before the game, and with many players voicing their unhappiness at being labelled "heroes" for playing football while their friends lay dead, the game became one where the players had no interest in playing.
Bolton won The next 10 years were tough ones for players at Manchester United, they wanted to win trophies, but they felt guilty about achieving this without their lost friends. Eventually time heals most wounds and as professionals United went on to win the league in '64 and '66 and the FA Cup in ' Unfortunately for the best keeper in the world, he missed out on all the glory and medals as he was injured for much of the time United were challenging.
Earlier injuries of his dislocated elbow and broken ankle coming back to haunt him. In June , the World Cup took place in Sweden and the reverberations of the Munich air disaster were still present An England team who had lost three of its sons was knocked out in the group stages while Harry Gregg represented Northern Ireland. To qualify for the World Cup, the Northern Irish had finished on top of a group that contained European heavyweights Italy and Portugal. Northern Ireland would also go to Sweden without one of their best as Jackie Blanchflower was forced to retire after Munich after he had lost arm.
This run of results saw them finish in the playoff positions and after drawing Czechoslovakia in the the draw they beat them after extra time to become the smallest country ever to qualify for the Quarter Finals, where they were knocked out by France. In the late '50s Northern Ireland were blessed with some of the best players in Europe. Danny Blanchflower Jackie's older brother , the legendary captain of the Spurs double winning side marshaled the midfield with an amazing eye for a pass. And Harry Gregg who was regarded as the best keeper in Britain.
Gregg put in some very impressive performances in Sweden, and in his four games he missed the playoff against Czechoslovakia he did enough to convince FIFA and many of the journalists present to vote him the best goalkeeper in the tournament, and indeed the world. As Matt Busby continued to rebuild his team in his conquest for European domination, Harry Gregg was sold to Stoke in the summer of His stay was a short one as he took over as manager of Shrewsbury Town after only two games for the Potters.
His four years for the Shrews were largely nondescript and they maintained their place in Division Four throughout.
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In November , he became manager of Swansea City, before resigning in to join Crewe Alexandra where he remained until He then had a spell with his old team Manchester United at the invitation of Dave Sexton as goalkeeper coach, where he stayed until Sexton left. His next club was Swindon Town as an assistant manager to Lou Macari, helping them win the Fourth Division title in During the '87 season he had an uneventful spell as manager of Carlisle United, failing to prevent them from suffering a second successive relegation that pushed them into the Fourth Division for the first time since the s.
The job at Carlisle was his foray into club management, and his 20 year career as a manager was mostly spent at the coalface fighting fires in smaller clubs who looked like extinction was only around the corner. He may not have won trophies or achieved much with distinction as a manager, but Gregg is immensely proud of the players who passed by under his watch who went on to achieve greatness.
In Grobbelaar's case, Gregg trained him at Old Trafford and begged Dave Sexton to sign hi,m but he decided not to and a couple of months later he signed for Liverpool. Grobbelaar sent Gregg a letter of thanks after the move to Anfield saying that he was on the verge of going home to Zimbabwe before he met Gregg and that his time and coaching had improved him immensely.
That gave Gregg more satisfaction than anything he achieved during his own career. It wasn't only goalkeepers who benefited, Jim Holton was a broken man after being released by West Brom. And Harry took him to Shrewsbury and told him he could play for Scotland, one year later Holton was bought by Manchester United and played in the World Cup in Working with kids who had been let go and helping turn their careers around gave Harry Gregg huge satisfaction. And most of his players came back to acknowledge the influence of one of the game's good guys.
Utter destruction and devastation.
Manchester's Finest: How the Munich air disaster broke the heart of a great city
Back home in Dublin, the Whelan family learned of the shattering news hours after it had first broken. He was a good friend of the family. As news filtered through and the whole picture emerged, the scale of the tragedy became agonisingly clear. Eddie Colman — dead. Tommy Taylor — dead. But there was no mention of Liam. The house was full of people but we all knew. Liam Whelan, pictured here with David Pegg, won four Ireland caps. Described as the lost talent of Irish football, Whelan was nudging greatness when tragedy intruded, and it was perhaps his unassuming disposition, and reluctance to appear in the media, that cost him the affection in which some of his team-mates were held.
Under the tutelage of Busby and Murphy, and playing alongside such gifted players at Old Trafford, the horizon for Whelan appeared boundless. Without question, he was one of the greatest footballers Ireland has ever produced. Even more heartbreaking was the fact he was due to be joined in Manchester by his soon-to-be wife Ruby and the pair planned on settling down together in England, which would certainly have eased his homesickness and helped his performances on the pitch.
He gave them money to go to the shop up by the bridge [now named after him] to buy a ball and when they got back, he was out playing on the road with them. In just four years at Manchester United, he left a lasting legacy and achieved immortality through his gifted performances in red and the part he had to play in the evolution and success of the Busby Babes. His team-mates were all universal in praise.
He was so skilful and they [the press] used to say he was slow, but he could get there! He could take them all on and beat them. He was terrific, he was a terrific boy. Follow us: the Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can obtain a copy of the Code, or contact the Council, at www. Please note that TheJournal. For more information on cookies please refer to our cookies policy. News images provided by Press Association and Photocall Ireland unless otherwise stated.
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Interview with David Hall, Author of "Manchester's Finest" - World Soccer Talk
Those words resonate like never before. Either way, there is a deep, profound connection. The Busby Babes. The English League Champions. The Flowers of Manchester. Similarly, the same can be said about Manchester United as a club. He was rolling the ball and went by somebody, I forget who it was, but who appeared, only Liam.
And he took the ball off him and stood in front of Matthews and just kept rolling the ball back and forward down by the corner flag and nutmegged him. That was my father. Schoolboy friends waited silently, hoping against hope for the word that he survived. The plane has crashed. He was so loved and we saw that at the funeral.
It was a sad occasion. It got us through those days and weeks and months and years.
It gets us through even now all these years after. Short URL. About the author:. About the author. Ryan Bailey. See more articles by Ryan Bailey. Contribute to this story: Leave a Comment. Send a Correction.
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