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Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

James Bond’s most famous line, used in so many of the 007 movies is: “The name is Bond. James Bond. ”

CR7 made a sensational second debut for us today, scoring twice.

“The name is Cristiano. You may call me CR7. ”

Normal service resumed as far as I am concerned.

Who ever doubted the impact he would make for us, for a second time?

Maybe one person, the man on the Moon? Does that person wear a blue shirt by chance?

“He’s past it.

Too old.

The legs have gone.

Never go back to a former club.

He’s 36.

A has been looking a big fat salary at the end of his career.”

I heard them all plus more.

Time the Village Idiot went indoors and hid beneath the blankets. Or maybe he should dodge behind the sofa and try and hide if his team are facing us!

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

And, I mean hide, because rival clubs be afraid, be very afraid, because The Boy Is Back In Town! Where is my Thin Lizzy Greatest Hits CD when you are in the mood for celebrating?

CR7 was born to play for us and that is why Sir Alex signed him in 2003. And, thanks to the Boss, Sir Alex played an influential role in persuading Ronaldo to re-join us. The return of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32 in the Holy Bible) was replayed at Old Trafford today. CR7 played the part of the Prodigal Son this afternoon whilst the fatted calf from the Parable was actually a magpie (Newcastle United are nicknamed The Magpies) and Ronaldo and his teammates participated in the feast, a 4-1 win.

The Old Man (Ronaldo aged 36) left The Old Lady (Juventus’s nickname) to start a new Chapter in the illustrious history of Manchester United.

That Chapter began today.


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

On 31 October 1965, Denis Joseph Irwin was born in Cork, Republic of Ireland.Denis played a lot of Gaelic football and hurling during his school days at Coláiste Chríost Rí (CCRí), a Trusteeship Board Catholic secondary school for boys located on Capwell Road on the south side of Cork. Indeed, the young Irwin once marked his future Republic of Ireland team-mate, Niall Quinn, in a minor game of Gaelic football played at Croke Park, Dublin. However, Denis was also an excellent footballer and was capped at schoolboy level by his country. It came as no surprise to his family and friends when he left Turners Cross College football team and crossed the Irish Sea to join Leeds United as an apprentice in March 1982. He was 16-years old at the time and his manager was ex-Leeds United striker, Allan Clarke. His progress at Leeds United was slow and it wasn’t until the 1983-84 season when he made his debut for the Elland Road club (January 1984). He played 12 Second Division games for Leeds United in season 1983-84 and the following season he missed just one League game scoring once in his 41 appearances. Denis lost his place in ex-Leeds captain, Billy Bremner’s, team in the 1985-86 season playing in just 19 Division 2 games without scoring. In May 1986, Denis was placed on the Yorkshire club’s transfer list and was on the verge of moving to Chesterfield. However, the ex-Everton striker Joe Royle, the Oldham Athletic manager, moved in for him immediately. ‘When Leeds let me go, I was devastated. I was only a youngster and I felt like I’d run into a dead end. I’m sure that if I’d not been picked up by Oldham I’d have been tempted to go home to Ireland.’ (Denis speaking to Ted MacAuley of the Sunday Mirror in April 1999)

Irwin spent four highly enjoyable and successful seasons with the Boundary Park club and quickly established himself as the best full-back outside the First Division. He was calmness personified when placed under pressure and rarely made a mistake in the Latics’ defence. A solid performer who was hard but fair in the tackle, a player of immaculate timing, excellent distribution and he posed an attacking threat from his left-back berth. Denis was a vital member of Royle’s team which were runners-up to Nottingham Forest in the 1990 League Cup Final and who gave United a scare in the semi-final of the 1990 FA Cup, drawing 3-3 with United in the first game at Maine Road before losing the replay 2-1 at the same ground. United went on to win the FA Cup, Alex Ferguson’s first trophy success as Manchester United manager, but Denis’s performances in both games at Maine Road were firmly embedded in Fergie’s mind. On 8th June 1990, Fergie persuaded Royle to allow Denis to leave cushioned with a £625,000 transfer deal which was good business for Oldham Athletic who got Denis from Leeds United on a free transfer. ‘When I heard United were interested in me I didn’t even want to talk to anyone else,’ said Irwin at the time of his move. However, Alex Ferguson told Royle that he had placed a coveted eye on Denis long before he finally got his man and he had Denis watched more than 20 times by his team of scouts and advisors. Fergie also informed Royle that he never once received a negative report from his scouts or advisors after they watched Denis play. When he left Boundary Park Denis was full of praise for his former manager; “Joe Royle got my career up and running again and I owe him an awful lot. I got released and Oldham picked me up. I had four years there and they were the stepping stone for me to the success I’ve had at United. I had four great years there.’

Irwin Debuts

Irwin was handed his Manchester United debut on 18th August 1990 in the 1990 FA Charity Shield (now known as the Community Shield) versus Liverpool. He played at right-back in a game that ended 1-1 (scorer: Clayton Blackmore) resulting in the two sides sharing the trophy for six months apiece. On 25th August 1990, Denis made his Manchester United League debut in a 2-0 First Division win at Old Trafford with goals from Steve Bruce and Neil Webb. He was flawless at right-back alongside fellow Irishman Mal Donaghy who played at left-back with the step-up in class proving no obstacle to Denis who looked extremely comfortable among his new team-mates. Denis played in 33 of United’s 42 League games in his first season at Old Trafford (1 as a substitute) and collected a League Cup runners-up medal on 21st April 1991 after United lost 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday managed by ex-United manager Ron Atkinson. On 15th May 1991, Denis won the first of his 15 winners’ medals with United (excludes 4 Charity Shield winners’ medals) when they beat FC Barcelona 2-1 to claim the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

In August 1991, Fergie paid £1.7 million for Queen’s Park Rangers right-back Paul Parker and decided to switch Irwin to left-back, an inspired move for both manager and player with Denis taking a stranglehold on the No.3 jersey for the next 11 years. In season 1991-92, Denis made 37 Division One appearances for United and scored 4 goals; his first coming against Norwich City at Old Trafford on 7 September 1991 (Brian McClair and Ryan Giggs also scored). The United v Norwich City game was a huge moment in my life as it was the first ever trip to Old Trafford which I organised for The Carryduff Manchester United Supporters’ Club following our affiliation to United as an official Branch of Manchester United’s Supporters’ Club network in July 1991. I can still recall the game that day and often think back to it as the start of something very, very special which 20 years later is as strong as it ever was. Since then I have organised more than 300 trips to Old Trafford for our members and I have seen young boys, including my oldest son Marc who was only 1-year old when I formed the Branch, grow up and become men. Our Paul was born on 4th June 1993 and as I write this book he too is fast approaching manhood. Indeed, one of our early junior members, Michael Morrison, is now a Committee member and a close friend whilst my sparring partner, John Dempsey, has stood firm beside me as Branch Chairman for the past 19 years. I bet our members wish we were still charging them £69 for all their travel, 2 nights in a hotel and a match ticket to go and see United play today which is what it cost us back in 1991 to see the United v Norwich City game!

On 19 November 1991, Denis won a European Super Cup winners’ medal following their 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade 1-0 at Old Trafford. It was United’s first piece of European silverware in 23 years. On 12 April 1992, Denis won a League Cup winners’ medal after United beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 (scorer: Brian McClair) in the final at Wembley Stadium. A fellow Cork man played for Forest that day and a player who would go on to become an iconic figure at Old Trafford, Roy Keane. It is fair to say that Denis was part of the beginning of Alex Ferguson’s new revolution at Old Trafford which saw United become the most dominant side in English football over the next two decades and beyond and Denis very rarely put a foot wrong in a United shirt. The fans loved his swashbuckling style as he was capable of turning defence into attack, robbing an opposing winger of the ball and then racing off up the line to start an attack at the opposite end of the pitch. When he switched over to left-back he would regularly feed Ryan Giggs on the wing whilst the pair formed one of the most feared attacking partnerships in the Premier League.

Denis’s first four seasons at United were simply breathtaking playing in a Manchester United side that was bursting with talent and brimming in confidence, but even more success was to come for the quiet unassuming Cork man. He was a key player in the United team which clinched the inaugural FA Premier League title in season 1992-93 to end the club’s 26-year wait to be crowned Champions of England. He was an ever-present in the side during the 1992-93 campaign and weighed in with five goals. Irwin was the solitary ever-present during United’s Double-winning season in 1993-94 and two years later helped United to a second Double.

Club Legend Ronaldo Returns To Old Trafford

Injury Scare

On 5 November 1997, Denis Irwin’s glittering career was almost brought to an end by a thuggish tackle. United were playing Feyenoord in a Group B Uefa Champions League game at Feijenoord Stadion, better known by its nickname De Kuip (the Tub) where United lifted the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup, and leading the game 3-0 after 76 minutes of play. An Andy Cole hat-trick had United in full control of the game and then in the 82nd minute Paul Bosvelt made a very dangerous tackle on Denis. The Dutch player’s studs ripped into Irwin’s calf resulting in the Irishman being stretchered off as Phil Neville came on as a substitute for him. Quite amazingly, the referee, Sándor Puhl from Hungary, didn’t even show Bosvelt a yellow card. At the time Denis feared his career was over and in an interview with Ted McCauley for the Sunday Mirror on 4 April 1999, Denis recalled the incident: ‘I was furious because it was such a bad challenge – and even when I was lying on the floor I was having a right scream at the referee because he didn’t do anything about it. I was in a lot of pain, too. But players are always getting stretchered off and then sprinting straight back on again so the fans probably don’t recognise that a man can get hurt. The thought was there, that my injury was serious and I didn’t really know how bad it was. It was only when the physio told me in the dressing room that it was probably the medial ligaments, that I knew I would be OK. I thought it was a terrible challenge and there’s no place for that against a fellow professional.’ Puhl was dropped by Uefa from refereeing any further games in the competition in season 1997-98 and not selected by Fifa as one of their panel of referees for the 1998 World Cup Finals in France. By missing the latter competition, Puhl missed out on the chance of becoming the first referee to take charge of two Fifa World Cup Finals; he was the referee in the 1994 Final which saw Brazil beat Italy 3-2 on penalties after the game ended 0-0 after extra-time.

However, the pinnacle of Denis’s Manchester United career came in the 1998-99 season when Manchester United won an unprecedented treble of Premier League Championship, FA Cup and the Uefa Champions League. Irwin missed out on the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Newcastle United due to a very harsh red card that he received at Anfield on 5 May 1999 where United won a precious point in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool (United won the Premiership by a single point in 1998-99). Denis Irwin scored United’s second goal that day. Alex Ferguson described Irwin’s sending off as ‘…an affront to commonsense … it ruled out one of the best-behaved and most respected pros in England out of the Cup final.’ Marshall Angus recalls the incident: ‘I never met Denis but in my life I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more consistent player. I honestly don’t remember seeing him have a bad game and some great goals from a left back too. One thing that stands out in my memory is him getting an undeserved red card against Liverpool. I don’t know why it stuck out, maybe because he may have been the most honest player I’ve seen and he certainly did not deserve it. Denis was a great player and one of only two players whose names I’ve had on more than one shirt! Cantona was the other.’ Nevertheless Irwin was awarded an FA Cup winners medal which his earlier performances more than merited. His performances in the United defence alongside Gary and Phil Neville, Henning Berg, Ronny Johnsen, David May and Jaap Stam played a key part in United’s Treble success which saw the team win 36 of their 62 matches and only lost 4 times.

Captain Irwin

Denis had good reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2001 when Sir Alex handed him the captain’s armband for the Premiership home game versus Leicester City. It was his 10th season at the club and his 500th appearance for United who won the game 2-0 thanks to two very late goals from Dwight Yorke (88 mins) and Mikael Silvestre (90 mins). On the final day of the 2000-01 campaign Denis was given the honour of captaining United again in what was their last home game of the season for the visit of Derby County. United had already clinched their third successive Premiership crown, their 7th overall, despite the fact that they still had three games to play such was the team’s dominance. We lost 1-0 to The Rams that day but fittingly it was Denis who stepped on to the purpose-built platform on the pitch at Old Trafford to hold aloft the Premier League trophy before 67,526 fans including me. It was a very special moment for Denis who had helped United win all 7 Premiership crowns. He may have been a much underrated player by certain sections of the media and opposing fans but his peers and his adoring United fans knew just how much of an asset he was to United.

The hugely popular Irishman spent 12 memorable years at Old Trafford and in that time he played 356 League games (Division One and Premier League) and scored 22 times (7 from the penalty spot); 42 FA Cup games, 7 goals; 28 League Cup games, 3 goals; 74 European games, 4 goals. In total, he made 529 appearances for United which is just six behind another Irish full-back, Tony Dunne which places Denis 8th in the table of all-time appearance makers for the club. Irwin scored many important goals for United, he had a ferocious shot, was a cool penalty taker and was lethal from free kicks. Denis remains Manchester United’s most successful Irish player in terms of winners’ medals and at a bargain £625,000 represents one of the best transfer deals Alex Ferguson ever did. Even in his mid-30’s Denis was Sir Alex’s first choice left back with Phil Neville waiting in the wings and unquestionably the most consistent performer in the United team season after season. In season 1999-200, he broke the club record for the highest number of European Cup/Uefa Champions League appearances when he played in his 47th game in the competition in the 3-2 quarter-final defeat at Old Trafford to Real Madrid (19th April 2000). On 16th August 2000, Denis was given a Testimonial in recognition of his first 10 years with United and Manchester City provided the opposition. ‘Mr Dependable’ walked out of the tunnel at Old Trafford with his three young children Liam, Lauren and Katy and was welcomed by a standing ovation from his adoring United fans and received a guard of honour from his fellow professionals. However, he was forced to leave the game early after George Weah injured him in a late and clumsy challenge. United won the encounter 2-0 with goals from Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke. Denis won just about everything the domestic game could offer but was never arrogant about his success as a professional footballer. When he was at United he was perceived by just about everybody as being extremely shy but Denis maintained that this was illusionary and a false image of him: ‘I think it’s a bit false. It’s one that seems to have been created by the media. The supporters don’t know me, so they accept that view of my personality. I’m not complaining. I know I don’t get the headlines – but I’m happy to leave that to the forwards because when the stick is being dished out they’re usually the first in line.’ (Denis speaking to Ted MacAuley of the Sunday Mirror in April 1999) Winners’ Medals with Manchester UnitedPremier League (7) – 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01 FA Cup (3) – 1994, 1996, 1999League Cup (1) – 1992Charity Shield (4) – 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997Uefa Champions League (1) – 1999European Cup Winners’ Cup (1) – 1991 European Super Cup (1) – 1991Intercontinental Cup (World Club Championship) (1) – 1999

Irwin’s playing motto was if it’s unnecessary don’t do it. Keep it simple. Keep it plain. He played his last ever game for Manchester United on the final day of the 2001-02 season, 11 May 2002, which ended in a 0-0 draw versus Charlton Athletic. In honour of his sterling service to United Fergie made Denis captain for his final game as the hugely popular Irishman received a standing ovation before and after the game. Irwin’s longevity with United is borne testimony by the fact that not one of his team mates, including substitutes, from the 1990 Charity Shield game was with the club on the day of his last game for United. During his United career there were only two seasons in which he did not collect a winners medal (1994-95 and 2001-02). When he was asked for his best moment at United he said: ‘Winning the Champions League in 1999 was great but my favourite memory is that first league title win in 1993.’ Sir Alex Ferguson labelled Denis as: ‘The best two footed player in my time here.’ I have spoken to many United fans over the years who have lamented over a post-match drink or two how impossible it has been for United to replace the likes of Bryan Robson, Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel. But for me Denis ‘Mr Dependable‘ Irwin also falls into the latter category of irreplaceable Reds although I must admit Patrice Evra is getting close.


Two months after his final appearance in a United shirt he was on his way to Wolverhampton Wanderers in a free transfer and scored twice for Wolves in his first season with the Black County club (Burnley and Grimsby Town). On 26 May 2003, Wolves beat Sheffield United 3-0 in the Division One Play-Off Final to win promotion to the Premier League, returning to the top tier of English football after a 19-year exile. On 27 August 2003, Denis received one of the loudest welcomes I have ever heard an opposing player receive from United fans when he played for Wolves against United in the Premiership. United won the game 1-0 with a goal from his former United and international team-mate, John O’Shea. At the end of the 2003-04 season, Wolves finished bottom of the Premier League and were relegated back to the First Division of the Football League. The 38-year old Irwin then announced his retirement.

In his autobiography Bobby Charlton chose Denis Irwin in his personal ‘very best of Manchester United.’ The legendary Charlton’s high praise of Irwin is despite the fact that Sir Booby played in the same team as two other legendary Manchester United full-backs, Roger Byrne and Tony Dunne. In his autobiography Sir Bobby said: ‘You never worried about Denis Irwin. I remember him once making a mistake, an occasion so rare I found myself thinking really, I never thought I would see that.’ (Sir Bobby Charlton – My Manchester United Years – The Autobiography; Bobby Charlton with James Lawton (2007), Headline Publishing Group). Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson was equally full of praise for his Irish gem and stated in his autobiography: ‘Nowhere in football is there a more popular player than the unassuming Irishman, who is the ultimate professional, one of those quiet, under-praised heroes who constitute the bedrock of all great teams.’ (Managing My Life- My Autobiography; Alex Ferguson with Hugh McIlvanney (2000), Hodder and Stoughton Ltd). Denis Irwin made his debut for the Republic of Ireland on 12th September 1990 at right-back in a 1-0 friendly win over Morocco at Dalymount Park, Dublin. Indeed, most of his games for his country were at right-back. His first competitive game for his country came on 17 October 1990 versus Turkey in a qualifying game for the 1992 European Football Championships. The game was played at Lansdowne Road, Dublin and Ireland won 5-0. Denis represented Ireland at the 1994 Fifa World Cup Finals in the USA and played in the famous 1-0 win over Italy in Ireland’s opening group match at Giants Stadium. He scored the first of his 4 goals for his country on 29th April 1992 against the USA in a friendly match at Lansdowne Road. Denis pulled on the Irish shirt for the 56th and final time on 17th November 1999 in the second play-off leg against Turkey for the 2000 European Football Championships. The game ended 0-0 and having drawn 1-1 against the Turks in Dublin four days earlier the Irish missed out on Euro 2000 on the away goals rule. Denis Irwin was probably the first name his international manager, Jack Charlton, put down on his team sheet such was the Cork man’s dependability and eagerness to play for his country at every opportunity. Whether it was an international friendly or a crucial Euro or World Cup qualifying game, Denis wanted to pull on the Irish jersey and he never once let his country down. He was a player’s player with commitment, dedication, drive and hard work at the very core of his game. Every time he wore the Irish jersey he knew that a nation depended on him and so he wasn’t going to let them down. Charlton had nothing but the utmost admiration for Denis saying: ‘There are certain types of players who give managers headaches and I’ve come across a few in my time in the Ireland job. Denis, though, is a manager’s dream, a class act, a nice guy and a player you could always bank on to come up trumps.’In 2002, he was named to the ‘Overall Team of the Decade’ for the Premier League’s 10 Seasons Awards (1992-93 to 2001-02).


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

The Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958, ripped the life and soul out of Manchester United Football Club and broke the hearts of all United fans.  The plane crash which occurred on an icy runway at, Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany claimed the lives of 23 passengers, 8 of whom were part of Matt Busby’s first team squad, a collection of players who had been affectionately dubbed “The Busby Babes,” and three members of staff at the club.  In 1902, the club almost folded but were saved at the last minute when Newton Heath Football Club were reborn as Manchester United thanks to the club captain, Harry Stafford and four local businessmen.  Fifty-six years later, the club faced a different fight for survival but this time no generous benefactors stepped forward to help rescue Manchester United.  This time the club would have to rise from the ashes on its own and rebuild a team of new players.  Matt Busby was so badly injured in the crash he was given the Last Rites twice and would need six months rest to make a full recovery back to normal health.  Busby passed the reins of the club on to his most trusted right-hand man, Jimmy Murphy, who was in charge of the Manchester United Youth Team and the development and recruitment of aspiring young talented players.

When Murphy went to visit Busby in his hospital bed at the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich the Manchester United manager was only able to whisper a few words to his trusted number two: “Keep the flag flying Jimmy.”  Murphy almost broke down in tears as he was still grieving the loss of the players who lost their lives in the plane crash whom he lovingly called “His Boys.”  And, when he went to see how Duncan Edwards was doing he could not hold back the tears.  Duncan was seriously injured but he was a fighter and was never going to give up his battle for life despite his horrific injuries.  When Duncan saw Jimmy approach his hospital bed he was upbeat and asked Murphy what time the game was at on Saturday. In his autobiography entitled “Matt …. United and me, Murphy wrote: “As my mind dwelt on the full appalling horror of it all I thought I would go mad, although I was doing my best to think about the future.”

Murphy reluctantly accepted the baton from Busby but when Manchester United played their first game after the Munich Air Disaster, an FA Cup Round 5 tie versus Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford on 19 February 1958, the United Review (the matchday programme) for the game, always listed the names of the starting XI for both clubs in the two page middle spread.  On this occasion, the left hand side of the middle pages where the Manchester United team should have appeared, was left blank.  Going into the game Murphy had absolutely no idea of the team he would select.   On the day of the game Murphy, with the help of the club’s Chief Scout, Joe Armstrong, chose an inexperienced side calling upon the club’s youngsters and reserve team players including Ian Greaves, Freddie Goodwin, Ronnie Cope, Colin Webster, Shay Brennan, Mark “Pancho” Pearson and Ernie Taylor.  Brennan and Taylor were handed their first team debuts whilst Stan Crowther also made his Manchester United debut having just signed from the club from Aston Villa a few hours prior to kick-off.  Alex Dawson was making his fifth appearance in a United shirt having impressed Busby & Murphy by scoring three times in his first four matches.  Harry Gregg was in goal and Bill Foulkes captained the team, both of whom had survived the crash and were adamant with their caretaker boss that they wanted to play in memory of their fallen teammates.  Duncan Edwards was still lying in a hospital bed fighting for his very life such was the severity of the injuries he received.

Another survivor, Bobby Charlton, was still too injured to play whilst Jackie Blanchflower and Johnny Berry never played again as a result of the injuries they sustained.  Gregg, Foulkes and Charlton all played in Manchester United’s 3-3 draw with Red Star Belgrade in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on 5 February 1958 in their European Cup, quarter-final, second leg tie.  The United players and staff were in buoyant mood on the flight home the next day as they had reached the semi-finals of the competition for the second successive season (a 5-4 aggregate victory over two legs).

Amazingly, Murphy’s cobbled together side defeated Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 on the most sombre night in the history of the club.  Brennan scored twice on his debut and Dawson also made it a dream start to his Old Trafford career also scoring.  Indeed, it was Armstrong who persuaded Murphy to give Brennan his opportunity to show what he could do.

The previous season, 1956-57, Manchester United became the first English club to play in the European Cup, a competition which began in season 1955-56, and reached the semi-finals where they lost 5-3 on aggregate to Real Madrid following a 3-1 loss in Madrid in the first leg and a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.  These two games were the beginning of a very special relationship between the two sides.  The Anglo-Spanish War from 1585-1604 played no part in the rivalry of the English and Spanish football giants.  When Real Madrid visited Manchester on 25 April 1957, this particular Spanish Armada were made most welcome.

Real Madrid’s legendary Argentinian striker, Alfredo Di Stefano, one of the greatest footballers of all-time, later spoke quite movingly about the moment when he first learned of the Munich Air Disaster.  Di Stefano was in his garden when his telephone rang.  “My heart was filled with sadness. I felt I had lost many, many friends. But I was more sorry for the game of football… for this Manchester United team was magnificence itself. It contained some of the world’s greatest players,” said the Real Madrid Legend.  Those who survived the crash were offered free holidays in Spain by Santiago Bernabeu, the President of Real Madrid, which some gratefully accepted.  But, Bernabeu and Real Madrid went the extra mile and helped Manchester United out financially to help them build a new team.

Murphy was in charge of Manchester United’s two ties versus AC Milan in the semi-finals of the 1957-58 European Cup.  The first leg was played at Old Trafford on 8 May 1958, United winning the game 2-1 with goals from Ernie Taylor (penalty) and Dennis Viollet.  But a 4-0 defeat in Milan, Italy six days later ended Busby’s and Murphy’s hopes and dreams of winning the trophy which they would undoubtedly have dedicated to the memory of the eight Busby Babes who died from their injuries in Munich.  Real Madrid beat the reigning Hungarian League Champions, Vasas SC, 4-0 in Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final tie but lost 2-0 in Budapest.  However, they progressed to their third consecutive final with a 4-2 aggregate victory over the two legs.  The Spanish giants then beat AC Milan 3-2 after extra-time in the 1958 European Cup final which was played in the Heysel Stadium, Brussels, Belgium on 28 May 1958.

The Real Madrid President, Santiago Bernabéu, was a huge admirer of THE Busby Babes’ style of play and he dedicated his club’s 1958 European Cup victory to Manchester United.   He also offered the trophy to the club, who politely refused the kind gesture.  Prior to the start of the 1958-59 season, Bernabéu offered his club’s most prized asset, Alfredo Di Stefano, the most coveted player in the world on a short term loan deal.  Both parties agreed to Di Stefano’s temporary move to England, but incredibly the Football Association blocked the move in the belief that it would halt the progress of a British player.

Another legendary striker was linked with a move to Manchester United around the same time.  In season 1956-57, Budapest Honvéd represented Hungary in the European Cup.  The Hungarian National League Champions were handed a bye in the Preliminary Round of the competition, a Round in which Manchester United, English First Division Champions the previous season, defeated RSC Anderlecht 12-0 over two legs.  The draw for Round 1 saw United matched with the German National Champions, Borussia Dortmund, whilst Budapest Honved were drawn against the Spanish La Liga Champions, Athletic Bilbao.  The winners of the United versus Borussia Dortmund tie would play the winners of the Athletic Bilbao versus Budapest tie in the quarter-finals of the competition.  United won their two-legged tie 3-2 on aggregate whilst Budapest Honved lost 6-5 on aggregate.

The Hungarian Revolution began on 23 October 1956, and although it only lasted until 10 November 1956, the Budapest Honved players refused to return to their country after they lost the first leg 3-2 in Bilbao on 23 November 1956.  The Hungarian club arranged for the second leg against to be played in Belgium at the Heysel Stadium, Brussels on 20 December 1956, with the game ending 3-3.  The players, including Puskas who scored in the 3-3 draw, brought their families out of Hungary to join them on a World Tour of Brazil, Italy, Spain and Portugal.  The tour was vehemently opposed by the Hungarian Football Association and the sport’s governing body, FIFA.

During his self-imposed exile Puskas played a few unofficial matches for RCD Espanyol in Spain and attracted the attention of two Italian giants, AC Milan and Juventus.  But, any attempt by a club to sign him was effectively scuppered when he was given a two-year ban from the game by UEFA for refusing to return to Hungary and his club.  He then moved to Austria and then to Italy and when his ban was lifted in the summer of 1958, he was not able to find a top-flight club in Italy who were willing to sign him, as Italian managers were concerned about his age, 31, and his weight.  It was at this time that Murphy and Busby took an interest in signing Puskas for Manchester United but as a direct result of the Football Association Rules in place at the time on signing foreign players, coupled with the fact that Puskas could not speak English, he joined Real Madrid.

In the summer of 1959, Busby travelled to Madrid along with his Club Chairman, Harold Hardman, in the hope that Real Madrid would help Manchester United build from within.  There was a great deal of respect between Busby and the Spanish side which was based on their respective to building attacking teams who played with a certain kind of flair which pleased the fans.

Busby asked Bernabeu if he would agree to his reigning European Cup winners playing Manchester United in a series of friendlies in Madrid and in Manchester.  Real Madrid were the best team in the world at the time and were a box office attraction wherever they played.  Their team was a “Who’s Who?” of the world’s best players including Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas the Hungarian superstar, Didi a Brazilian midfield maestro and Francisco “Paco” Gento, a very tricky and stylish Spanish winger.  Bernabeu informed Busby and Hardman that the usual price for such a friendly was £12,000, a massive sum of money at the time.  Matt, ever the diplomat but also a shrewd negotiator, explained that the Munich Air Disaster had ruined Manchester United not only physically with the loss of 8 of the club’s most talented players but also financially and asked Bernabeu for special consideration. Bernabeu looked at his Board of Directors and declared: “We must treat Matt and Manchester United generously.”

Real Madrid said that they would come to Manchester to play United in a friendly at Old Trafford for half of their normal fee with an agreement to play four more matches.  Busby had no hesitation in accepting the generous offer as he wanted to test his latest crop of young players against the best team in Europe.  Busby and Murphy knew only too well that if their new batch of young players post-Munich could perform well against Real Madrid in these friendly fundraising games, then perhaps a new exciting Manchester United team would evolve.  And, just as importantly, the series of friendly games which would provide Manchester United with a much needed cash injection to buy new players.

The first friendly game was played at Old Trafford on 1 October 1959, and it was shown live on television which added to the gate receipts.  United were struggling in the League and had lost their three previous games before the Kings of European Football arrived in Manchester.  The Spanish giants had only played three La Liga games before the friendly with United and had beaten Real Betis 7-1 at home, lost 2-1 away to Valencia CF and defeated Espanol 4-0 at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.  When the Real Madrid walked out of the tunnel at Old Trafford the floodlights made their all white kit look almost angelic.  The Manchester United players formed a guard of honour for their famous visitors while the 63,000 United fans in attendance gave them a thunderous ovation.  However, there was nothing angelic about the Spanish side’s performance, they were ruthless and put United to the sword winning 6-1 in what was billed as a Grand Challenge Match.  The United players were simply no match for the artistry and guile of the visitors who were clinical in front of goal and miserly at the back.

Manuel Fleitas Solich, the coach of Real Madrid, praised Bobby Charlton after the game saying that the United forward was: “World class in any country, anywhere.”  The following month it was United’s turn to do the traveling and flew to Spain for Round 2 of their five-game exhibition matches.  The Madrilenos expected a similar walk-over in the return game but the United players were not in the mood to allow their opponents to just walk over them without putting up a much better fight than they gave in Manchester.  Outside the stadium Real Madrid were selling a specially commissioned football pennant with the names of those who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster printed on it.  The pennant carried the title “Champions of Honour,” with the sale proceeds being donated to Manchester United.

The 80,000 fans who turned up were treated to a feast of entertaining, all-out attacking football, an eleven goal thriller in which the home side triumphed 6-5 after going 2-0 down and trailing after an hour of play.  The Daily Sketch praised the performance of United: “United supermen nearly beat Real!”  When Di Stefano was interviewed sometime later by The People he was asked about United’s improvement from the first game and said: “In many, many ways they were the better team. Certainly they gave us the biggest fright we’ve had for many, many home matches. The inside forwards, Quixall, Viollet, Charlton attacked our defence that day like men with sabres.  They cut us to pieces. The young left-half Wilf McGuinness is a wonderful prospect too… with players like these and with Matt Busby to inspire them all, Manchester United must be strong again before long.”

Matt Busby had nothing but the utmost respect for Di Stefano and openly said that the Argentinian was the greatest centre-forward he had ever seen.  After watching Real Madrid beat FC Barcelona 3-1 at Estadio Bernabeu in the first leg of their European Cup semi-final on 15 April 1960, Busby was asked by The News Chronicle what he thought of Di Stefano’s performance in the game as he had scored twice (Puskas also scored): “Di Stefano marshalled his men like the genius he is.  I wish my youngsters could have been here to see these soccer aristocrats play in such an electric atmosphere.”  Two days later FC Barcelona were crowned the 1959-60 La Liga Champions on goal average, after finishing level with Real Madrid on 46 points from 30 games played.  On 6 May 1960, Real Madrid won the second leg of the semi-final, defeating FC Barcelona 3-1 at Camp Nou, Barcelona (Puskas 2 & Gento).

On 18 May 1960, an 18-year old Alex Ferguson was a spectator among the 127,621 crowd which poured into Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland for the 1960 European Cup final.  Ferguson was still a player with Queen’s Park at the time (he moved to St Johnstone a short time later) whilst Hampden Park was the home ground of Queen’s Park.  Real Madrid were playing in their fifth consecutive European Cup final whilst their West German opponents, Eintracht Frankfurt, were playing in their first.  The fans witnessed one of the greatest ever displays of football by a team when Real Madrid, with Di Stefano, Gento and Puskas all at their peak, destroying their opponents.  The Kings of European football for the previous four years exuded exquisite majesty as they tore their opponents apart, winning a sensational game 7-3.  The King and Crown Prince of Real Madrid, Di Stefano and Puskas, scored all seven goals with Puskas netting four times including a penalty.  Without question, as his later career in management showed, Ferguson took a lifelong inspiration from the game.

When United and Real Madrid met a third time on 13 October 1960, the match at Old Trafford was once again televised.  Again, United’s League form was dismal, as they languished near the bottom of the English First Division with just two wins in their ten outings.  However, only the second half was shown on TV with the visitors winning 3-2 but Busby remained true to his football values.  He always said that he wanted to see how his young players could handle themselves against the best club side in Europe and for this game he played a very young side which included: 17-year old Nobby Stiles who was making only his second first-team appearance; 17-year old Belfast born James Nicholson (the youngest player on the pitch); 18-year old Tony Dunne who was making his first team debut (he made his League debut two days later) for the injured Shay Brennan and 19-year old Mark Pearson.  The Daily Mail’s Sports Reporter was impressed with the United kids writing: “United are beaten by Real, but share the glory.”

The press were in love with Manchester United again with The Daily Express stating: “Teenage trio shock Real.”  Despite having lost all three friendlies Busby and Murphy knew they were on the right track as they gradually built a third great Manchester United side.  The youngsters while being fearless, occasionally heroic, were still merely pupils in football parlance but more importantly, they were learning quickly from their Spanish Masters.  The defeats meant nothing to Busby who was more concerned about how his young charges handled themselves against more experienced, and in the case of Di Stefano and Puskas, vastly superior opponents.  Indeed, in an interview with the Daily Herald, Puskas praised the “Proud men of United.”  Puskas went on to say that he thought Albert Quixall and Charlton had a tendency to run with the ball too often rather than passing.  An observation the 23-year old Charlton paid attention to as his career blossomed for both club and country.

When Round 4 of their head-to-head took place, Manchester United were sitting precariously second from bottom of the League.  The game was played at Old Trafford on 13 December 1961 and going into it United had only won once in eleven games.  A dark cloud of possible relegation to Division Two was hanging over Old Trafford that winter night whilst it was reported that Busby had received abusive letters from some fans who were not happy with the club’s latest domestic slump.  But the United manager had the full support of his Board of Directors which was still led by Harold Hardman.  Perhaps Busby shared the letters with his players or just told them that it was time to start turning things around on the pitch, but whatever he did it worked as United beat Real Madrid 3-1 to send 43,000 fans home very happy with the team’s performance.  Phil Chisnall, aged 19, opened the scoring in the game, only his third appearance for the club, whilst new signing, David Herd who joined from Arsenal in July 1961 in a £35,000 transfer, scored twice.  After the game, the captain of Real Madrid, José María Zárraga Martín (winner of 5 European Cups with the club), generously presented the victors with some silverware.

The Spanish side may not have been the force they once were with SL Benfica replacing them as European Cup winners in 1961 but they still went on to win La Liga in season 1961-62 and were beaten 5-3 by SL Benfica in the 1962 European Cup final.

The fifth and final instalment of the Anglo-Spanish entente took place at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on 19 September 1962.  By this time the second member of the legendary Manchester United Triumvirate was at the club, Denis Law who joined from AS Torino on 12 July 1962 in a £110,000 move, a British record transfer fee at the time.  José María Zárraga Martín chose the game for his Testimonial Match (he joined the club in 1951) and 80,000 fans turned out to pay homage to one of the club’s greatest ever players.  However, the home fans turned on their heroes when United led 2-0 thanks to goals from Herd and Pearson and many headed for the exits before the referee blew his final whistle. However, those who were still inside the magnificent stadium rose to their feet and saluted the Manchester United players after their 2-0 victory, Law in particular who tortured the home defence with his aggressive play and darting runs into the penalty area, the first time Real Madrid had lost at home to an English club.

It was a fitting end to the five game series of friendlies between the two famous football clubs with Real Madrid deserving Busby’s and Manchester United’s most grateful appreciation for their part in helping Manchester United rebuild a team and rise again once more to prominence after the most traumatic period in the club’s history.

The two clubs enjoyed a very special relationship from 1959-62.

Did You Know That?

The weekend before Real Madrid were due to face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the first–leg of their European Cup semi-final on 24 April 1968, the Spanish club’s 72-year-old President, Santiago Bernabeu, spoke with remarkable warmth about his old rivals at a dinner held to celebrate Real Madrid winning the 1967-68 La Liga title.  “I want Manchester United greeted and treated and respected as the greatest club in the world.  As our friends for many years, nothing must go wrong.  If we are beaten in the European Cup by Manchester United on Wednesday then we shall have lost to a great team.  We have met them on many occasions and it’s about time their luck changed.

Manchester United defeated Real Madrid 1-0 at Old Trafford and drew 3-3 in Madrid to make it to their first European Cup final where they defeated SL Benfica 4-1 after extra-time at Wembley Stadium, London on 29 May 1968.  Real Madrid had most certainly played their part in helping Matt Busby wipe away the sorrowful tears he shed in Munich on the day his second great team died, to helping the United boss celebrate the lives of his eight lost Busby Babes when his third great side were crowned Champions of Europe.

Speaking after Busby’s and Manchester United’s triumph, a most gracious Santiago Bernabeu quite simply said: “If it had to be anyone, then I am glad it was them.”  Very touching words spoken straight from the heart by a man who had more than played his own part in their resurrection.


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

On 24 April 1971, Manchester United played their last home game in the English First Division Championship during the 1970-71 season. Ipswich Town were the visitors to Old Trafford and a crowd of 33,556 turned out to see the game. United won 3-2 with goals from George Best, Bobby Charlton and Brian Kidd. However, during the match some Reds threw knives into the away end. Football hooliganism was rife in English football in the early 1970s with many clubs up and down the country having gangs, better known as Firms, associated with them. Not surprisingly Manchester United’s firm was called “Red Army,” and they were among the most feared in the land, with thousands of Reds going to away games ready to rumble once they stepped off their coaches and from train carriages. Every time the Red Army visited a town or city, hundreds of uniformed police officers marched them to the ground with police dogs ready to attack any Red who stepped out of line.

As a result of the incident during the game versus Ipswich Town, the Football Association ordered Manchester United to play their opening two home games of the following season away from Old Trafford. On 22 August 1971, Manchester United walked out of the home dressing room at Anfield, Liverpool to face Arsenal in their first home game of the 1971-72 English First Division Championship. It was United’s third League game of the season having 2-2 away to Derby County at The Baseball Ground, Derby and a 3-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, London. On 22 August 1971, Liverpool Football Club’s world famous and iconic, Spion Kop, was a sea of red and white scarves as Reds crammed into it behind one of the goals. But on this occasion for the first time in the history of Liverpool Football Club, founded in 1892, the Reds in attendance were Manchester United fans.

The Spion Kop was built in 1906, as a reward to the fans after Liverpool had clinched their second English League First Division Championship title in season 1905-06 (also Champions in 1900-01). It had 100 steps and towered above the Walton Breck Road behind the ground. The name came from a small hill in South Africa known as Spion Kop where in January 1900, during the Boer war, a battle left hundreds dead. Many of the soldiers killed came from Lancashire regiments with a strong contingent from Liverpool.

United beat Arsenal, the reigning English First Division Championship holders, and FA Cup holders, thanks to goals from Charlton, Alan Gowling and Kidd. The match programme still carried the title of “The Anfield Review.” Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in 2010, Alex Stepney who was in goal for United in the game when Frank McLintock opened the scoring for the other visiting team, said he could not really remember the game, saying: “I vaguely remember that we had to play two games away from Old Trafford, but I can’t recall that match. I thought I’d only ever won one match at Anfield, when we beat Liverpool 4-1, so I can add a second win now.” United beat Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield in the English First Division on 13 December 1969 with goals from Charlton, Willie Morgan, Ian Ure and an own goal. Liverpool Football Club received 15% of the gate from the game which was attended by 27,649 fans. On 23 August 1971, United played their second exiled League home game at The Victoria Ground, Stoke and beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 (scorers: Best 2 & Gowling).

Did You Know That?

In 2005, the movie “Green Street” was released. In the movie an American college student (played by Elijah Wood from the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” of movies), falls in with West Ham United’s GSE firm of fans (Green Street Elite), which is being run by his brother-in-law’s younger brother. In the movie, West Ham United are drawn against arch rivals, Millwall, Football Club in the FA Cup. The GSE and the NGO (the Millwall Firm) meet up before the game for a hand-to-hand battle.


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

The 1892-93 season was Newton Heath Football Club’s first in the English Football League, they were in the First Division. It was an eventful season on and off the pitch. They drew two and lost four of their opening six League games and in Game No.7, they not only recorded their first ever Football League victory but they also set a club record score when they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 10-1 at North Road, Newton Heath. The 1892-93 campaign was only the club’s fourteenth year in existence, founded in 1878 as Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Cricket and Football Club, and it proved to be a hugely unsuccessful season as they finished rock bottom of the League.

At the time, the Football League had a Test Match game in place, a modern day play-off game. Newton Heath faced a Victorian two-legged tie which would decide their Football League status for season 1893-94, and their opponents were Small Heath.

Small Heath (later became Birmingham City) won the English Second Division Championship in season 1892-93 and thereby secured the right to play the team which finished bottom of the English First Division Championship table in a two-legged encounter. That team was Newton Heath Football Club.

The winner would be playing their football in the English First Division Championship the following season. The Heathens escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth, winning the two legged tie 7-3.

The highest home attendance of the season was a 5-0 loss to Sunderland on 4 March 1893. However, Sunderland went on to clinch their second English First Division Championship at the end of the season. The lowest home attendance of the season was 3,000 fans and was set twice: a 7-1 mailing of Derby County on 31 December 1892 and a 3-3 draw versus Accrington Stanley in the final League game of the campaign, which was the club’s last ever game at their North Road, Newton Heath home on 8 April 1893. Accrington Stanley ended the season one place above Newton Heath in 15th place in the table (16 teams made up the Division) whilst Derby County finished in 13th position. Just as The Heathens had to do, Accrington Stanley played in a Test Match at the end of the season to determine their League status for 1893-94. They lost 1-0 to Sheffield United at The Castle Ground, Nottingham in a one-off game and rather than play a season in the lower tier of English football, Accrington Stanley tendered their resignation from the Football League, thereby becoming the first of the twelve founding Football League clubs in season 1888-89 to leave the League permanently (Stoke City failed to achieve re-election for season 1890-91 after finishing the previous season in last place, but rejoined the Football League a year later).

Bob Donaldson was the club’s leading goal scorer in all competitions with 16 goals, all in the League. The club lost 4-0 away to Blackburn Rovers in Round 3 of the FA Cup and 4-0 away to Bury in the First Round of the Lancashire Cup. On the bright side, Newton Heath beat Bolton Wanderers 3-1 in the final of the Manchester Senior Cup.

At the start of the season the club removed Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Cricket from their name and at the end of the season the club’s landlords evicted them from North Road and they moved to Bank Street, Clayton in time for the start of the 1893-94 season.

Did You Know That?

During their inaugural season in the English First Division Championship, Newton Heath had to play a League game with only ten men. On 7 January 1893, the team played Stoke City away but they were without their goalkeeper, James Warner, who failed to meet-up with the team for the train journey to Stoke. Warner joined the club from Aston Villa in July 1892, and played in all 20 of their League matches prior to the encounter with Stoke City. In his absence, half-back William Stewart went into nets and conceded seven times in a 7-1 defeat (scorer: James Coupar in the opening minute of the game). Warner only played twice more for the club following his no-show and in September 1893, he moved to Walsall Town Swifts.

UNITED IN THE 1970s – Memories from a teenage Belfast Red

The 1970s’ Corner Sweet Shop

Let me take you on a wee trip back in time to my corner sweet shop in the Short Strand during the mid-1970s.  Spangles were made by Mars Ltd and were square-shaped sweets with rounded corners and a dimple in the middle of each side.  Each Spangle was individually wrapped whilst an original tube of Spangles comprised a selection of different flavours (blackcurrant, lemon & lime, orange, pineapple, strawberry) and then there were Old English Spangles, where the flavours were of traditional boiled sweets including butterscotch, cough candy, liquorice and pear drop.  William Boyd, a famous American actor who starred in ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ was employed by Mars Ltd to front their advertising campaign along with the slogan: ‘Spangles – Hoppy’s favourite sweet.’  Did you know that when Spangles were first made in 1950, sweets were still on ration in the UK and the cost of a packet of sweets had to be accompanied by tokens or points from a family’s ration book? 

However, unlike other sweets at the time, you only needed one token for a packet of Spangles.  Drumsticks are a unique combination of a chew and a lolly on a stick – raspberry and milk flavour.  They are made by Swizzels Matlow Ltd, a Derby-based traditional confectionery manufacturer.  Did you know that Swizzels Matlow Ltd was founded in London in 1928 by Alf and Maurice Matlow and originally named ‘Matlow Bros. Ltd.’? In 1933, Alf and Maurice formed Swizzels Limited along with David Dee.  Candy sticks used to be sweet cigarettes but now the powers that be have removed the red bit on the end so they don’t look anything like cigarettes – honest!  Parma Violets are made by Swizzels Matlow Ltd at their factory in New Mills, Derbyshire, England.  They are a round, hard violet flavoured sweet, a truly classic British sweet.  The Black Jack is without question one of the best classic British sweets ever.  It is an aniseed-flavoured chewy black rectangle with a delicious and unique taste, and they make your tongue go black.  So avoid munching one of them just before you go out on that hot date!  Black Jacks were given their name because the original 1920s labels pictured a grinning gollywog – unbelievably, back then images of black people were used to advertise liquorice products. However, by the late 1980s, manufacturers Trebor scrapped the Black Jacks golly logo as it was racially offensive, replacing the logo with an image of a pirate with a black beard and eye patch and rebranding the sweets as Black Jack. And by the early 1990s, Trebor had dropped the pirate logo altogether in favour of the black and white swirl design we all remember. 

Did you know thatin 2008, a confectionery company called Tangerine bought out Trebor and decided to change the design once more to the current plain black with red writing? The swirly black and white packaging we all remember is gone forever.

Bassetti is a real classic and a firm favourite with those hard-core liquorice-loving fiends out there.  Lovely shiny hard sticks of rich black liquorice.  Did you know that liquorice started being grown seriously in the UK back in the 1500s and was originally grown only in Pontefract, Yorkshire (hence Pontefract Cakes!) due to its rich loamy soil?  They take their liquorice so seriously in the town of Pontefract that they have a Liquorice Festival there every year. 

Love Hearts are made by Swizzels Matlow Ltd and are a hard, fizzy, tablet-shapedsweet which comes in six colours/fruit flavours.  Each sweet bears a playful, love-related message on the upper side.  The colours/flavours are as follows: Green (a slightly lime flavour with a sherbet-like aftertaste), Orange (a sweet flavour with a slight orange aftertaste), Purple (an unusual, slightly perfumed berry-like flavour with a strong aftertaste), Red (cherry flavour), Yellow (a sherbet-like flavour with a distinct sharp lemon aftertaste) and White (a plain, sherbet-like, slightly tart vanilla flavour).  In the 1970s the messages on the sweets included old favourites such as:  ‘Angel Face,’ ‘All Yours,’ ‘Be Mine,’ ‘Cuddle Me,’ ‘Keep Cool,’ ‘In Love,’ ‘LOL’ and ‘You’re Mine.’  However, today messages such as the following can be found on Love Hearts: “Email Me” and “Luv U 24/7.’’  There are 20 sweets in a packet of Love Hearts and it is extremely uncommon to find 2 or more in a packet which contain the same message.   Did you know that the colours of the sweets on the label of a packet of Love Hearts do not match the colours of the sweets inside the packet? Label colours: white, yellow, peach (light orange), green and blue whilst the sweet colours: white, yellow, orange, green, purple and red. 

Spanish Gold comprised sweet coconut strips dusted in chocolate powder and was hugely popular with children during the 1970s.  Today, this old favourite is branded as a 70s’ retro sweet under the name ‘Sweet Tobacco.’  Gold Rush Bubble Gum came in little hessian-type bags whereas today this famous sweet from the 1970s is enclosed in a sealed bag and is now branded as a 70s’ retro sweet under the name “Gold Nuggets Bubble Gum.”  Bazooka Joe’s was another popular bubble gum which either came with a comic strip inside it or a tattoo.  Does anyone remember Anglo 1p bubblies?  It did not take very much to keep kids happy during the 1970s, and Golf Ball Bubble Gum, small minty white golf balls, were a huge hit.  Regardless of what sweet shop you walked into during the 1970s if you bought some golf ball bubble gum then you got them in a small white paper bag – long before they were sold in packets of 4.

Gobstoppers are a famous traditional sweet made from layer after layer of a hard suckable sugary substance and they date back more than 100 years.  They were a hugely popular sweet among children growing up in the 1970s because they were relatively inexpensive and they lasted for ages.  When you popped one in your mouth it dissolved very slowly with the much larger ones taking up to as long as two weeks to fully dissolve.  It was best to suck them, as attempting to bite through one would invariably lead to a visit to your dentist.  Did you know that the term ‘gobstopper’ derives from the word ‘gob,’ which is a British/Irish slang word for ‘mouth’? 

White Mice, aaaah the sweet of choice for thousands of young kids in years gone by!  I loved these small creamy delicious white chocolate flavour mice.   Sherbet Fountains was another classic 70s’ sweet.  If you need your memory jogging, they consisted of a yellow tube filled with white zingy sherbet.  They used to be in a cardboard tube and had the liquorice stick poking out. But the whole shebang is now encased in plastic.  In my time you were supposed to be able to suck the sherbet through the liquorice stick/straw, but I never managed this as it got all soggy and gooey.  I would knock most of the sherbet back neat and then finish the liquorice off by dipping in the remaining sherbet.  It was tasty!  Liquorice Torpedoes were deliciouswith a crisp candy coating and were both crunchy and chewy.  Smooth Cola Bottles – a gentler version of cola bottle – the taste of cola without the sourness. They were plump and juicy and extremely chewy.

And what about Space Dust, Cherry Fizz, Cola Fizz and Strawberry Fizz?  Some called it Moon Rocks or Moon Dust, others Popping Candy but the recipe was still the same.  When you put a little of it in your mouth you could feel your tongue tingle with all of the crackles that followed (knocks the snap, crackle and pop right out of Rice Krispies).  Or ram a load of this stuff into your mouth and feel it explode!  Some of today’s trendy TV chefs have now started using Space Dust in their desserts.  Cadbury’s ‘Crunchie Blasts’ ice creams have space dust in them -mmmmmm!!

Tooty Frooties, those little flat colourful cubes we all remember can still be bought today and are just as soft and fruity as they were all those years ago.  Do you remember White Chocolate Fish & Chips?  They were the infinitely better creamy white chocolate version of the traditional British meal of fish and chips.  Who can remember Pascall’s Kola Kubes?  This was a sweet for all the cola junkies and they contained a chewy bit in the middle.  Another personal favourite sweet of mine from the 1970s which you can buy today is Sports Mixture.  They were and remain top quality, long lasting hard fruit gums in the shape of bats, balls and racquets etc. – made by Lions.  But there is one difference in the Sports Mixture sweets of back then and now.  Do you remember the black ones?  They were liquorice and admittedly, I have never been a big liquorice fanatic but I ate them anyway.  Well the black ones you will find in the Sports Mixture sweets which are sold on most garage forecourts today actually taste of blackcurrant?  Why did Lions change the flavour?  Flying Saucers, fruit flavour sherbet in a wafer shell, says it all really.   Fruit Salad, an unmistakable raspberry and pineapple flavour, so many memories enveloped in that yellow and pink wrapper.  Think of Choppers, Space Hoppers, the Wombles, long sunny summer days playing with your mates, and there would always be a trip to the sweetshop and a few Fruit Salads chucked into the little white paper bag!  Bassetts Jelly Babies, the definitive Jelly Babies and an absolute classic still hanging around shops today.  Jelly Babies are lightly dusted with icing sugar and contain a soft, juicy centre.  Incidentally, did you realise that each sweet has a different facial expression? Some are smiling, some are laughing and some are crying. 

I loved Pascall’s Sweet Peanuts, a really delicious crisp sweet peanut-flavoured boiled sweet in the shape of a real peanut shell.  If you are lucky enough to get the original Sweet Peanuts (and you will get these plus many other classic sweets from the 1970s on the superb website, A Quarter of the Best Sweets Ever It is one of those sweets that instantly transport you back to the sweetshop round the corner.  Brown Gems were chocolate flavour candy buttons covered on one side with sprinkles.  Sometimes known as Jazzies or Jazzles and occasionally as Rainbow Drops.  And so to one of my Mum’s all-time favourites, Taveners Coconut Mushrooms.  These were delicious toasted coconut chewy sweets shaped like a mushroom.  I wonder how they know they are mushrooms and not toadstools?  Can you remember Grays Tea Cakes?  Real old fashioned sweet toffee almondy discs made by Grays of Dudley.  Candy Necklaces and Candy Watches, I wasn’t really into them, too girlie. 

But Spearmint Chews, now that was a boy’s sweet and a half.  Fizzers, another real old school little fizzy sweet and possibly the originals before Refreshers and Love Hearts and stuff like that.  And of course the mouth-watering and hugely tasty Opal Fruits were popular with the strawberry chew my personal favourite.

Catherine Wheels, long laces of delicious Bassetts liquorice coiled around a Spog (pink, blue, orange or yellow). But why give a sweet such a sadistic name?  Everyone knows that a Catherine Wheel is a traditional firework but the original Catherine Wheel was the torture apparatus on which St Catherine was martyred in the middle ages.  Who would have thought that eating sweets could be so educational?  Another sweet I loved when I was a kid was Chelsea Whoppers.  They were absolutely delicious bars consisting of a soft chocolaty fudge-like substance.  Some shops which specialise in retro sweet sell Chelsea Whoppers today but you will be disappointed if you try one.  I just do not think they taste anything remotely like the original ones I bought for a penny.  Chewing Nuts were great weren’t they?  They had a chewy toffee centre and constantly stuck to your teeth or the roof of your mouth.  If you ate too many of them your jaw ached for days.  But there wasn’t even a trace of nut in them so why call them Chewing Nuts?  Texan bars were great too, a hard nougat covered in milk chocolate.  Can you recall the advert on TV for them?  A Clint Eastwood style cowboy is in a spot of bother, captured by some sombrero wearing outlaws.  One of the outlaws says to the cowboy “Any last request gringo?”  The cowboy asks for a Texan bar.  He chews on it and it takes him so long to eat it that the baddies fall asleep and he escapes.  The cowboy looks at the outlaws and says “Texan… sure is a mighty chew.”  Class or what?  Texan bars made a very brief, limited edition re-appearance in 2005 but they now appear to be gone for good.  Who can forget the distinctive red and yellow wrapper of a Caramac?  But more to the point, who can forget that lovely caramelly, melt-in-the-mouth taste?  Nothing tastes quite like the rich golden creaminess of a Caramac! 

Taveners Toasted Coconut Teacakes were delicious toasted coconut chewy sweets, a favourite for many decades.  Raspberry Ruffles (and Ruffle bars) were another favourite of Mum’s, chocolate covered coconut and raspberry fondant creams made by Trebor Bassett Jamesons.  She also loved Riley’s Chocolate Rolls, Russian Caramels and Merrymaids, hard caramel sweets smothered in a delicious smooth milk chocolate.  God, I can still taste one of the Russian Caramels I nicked out of her bag now!  My Dad liked Murray Mints, a sort of hard boiled brown sweet with a mint taste, and Humbugs.  Everton Mints were my favourite mint sweet as they had a lovely toffee centre.  Delicious.  

Nutty Bars were really, really chewy.  They were a rich nougat log smothered in a chewy caramel which in turn was smothered with peanuts.  Rowntrees Fruit Gums, an absolute classic that has been around for years and years.  Apparently, they are made with real juice (no artificial colours or preservatives) which makes them all the more delicious!  And of course, Wine Guns, an explosion of soft chewy fruit flavours.   And what about Traffic Light Lollies?  Red, yellow and green lollies that everyone remembers from when they were young.  Or Apple Tarts, a hard boiled sweet which had a bitter apple taste?  Then for the toffee aficionado like me there was Highland Toffee, a softer eating toffee bar.  This was lovely and smooth and soft, not that hard toffee that hurts your teeth.  Mind you I did love the really hard bars of toffee with nuts embedded in them.  Some of the old bars of toffee were that hard you got a wee silver hammer to break them up!  Do you remember?  Chocolate logs were cheap and cheerful too, a long piece of chewy toffee covered in chocolate.  Rhubarb & Custard Sweets, the rhubarb tasted fresh and with just a hint of sharpness.  And it is perfectly balanced by the rich, luxuriousness of the sweet, creamy custard.  You can savour each flavour separately.  But your taste buds really zing to life when the two combine to make a truly classic boiled sweet. 

There were a lot of sherbet sweets on the go when I was a kid and the king of them all had to be Sherbet Strawberries.  They were made from a hard strawberry boiled sweet case with a fizzy sherbet centre. Made by Pascalls, they were the best sherbet hard boiled sweet by far, and I can still imagine sucking them as they rolled around my mouth and then sucking the sherbet out of one end of the sweet.  Magic.  But every quarter of hard boiled sweets ended up getting stuck to the bottom of the wee white paper bags.  When you got to the bottom of the bag the last few sweets in it invariably came with paper stuck to them.  No amount of picking removed the paper, it just would not budge, so you had to pop the sweet in your mouth and then when the paper loosened its grip on the sweet you just spat it out. Sometimes the sweet ended up on the street along with the paper as there was a knack to this delicate operation. 

I wasn’t really into Dolly Mixtures as they were just too small but I did like the sugar coated jelly one.  Midget Gems were tricky little sweets to eat and the more you stuck in your mouth the more your top teeth got stuck to your bottom teeth.  And speaking of teeth you could buy Milk Gums and Milk Teeth which were both soft and chewy and what about Cherry Lips (and no I am not talking about Chis Evert)?  A Fireman’s Hose was yet another liquorice sweet, a long string of red chewy liquorice but the daddy of all liquorice sweets was Bassett’s Liquorice All Sorts.  Didn’t like that aniseed coated one though.  In fact my least favourite sweets from the 70s just had to be Aniseed Balls and Brandy Balls.  Polo Mints were the sweet you opted for when you had a boring afternoon of double science and double geography ahead of you.  Mint Imperials did the same job but you couldn’t stick your tongue through the centre of one!  Polo Fruits were quite tasty when they came out.  Dip Dabs were a small bag full of sherbet and had a little hard boiled lolly on a stick inside it.  You licked the lolly and then dipped it into the sherbet.  Sometimes when you bought a Dip Dab there was no lolly in the bag and you just had to use your fingers and then sometimes you touched lucky and ended up with two lollies. 

Beta Bars were a big seller but only because they were cheap and helped fill you up.  A Beta Bar was a block of Rice Krispies covered in some sort of sticky substance but it definitely wasn’t toffee.  The middle of them was so dry it was like eating a hard sponge not that I ate sponges if you know what I mean.  Bon Bons were a great toffee sweet and came in white (plain), yellow (lemon) and my personal favourite, pink, which was strawberry flavoured.  I saw a packet of purple Bon Bons recently and had to find out what flavour they were.  They were blueberry, but the toffee in them just wasn’t the same.  I mean, my fillings were still in place after I ate them whereas the toffee in the quarter of Bon Bons I bought in my corner sweet shop would have pulled your teeth out!  Refreshers did exactly what they said on the wrapper!  I loved them and still buy them today.  It is hard to beat that chewy lemony substance with a blast of sherbet in the middle.  You can actually buy Refreshers on a stick today and a few years ago a pink one appeared!  But when I was a kid we just had the real McCoy.  

Chocolate Limes were a hard boiled lime flavoured sweet with a soft chocolate centre (and they came in a sort of white mild mint flavour too).  I liked them but they didn’t really last too long because after about ten sucks the sweet cracked and released the chocolate.  Cough Rocks were stinking, you may as well have sucked a Fisherman’s Friend, but admittedly Victory V’s were a bit better.  And as for Butter Balls, there was always a wee bit of stigma attached to these and I don’t mean on the inside of the bag, I mean, their name says it all really!  But hey I liked them.  I loved Double Lollies which took ages to eat and could crack your teeth and those other lollies with a hard candy coating which when you sucked through them took you straight to their bubble gum centre. Candy Whistle lollies were ok but not the first thing you would buy with your pocket money.  I could go on and on about my childhood sweet shop memories, and don’t start me on chocolate bars (Twix, Mars, Topic, Curly Wurly, Fruit & Nut, Aztec, Old Jamaica, Fudge, Whole Nut, Crunchie, Fry’s Chocolate Cream), but I would never get this book finished! 

And last but certainly not least, a real personal favourite of mine, Mojos.  Mojos were a stunningly delicious assortment of fruity chewy sweets including strawberry, banana, orange, spearmint and cola flavours.  Just thinking about these sweets takes me back to the days when the little crumpled white bag of Penny Sweets was EVERYTHING – it meant status, bribery ammo and pure unadulterated happiness.  If only life was as blissfully simple now.  But is it any wonder there were so many dentists around back then?  Aah the memories.  Bet you now want to go out and get your hands on some of these truly classic 70s’ sweets.

Just one of the memories I have written about in “Kicking Through The Troubles- How Manchester United Helped To Heal A Divided Community.”


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

On 6 September 1902, Manchester United travelled to Lincolnshire to play Gainsborough Trinity in the opening game of their 1902-03 English Second Division season. The home side’s ground, The Northolme, was opened in the 1850s, and was originally used as a cricket ground. Gainsborough Trinity moved to The Northolme in 1884 and at the time the only spectator facility was a small covered stand in the south-west corner of the ground. Players used the nearby pub, The Sun Inn, for changing rooms, and the landlord of the pub built an extension to the building for use by the football club. A 200 seat grandstand was later added to The Northolme along the southern touchline and a covered terrace on the northern side of the pitch.

This was the first ever match played by Manchester United after Newton Heath Football Club went bankrupt in late April 1902 and out of its ashes a new club was formed. That club was Manchester United.  In season 1900–01, Newton Heath Football Club was on the verge of bankruptcy. Things were that bad at the club that the fans conducted whip-rounds to pay for the team’s railway fares to play away fixtures. The club organised a Grand Bazaar at St James’s Hall, Oxford Street, Manchester late in the season in an effort to boost finances and raise the £1,000 which was needed to prevent the club from becoming bankrupt. At the bazaar the club captain’s dog, Harry Stafford’s St Bernard named Major, walked around the stalls in the hall with a collection box fastened around his collar so children could drop some pennies in his box. One day Major walked out of the hall and wandered off. He eventually turned up at the home of John H. Davies, a very wealthy local brewery owner. Stafford is believed to have tracked down the dog after placing a notice in a local newspaper and Davies contacted him to tell him he had Major. When Stafford called to the home of Davies to collect Major, Davies offered to purchase the pet as his daughter had fallen in love with the animal. Stafford told Davies that Major was not for sale but during their meeting Stafford told Davies about the Heathens’ precarious financial position. As a direct result of their chance meeting, Davies saw a new business opportunity and, as a benefactor of other sports, he decided that he would get involved to financially support The Heathens when they needed his investment. It proved to be one of the most decisive moments in the club’s history.

But despite the financial success of the Grand Bazaar, the club was still in need of a major cash injection. In January 1902, the club’s crippling debts amounted to £2,670 and a number of creditors pressed for payment. The club simply did not have the money to discharge their liabilities and so Newton Heath Football Club was adjudicated bankrupt. When the gates to their Bank Street ground were locked by their landlord, Stafford decided to call in Davies’s promise to help. A meeting of the club’s shareholders was held at Islington Town Hall, Ancoats, Manchester on 18 March 1902.  Stafford, realising the quite perilous financial state the club were in, contacted Davies and offered to let him have Major if he helped out the club. Davies agreed and on 18 March 1902, Stafford took to the stage at the New Islington Hall, Manchester to announce that he and four other gentlemen were willing to stake £200.00 each to save the club.  The four were Davies and three of Davies’s business acquaintances, Mr Jabez James Bown (Davies’ right hand man at his Brewery), Mr Charles Jones (a Cashier employed by Davies) and Mr James Taylor (a major shareholder in the Eagle Brewery). In return for their investment they would take full control of the club. Newton Heath Football Club’s existing Board of Directors were left with no other choice but to agree to the takeover. However, the Football Association declared that the re-formed club would need to have a new name. On 23 April 1902, Newton Heath Football Club beat Chesterfield 2–0 (scorers: Jimmy Coupar & Stephen Preston) at their Bank Street, Clayton home in Division Two and finished 15th in the table, their last league game under that name. Three days later, 26 April 1902, Harry Stafford captained Newton Heath Football Club in their last ever game, a 2-1 win in the Manchester Senior Cup final against Manchester City at their rival’s Hyde Road ground. It proved to be his only winners’ medal in his time at Bank Street.

On 28 April 1902, a key meeting was arranged to form a new club. Those present were fans, Directors and interested parties and they were invited to suggest a new name. Manchester Celtic and Manchester Central were both suggested, the former perhaps reflecting links with the Irish community in the city. The latter was rejected as there was a train station named Manchester Central. Louis Rocca, who had served the club as a tea boy in the 1890s and played for the Reserve Team a few times, was in attendance. Rocca, who lived in Oldham Road, Manchester was managing the family’s ice-cream business at the time and he always maintained that he was the person who suggested the name Manchester United which was unanimously agreed at the meeting to be the club’s new name. Rocca went on to become a chief scout at United and assistant manager to Walter Crickmer. The team’s new colours would be red jerseys and white shorts, although the team had played in red and white as early as 1892. The away kit was a green and white striped shirt with black shorts.

Harry Stafford and the club’s Secretary, James West, were placed in charge of all football related matters which effectively made Stafford the club captain, joint manager and a Director.  However, now that he had a position on the Board of Directors of Manchester United, Stafford had to give up his professional status as a player and revert to amateur status.  Harry Stafford was the last ever captain of Newton Heath Football Club and the first ever captain of Manchester United.

The new look United side took to the pitch to play Gainsborough Trinity wearing their brand new red shirts replacing the famous green & gold halves worn by Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Football Club from their formation in 1878 at the local Wagon Works at the railway yard in Newton Heath as follows:

James Whitehouse, Harry Stafford (Capt), Thomas Read, William Morgan, William Griffiths, Walter Cartwright, Charles Richards, Ernest Pegg, Jack Peddie, Frederick Williams, Daniel Hurst

With the exception of Peddie, who was born in Hutchesontown, Glasgow, Scotland, it was an all English born side. The game was played before 4,000 fans and ended 1-0 with the visitors, Manchester United, getting their season off to the perfect start thanks to a goal from Charles “Chas” Richards who holds the distinction of being the first player to score a goal for Manchester United.

Richards was a one season wonder for United after joining the newly formed Manchester United in August 1902 from Leicester Fosse. He was what you would call a journeyman of a player having had spells with Gresley Rovers, Newstead Byron, Notts County, Nottingham Forest and Grimsby Town. Richards left United for Doncaster Rovers in March 1903 having played 11 times and scoring two goals. He also scored in United’s 7-0 victory over Accrington Stanley on 1 November 1902 in the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.

Gainsborough Trinity Football Club was formed in 1873 as Trinity Recreationists, set up by the vicar of the Holy Trinity Church for young parishioners. In 1889, they became members of the Midland Counties League, losing their first match 2-1 to Lincoln City and going on to finish 7th out of eleven clubs. The club quickly became well known, and won their first Midland League championship in 1890-91 and after finishing runners-up the following season were elected to the Football League Second Division.

Ironically Gainsborough Trinity’s first ever Football League match was against Newton Heath Football Cub. The Second Division game was played on 1 September 1896 at The Heathens’ Bank Street ground with the home side running out 2-0 winners (scorer: James McNaught 2). Gainsborough Trinity held on to their place in Division Two but based in an area with a small population it was always a struggle and the club returned to the Midland League in 1912. Here they were to settle and earn more success, winning the Midland Championship in 1927-28, 1948-49 and 1966-67, also finishing runners-up twice.

Did You Know That? In 1902, the novel “A True Story” by Lucian was published. The story of Newton Heath becoming Manchester United is not only a true story, it is history.



Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

Harry Stafford was born on 29 November 1869 in Crewe, England.

Stafford began his playing career with his hometown club’s junior side, Crewe Alexandra Hornets. After impressing the club’s first team selectors, a 20-year old Stafford was given his first team debut for Crewe Alexandra on 22 September 1890, in a Football Alliance match at home versus Birmingham St. George’s at the Alexandra Recreation Ground (also known as Nantwich Road). The home side lost 4-1 and that same season Stafford played League matches against Newton Heath Football Club

Stafford played some 150 games for “The Railwaymen,” before he became a railwayman and signed for Newton Heath Football Club in March 1896, turning professional on 22 March 1897 after the ban on professional sportsmen being employed at the Crewe Works of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) was lifted. Newton Heath severed their ties with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in 1892 and were simply known as Newton Heathen by the time Stafford signed for the club.

During his career at the Alexandra Recreation Ground, he won Cheshire Senior Cup winners medals in 1891-92 and 1892–93. In addition to his football career, Stafford was a capable athlete who ran various distances from 100 yards to the half-mile. He was also an exceptional hurdler and represented the Crewe Alexandra Athletic Club for several years until turning professional with Newton Heath disqualified him from competing in amateur athletics.

On 3 April 1896, Stafford made his debut for Newton Heath in a 4-0 home victory in the English Second Division Championship over Darwen at Bank Street, Clayton. William Kennedy scored a hat-trick with James McNaught also scoring in the game. 

In February 1900, after 16 years of service, Stafford left his job as a boilermaker at the LNWR to became the landlord of the Bridge House Inn in Wrexham, Wales. On 2 March 1901, Stafford’s St Bernard dog went missing from St James’ Hall, Oxford Street, Manchester after the club’s fund-raising Bazaar to help raise much needed monies to clear the club’s increasing indebtedness and was taken in by John Henry Davies, a wealthy brewery owner from Manchester. Stafford reclaimed his dog after turning down an offer from Davies to buy it from him for his daughter who fell in love with the animal.

On 6 March 1901, Stafford’s Testimonial Match took place versus New Brighton at Bank Street, Clayton. The game was to be played with a gilded ball and the pitch illuminated by Wells Lights, contraptions that generated gas from tar oil. Unfortunately the weather was extremely wet and windy and the lights kept going out, causing the match to be abandoned after 15 minutes. The following week the game was replayed when New Brighton lined-up against a Manchester Select XI billed as “Manchester United,” the first time the words had been used together in a footballing context.

Stafford took over as landlord of the Bridge Inn, Mill Street, Ancoats, Manchester in July 1901, a pub owned by John Henry Davies. In January 1902, Newton Heath Football Club were served with a Winding-Up Order by the Court and were locked out of their Bank Street home by the Official Receiver. Stafford, realising the quite perilous financial state the club were in, contacted Davies and offered to let him have Major if he helped out the club. Davies agreed and on 18 March 1902, Stafford took to the stage at the New Islington Hall, Manchester to announce that he and four other gentlemen were willing to stake £200.00 each to save the club. The four were Davies and three of Davies’s business acquaintances, Mr Jabez James Bown (Davies’ right hand man at his Brewery), Mr Charles Jones (a Cashier employed by Davies) and Mr James Taylor (a major shareholder in the Eagle Brewery).

Harry captained Newton Heath Football Club for the last time in a League game on 23 April 1902, in a 2-0 English Second Division home win over Chesterfield at Bank Street, Clayton. It was the second last ever game played by The Heathens with Stephen Preston scoring the club’s last ever League goal. Three days later Harry captained the club for the last time when he lifted the Manchester Senior Cup after they beat Manchester City 2-1 at Hyde Road, Manchester(City’s home), with Fred Erentz scoring the winner from the penalty spot.

On 24 April 1902, Newton Heath were adjudicated bankrupt and forced into liquidation, but thanks to Stafford raising the £1,000.00, the club was saved. Newton Heath Football Club were no more but in their place a new club was born, Manchester United Football Club, a new beginning for the officials and players.

Over the summer of 1902, the first ever Board of Directors of Manchester United Football Club was established. Manchester United’s first Chairman was Liberal Councillor, Dr Edward Bishop. Not surprisingly given his tab as “The Saviour of the Club,” John Henry Davies was appointed the club’s first ever President. These two gentlemen were supported by four Directors; Mr Jabez James Bown (Davies’ right hand man at his Brewery), Mr Charles Jones (a Cashier employed by Davies), Mr James Taylor (a major shareholder in the Eagle Brewery) and Harry Stafford, who became the only Player/Director in the club’s history and was thus forced to revert back to his amateur status as a player.

James West continued in post as Secretary-Manager whilst Harry Stafford took charge of first team affairs. After the change of club name Stafford was in effect club captain, player/manager/director/scout and sometimes groundsman.

On 6 September 1902, Manchester United Football Club played their first ever game defeating Gainsborough Trinity 1-0 away in a Division Two game. Inside-right, Chas Richards, had the honour of scoring the club’s first ever goal but Stafford stole the headlines becoming the last ever captain of Newton Heath Football Club and the first ever captain of Manchester United Football Club. United ended their inaugural season (1902-03) in 5th place in the League but had to watch their nearest rivals, Manchester City, clinch the Division Two crown and secure promotion to the top flight of English football. A home match programme cost one penny and beneath the listings for the two teams the following notice appeared: “NOTE – In case of any alteration in the teams a notice will be sent round the ground giving the name of the substituted player and the number of the position in which he will play.” It is worth noting at this point that substitutes were not officially sanctioned by the Football League until the 1965-66 season. 

On 7 February 1903, Harry Stafford became the first Manchester United player ever to be sent off when he was dismissed during a 2-1 FA Cup First Round win against Liverpool at Bank Street, Clayton (Jack Peddie scored both goals). The match referee sent Stafford off in the second half after the United defender had been warned about his conduct for persistent fouling and failed to heed the referee’s warning.

During the 1902-03 season an unusual incident happened involving the Manchester United team when they travelled to Goodison Park, Liverpool on 21 February 1903, to face Everton in Round 2 of the FA Cup. The game was played in appalling weather conditions with a non-stop barrage of rain almost making the pitch unplayable as it cut up and began to resemble a quagmire. In the first half United wore their red jerseys but when they took to the pitch for the second half they wore blue and white striped shirts. The change of kit at the interval wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing the tie 3-1, and it wasn’t the only time they would do a shirt swap at half-time in a game. The team wore this blue and white striped jersey in those away games where their red home jersey clashed with the opposition’s home jersey until the 1920s with a couple of exceptions. During the 1907-08 season, Manchester United wore a white home jersey and in the 1909 FA Cup Final they swapped their red jersey for an all-white kit with a red “V” and the rose of Lancashire whilst their opponents, Bristol City, were also forced to change their red jerseys and instead wore blue.Just a few weeks before the FA Cup Final, United visited Bristol City for a Division One game and wore a white jersey but this time minus the red rose.

Ironically a similar incident occurred 93 years later when United visited The Dell to face Southampton in the Premier League on 13 April 1996. United, the soon to be crowned Premiership Champions for a third time, wore their second choice away kit, an all grey number, and after trailing 3-0 at half-time they re-appeared for the second half wearing their second choice away kit of blue and white stripes. According to the players their dismal first half performance was because they were finding it difficult to pick one another out against the backdrop of the crowd. However, as with the 1903 occasion, the switch did them no good whatsoever losing the game by the very same score, 3-1. 

In August 1903 Dr Bishop was replaced as club Chairman by J. J. Bentley, President of the Football League and a vice-President of the Football Association and who at the time, was the most powerful man in the English game. The following month, 20 September 1903, James West resigned from his role as club secretary and was replaced by former Burnley boss Ernest Mangnall, an old friend of J. J. Bentley.

Then on 12 December 1904, the Football Association suspended James West and Harry Stafford for two and a half years each for making “illegal payments” to players, a regular practice among clubs in England at the time. When he was asked to give his side of the story at an FA inquiry, the ever loyal Stafford, said: “Everything I have done has been in the interests of the club.” However, this is not entirely an accurate record of events. It has been claimed that Stafford and West took the rap for Davies and Bentley and were rewarded accordingly. West became the landlord of the Union Inn on Princess Street, Manchester and Stafford was given the stewardship of The Imperial Hotel on Manchester’s Piccadilly.

Stafford hung-up his boots and resigned his place on the Board of Directors. He was the first of only four Manchester United players who went on to be appointed a Director of the club (the other three were Harold Hardman, Bobby Charlton and Les Olive).

Despite his 5 feet, 9 inches height, Stafford weighed almost 13 stones (12 stones, 9 lbs) and was as solid as a rock in his position at full-back. Not too many opposing players fancied taking on Stafford who in boxing terms for his size was a Welterweight (10 stones, 7 lbs) but was more like a light heavyweight (12 stones, 7 lbs) and when he tackled a player it felt like a freight train hitting him. Such was Stafford’s reputation, many left sided outside-halves switched wings to avoid the thunder which came with a Stafford crunch tackle.

Stafford played 200 games for the club (Newton Heath Football Club/Manchester United Football Club) from season 1895-96 to 1902-03, and scored one goal. Stafford’s only strike for the club came on 5 January 1901, in a 3-0 home win over Portsmouth in the FA Cup.

Did You Know That?

According to Manchester United folklore, Harry Stafford left Manchester in the summer of 1909, just two months after the club won the FA Cup for the first time in their history, and in 1911, he emigrated to Australia due to an unnamed illness. Stafford even tapped Davies for £50.00 to flee the country.

In reality, Stafford was actually bound for another railway company in the United States of America, before his death in Quebec, Canada on 24 October 1940, aged 70. Quite sadly, Harry Stafford’s grave in Quebec is unmarked. There is no statue of Stafford and his St. Bernard dog, Major, at Old Trafford, but on the same equilibrium as Sir Christopher Wren and his architectural masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Manchester United fans searching for a monument to celebrate Stafford’s contribution to the very fabric of the club, just need to look around Old Trafford today. Had it not been for Harry Stafford and Major in 1902, and their chance meeting with John Henry Davies after Major got lost and turned up at the door of the wealthy Manchester Brewer, Manchester United would quite simply not exist today. Davies may well have saved the club from extinction, James W. Gibson most definitely deserves his title as “The Saviour of Manchester United,” Matt Busby will always be referred to as “The Father of Manchester United,” the Busby Babes are Legend, United’s Triumvirate (Denis Law, George Best & Bobby Charlton) are the envy of every club’s history, Eric Cantona was an enigma but magnificent, Fergie’s Fledglings spread their wings and Alex Ferguson won the Treble. But, Harry Stafford stands above them all in the history of both Newton Heath Football Club and Manchester United Football Club.  He was Manchester United’s first Captain Marvel.


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

Sir Matt Busby has a statue in his honour at Old Trafford and a road named after him adjacent to the stadium. Sir Bobby Charlton has a stand named after him and is part of the famous Triumvirate statue opposite Old Trafford which also features George Best and Denis Law. Denis has a statue inside the Stretford End and Sir Alex Ferguson has a stand named in his honour and a statue outside the stand. And quite fittingly there are two Munich plaques as well as the Munich Tunnel in memory of those players and officials who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958.

But Sir Matt, Sir Alex, Bobby, Denis and George would not have any tributes in their name, and the current Board of Directors, would not be serving the club today had it not been for James W. Gibson.

James W. Gibson, was the Chairman of Manchester United from 19 December 1931 until his death in September 1951 and his son, Alan, was elected to the club’s Board of Directors in 1948 which was the beginning of a lifetime of serving Manchester United. There is a red plaque on the bridge over the train track at Old Trafford marking the impact James W. Gibson had on the club over the years. It is a most fitting and poignant location for this tribute as it was Gibson who in 1934 negotiated with the Midlands Railway Authorities for steps to be built from the existing platform just outside the ground so that fans no longer had to walk miles to attend matches. The services ran out of the old Manchester Central Terminus to make a stop at Old Trafford on matchdays and the United fans still use the station on match days. There is also a plaque in his honour in the Old Trafford Players’ Tunnel alongside another saviour of the club, John Henry Davies, and a display in the club’s museum.

Manchester United is world famous for nurturing young talent and developing youth team players to be good enough to play in the first team, from Busby’s Babes to Fergie’s Fledglings. Quite remarkably for the past 82 years, since season 1937-38, United have had a homegrown player in their first team squad. In season 1936-37, James W. Gibson, the Chairman of Manchester United, and Walter Crickmer , established the Manchester United Junior Athletic Club (MUJAC), the club’s first ever Youth Team. At the time Gibson, said he would like to “have a first team made entirely of home grown youngsters all from the Manchester area.” However, the promising young prospects who joined MUJAC were not forced to sign for United, on the contrary they were asked merely “to consider playing for the first team one day.” Louis Rocca was appointed as the Chief Scout of MUJAC and through his connections to the Manchester Catholic Sportsman’s Club, he appointed a network of scouts from the Catholic Church. James W. Gibson purchased the lease from his own pocket for the Old Broughton Rangers Rugby Ground for the MUJAC players to train on, which later became United’s famous Cliff training ground, where the young United stars of the future were put through their paces. The MUJAC team played under the name “United Colts.” Consequently, had it not been for James W. Gibson many United legends, Best, Hughes, the Class of ’92 et al, as well as the stars of today such as Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, would never have played for Manchester United.

But how did James W. Gibson become involved with the club? United were in difficulty on and off the pitch. Indeed, in December 1931, Manchester United almost folded as the club was heavily in debt with a £25,000 mortgage and they could not even find the money to pay the players’ wages. The impact of the Great Depression following the Wall Street Stock Market Crash on 29 October 1929, known as Black Tuesday, was felt worldwide and hit Manchester United particularly hard. Home attendances were particularly poor with a meagre 6,396 turning up to see a 2-0 win over Millwall on 5 December 1931 and a fortnight later only 4,697 were in attendance to watch United lose 1-0 to Bristol City. Stacey Lintott, a local sports writer met James Gibson at a dinner in Manchester, and he told James about the situation at United. It was agreed that Walter Crickmer would visit James at his home in Hale Barns to discuss the situation. James was the sole owner of Briggs, Jones & Gibson (he had some years earlier bought out his two partners) which was a thriving military uniform manufacturing company).

Bamlett resigned as manager on 9 November 1930 after United lost 13 of their opening 14 First Division games of the 1930-31 season. Crickmer was appointed as the club’s temporary manager and remained in post until a Scott Duncan was appointed manager on 13 July 1932. So Crickmer, with cap-in-hand, told James W. Gibson about the club’s plight and dire financial position. James Gibson agreed to help and gave a gift of £2,000 (£118,000 today) to pay the backlog of players’ wages and the wages of the club’s officials until mid-January 1932. He also bought all of the players and staff a turkey for Christmas. That night the Manchester Evening News reported the news: “Mr J. Gibson, a Manchester businessman with no previous record in big football, has taken over Manchester United for a month, and he has paid the players’ wages for this week. He has undertaken to be responsible for the Club’s expenditure from December 16 until January 9. If during that time sufficient support is forthcoming at Old Trafford then he is prepared to consider securing a new manager, four first-class players, and he construction of covered accommodation on the popular side of the ground.”

James W. Gibson’s plan was to raise monies for the club with a view to getting it back to a sound financial footing. He proposed a new issue of “Patron’s Tickets” but the response from the United fans was not what he had hoped for due to the recession. James was moved as he did receive a letter from a man who said he could not attend matches as he worked on Saturdays but enclosed a Postal Order for 6d. (2-1/2pence), and hoped it would help as he couldn’t afford more. This helped set James’s resolve even further to aid United for the long term having seen what the club meant to the supporters.

James Gibson together with his sister and younger brother were orphaned when they were young. James was just 14 years old. Their father had a small business making uniforms but this was closed at the time of his death.

James invested £40,000 (£2.36 million today) of his own money into the club and agreed to be the guarantor for the bank for an overdraft which had reached £17,000. Had United not acquired such a generous benefactor the club would have went into extinction and would not have gone on to become the world’s most famous football club it is today. Not surprisingly James W. Gibson is remembered as “The Saviour of Manchester United.” In return for his cash injection, Gibson was made the Chairman of Manchester United at a time when City were the most dominant team in Manchester and who went on to win the FA Cup in 1934 (runners-up to Everton in 1933) and the First Division Championship in season 1936-37. Perhaps it was his modest ambition or else he was keeping his future plans for United close to his chest when he said: “There is sufficient room in Manchester for two good football clubs.”

Duncan remained at the club until 7 November 1937, guiding them to the Second Division Championship in season 1935-36. After United lifted the Second Division Championship, captained by James Brown, the club produced a postcard which was set out to annoy a number of clubs they would face the following season. The poster proudly boasted that United had now joined a select band of heroes who had won English football’s Triple Crown of First Division Championship (1907-08, 1910-11), Second Division Championship (1935-36) and FA Cup (1909). The poster said United had now joined the elite of the Football World – Burnley, Everton, Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday and West Bromwich Albion – who had also won all three trophies. In block capitals the poster pointed out that the following clubs “Couldn’t do it” – Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers, Derby County, Huddersfield Town, Manchester City, Newcastle United and Sheffield United. The postcard also stated:


Mr J W Gibson, the Greatest Sportsman in the Kingdom

Mr Scott Duncan, Football’s Greatest Manager

The gallant band of United Supporters not forgetting the Ladies!

And the bravest man was Captain Brown

Who played his Ukulele when they won the Triple Crown!

The triumphant United players toured Manchester on an open top bus on 2 May 1936 after returning home from drawing their final League game of the season 1-1 away to Hull City. However, the boasting was all bravado as United struggled in season 1936-37 and made an immediate return to Division Two having finished second from bottom of the table.

Towards the end of the 1930s, United were in desperate need of a manager to take over from Walter Crickmer (Club Secretary & Manager, 9 November 1937-45) who decided that he would relinquish his managerial responsibilities when the atrocities of World War II would eventually come to an end. A Board meeting was called at Old Trafford in December 1944 to decide who should be asked to take charge of the team. Rocca had heard that Liverpool had already offered Busby a job as right hand man to George Kay and it was Rocca who convinced the United Board to leave it to him. Rocca wrote a letter to Busby and addressed it to his army regiment. The letter was quite vague, referring only to a job offer just in case it fell into the wrong hands, namely the Board of Directors at Liverpool.

On 1 February 1945, Busby, still in his army uniform, attended a meeting at Cornbrook Cold Storage, Trafford Park, a business unit which was owned by James W. Gibson. Homeless and almost penniless, Manchester United was hardly an appealing prospect to any potential suitor. But Busby was anxious to learn more details of the “job offer” which Rocca had written to him about. Busby, a former Manchester City (1928-36, FA Cup winner in 1934) and Liverpool (1936-41) player listened to what James W. Gibson had to say and agreed to accept the job offer to become the new manager of Manchester United provided James W. Gibson met his conditions. Busby made it clear from the outset that he, and only he, would be in charge of training, selecting the team on matchdays and having the final decision in which players would be bought and sold and all done so without any interference from the club’s Directors, who, he believed, did not know the game as well as he did. At the time there wasn’t a single club in England who offered their manager such a level of control over the team. It was totally unprecedented in the English game, but James W. Gibson was in no position to argue. Busby was originally offered a 3-year contract but the canny Scotsman managed to negotiate himself a 5-year deal after explaining to Gibson that it would take at least that long for his football revolution to have a tangible effect.

The two men signed the contract that day but it was not until 1 October 1945, that Busby officially took over the reins at Manchester United, with World War II coming to an end on 2 September 1945. In the interim, Busby returned to the Army Physical Training Corps and in the Spring of 1945, he took their football team to Bari, Italy. When he was in Bari he took in a training session for a football team made up of non-commissioned officers which was led by Jimmy Murphy. Murphy was a former player having played for West Bromwich Albion as a wing-half from 1928-39 and won 15 international caps for his native Wales (1933-38). Busby was hugely impressed by the Welshman’s oratory skills and offered him the job of Chief Coach at Manchester United when the war ended. Murphy accepted Busby’s offer verbally there and then, before joining the club officially in early 1946.

Matt Busby was a Football revolutionary and along with Murphy, his right-hand man, the former army buddies changed the history of English football. When Busby accepted Chairman James Gibson’s offer to become the new Manchester United Manager on 1 February 1945, the club had not won a major trophy in 34 years, the English First Division Championship in season 1910-11, and were regarded as a yo-yo club. Indeed, in season 1933-34, the unthinkable almost happened, relegation to Division Three for the first time in the club’s 56 year history.

On the night of 11 March 1941, Old Trafford’s Main Stand was completely destroyed by the Luftwaffe in a German bombing raid on the nearby Trafford Park Industrial Estate. Much of the stadium’s terracing was also damaged as was the pitch. Alan Gibson was to later say that he remembered his father learning the news and breaking down in tears – it was the only time he saw his father cry.

The damage meant that future home games that season would have to be played elsewhere and so United turned to their city neighbours and James orchestrated a temporary move for home games to be played at Maine Road whilst Old Trafford was out of commission. City charged United £5,000 a year to use their facilities but they never allowed United use of the home team changing room when the two teams met even when we were the home team for a Wartime Football League.

In the United Review for the opening game of the 1946-47 season, Chairman James W. Gibson said a few words: “Dear Friends, I offer my greetings and a welcome to our Supporters on the return to normal first division football after the interlude of watching teams comprised of strange personnel weary war-workers and travel stained servicemen, who, despite, numerous difficulties, gallantly succeeded in keeping our grand game alive through the darkest days of a world war. Yes, I think you will agree everybody did their best to keep the “United” flag flying al anxiously waiting and looking forward to this day when we embark on the first post-war season of serious competitive football. It is indeed gratifying to know practically all our service players are with us once more, fully trained and fit to do battle with the best. I was with them on an occasion during training and was really impressed with their activities. Mr Busby, our manager, tells me he is satisfied the team will do well, so we open up full of confidence. A number of the 1939 older players are no longer with us – six years is a long time and changes were imminent, but as you will see, our policy in fostering junior talent is now proving its worth. A lump rises in my throat when I think of our premises at Old Trafford damaged beyond repair by fire and blast in March 1941, and still looking a sorry spectacle owing to the Government policy of issuing only limited licences for building materials whilst the housing problem is so manifest. Against this, we are fortunate that our neighbours, Manchester City, to whom we ae greatly indebted, came to the rescue and offered us a temporary home, which we still enjoy. In conclusion I must say how much I appreciate your loyalty during the past war-years and sincerely trust you will be rewarded with real, enterprising football. Yours faithfully.”

After the bombing James W. Gibson spent the war years trying to persuade the Government to grant the club finance to redevelop and rebuild Old Trafford. In November 1944, the club was granted a Licence granting permission to demolish the Grandstand to allow the reconstruction work to commence. Two years later with the valuable assistance of Mr Ellis Smith, the local MP of Stoke-on-Trent, James W. Gibson was the main catalyst for a debate in the House of Commons to decide whether or not football clubs which were affected by the war were entitled to financial support. United along with nine other clubs were in need of financial support to rebuild their grounds following damage to them during the war. On 17 November 1944, more than three years after the Luftwaffe raid on the Trafford Park industrial area, the War Damage Commission wrote to the club and stated that they were of the opinion that Old Trafford was not a “total loss” and awarded United £4,800 to remove the debris and £17,478 to rebuild the stands. Although it cost £90,000 to build Old Trafford in 1909 (it officially opened on 19 February 1910 with a 4-3 First Division loss to Liverpool) the compensation package greatly helped United as the club had a debt of £15,000 at the time. With the building of the stadium now underway, James W. Gibson could now turn his attention to rebuilding the team.

Year after year and decade after decade the club’s conveyor belt of youth team talent provided players for the first team. In season 1947-48, United’s first team included a number of former Youth Team players: John Anderson (40 games, 2 goals, 1947-49), John Aston Snr (284 games, 30 goals, 1945-55), Carey, Henry Cockburn (275 games, 4 goals, 1945-55) and William McGlen (122 games, 2 goals, 1946-52).

Busby knew he had to replace his ageing side and began a revolution which would see his young side go on to dominate the English game in the latter half of the 1950s. Busby and Murphy took the bold decision to invest in the club’s youth set-up and actively set out to recruit the best local talent available by working closely with local schools and promoting Reserve Team players. Busby’s philosophy was simple: “If they are good enough, they are old enough.” During their successful 1951-52 First Division Championship winning campaign, Busby promoted two youth team players into the first team. On 24 November 1951, Busby gave Jackie Blanchflower and Roger Byrne their United debuts versus Liverpool in the white hot atmosphere at Anfield. The game ended 0-0 with the debutants catching the eye of reporters including Tom Jackson from the Manchester Evening News who referred to the United team as “United Babes” in his match report and later the “Busby Babes.” Sadly, the one man who had been the catalyst for much of Busby’s success, James W. Gibson, did not see United lift the title or witness the revolution of the Busby Babes later in the decade as he passed away aged 74 in 1951. However, James W. Gibson’s dream continues to this day in the form of United’s Youth Team players.

James W. Gibson and his wife, Lillian, lost five children to birth complications and illness: a son, twins and two of three triplets. Their son Alan was born in 1915 and survived childhood pneumonia. Alan went on to serve as a vice-chairman and director of the club until his 70th Birthday and was Vice-President until his death in 1995. To their immense credit, the Gibson family, unlike other families that followed them, never took any money out of the club, instead they readily parted with their own savings to make the club the institution it is today. James Gibson’s original £40,000 loan (The Gibson Guarantee) was never repaid to him by the club and nor did he seek reimbursement of same. In September 2016, a piece of art, The Gibson Compass, was unveiled by Trafford Council at Halecroft Park, Hale Barns in Altrincham in recognition of his legacy at the club and the work of his wife Lillian and son Alan. It is a fitting memorial to the Gibson family and situated quite close to Alanor which no longer exists.

Today, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has followed the trend set by Matt Busby and later Alex Ferguson, by adopting James W. Gibson’s dream as he has no hesitation in promoting Academy players to his first team squad including: Tahith Chong, James Garner, Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams and Paul Pogba who was an Academy player from 2009-11.

Did You Know That?

Alan Gibson was booked on the chartered flight which the club organised for Manchester United’s European Cup quarter-final, 2nd leg tie away to Red Star Belgrade on 5 February 1958. However, a few days before departure, he broke an ankle and had to withdraw from the trip. His place on the trip was taken by the club secretary, Walter Crickmer, who lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958. James W. Gibson’s legacy should never be forgotten whilst his place in the history of Manchester United is forever enshrined at his beloved Old Trafford. And in another strange twist of fate, Jimmy Murphy missed the trip to Belgrade as he was in Cardiff at the time coaching the Welsh national team (he was the manager of Wales from 1956-64) for an important Fifa 1958 World Cup play-off game against Israel. The Welsh won the game 2-0 on the same night United drew 3-3 with Red Star Belgrade and Wales progressed to the World Cup Finals for the first time in the Principality’s history having lost the away play-off 2-1 on 15 January 1958 in Ramat Gan giving the Welsh a 3-2 aggregate victory. Murphy’s seat on the ill-fated flight was occupied by United’s chief coach Bert Whalley who lost his life in the disaster.


Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

The 1930-31 season is one of the most humiliating in the history of Newton Heath Football Club and Manchester United Football Club.  The previous season United finished 17th in the English First Division Championship on 38 points with 15 wins, 8 draws and 19 defeats in their 42 League games.  They scored 67 goals, Harry Rowley and Joe Spence each scored 12, and they conceded 88 with veteran Alf Steward in nets for 39 of them.  In the FA Cup, they limped out in Round 3 going down 2-0 at Old Trafford to Swindon Town who were playing in Division Three South.

The most important game of the season played at Old Trafford during the 1929-30 season (finished 17th) was played on 22 March 1930 and it did not even feature Manchester United.  On 22 March 1930, the Match Programme for the game which was called “RED & WHITE,” many years before it became known as “THE UNITED REVIEW,” carried an advertisement stating: “PARK YOUR CAR at the COUNTY CRICKET CLUB GARAGE, OLD TRAFFORD.”  Looking back now at this Match Programme it is difficult to understand the marketing appeal of the advertisement as by the time most fans had purchased the souvenir programme, which cost 2d, they would already have parked-up and made their way to the stadium.  The Match Programme was Vol. XVII, No.33 and had a photograph of James “Jimmy” Seed (the captain of Sheffield Wednesday) and Thomas “Tom“ Wilson (the captain of Huddersfield Town) on the front cover with the caption of “THE RIVAL CAPTAINS.”  The game was the FA Cup semi-final which was played out by Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday.  The Terriers (Huddersfield Town) beat The Owls (Sheffield Wednesday) 2-1 but Huddersfield Town lost the 1930 FA Cup final 2-0 to Arsenal at Wembley Stadium, London.

Manchester United set four unwanted records in season 1930-31.  Firstly, they lost all 12 of their opening League matches which included a 6-0 and 7-4 tanking at home to Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United respectively.  They also lost 4-1 to Manchester City, 5-1 to West Ham United and 4-1 against Portsmouth away from home.  This was not only a club record but also a record for the English First Division Championship.  Secondly, United won 7, drew 8 and lost a club record 27 League games in a season giving them a meagre 22 points from 42 League outings.  Their points tally was a club record low from 42 games whilst Newton Heath Football Club could only manage 14 points in season 1893-94 (United’s lowest number of points with 3 points for a win came in season 1989-90 under Alex Ferguson when they could only register 48 points from 38 matches).  Fourthly, United scored 53 times in their 42 League games, but conceded a club record 115 goals with the hapless Steward partly responsible for them having played in 38 of the games.  Bizarrely, Blackpool conceded 125 goals during the season but unlike Manchester United, who finished bottom of the First Division along with Leeds United who were one place above them, who were both relegated to the Second Division, Blackpool survived the drop after ending the season one point above Leeds United.

After Manchester United lost their opening ten League games of the season, and were sitting bottom of the English First Division with no points and a minus goal difference of 29, it was too much for one group of fans.  Some 68 years before “Shareholders United Against Murdoch,” which subsequently became the “Manchester United Supporters’ Trust” (MUST), was formed in 1998 to stop a proposed takeover of Manchester United by the media tycoon, Rupert Murdoch, a large group of very disgruntled Reds formed a Supporters’ Action Group.  However, the United fans in 1930 could not call upon the social media monster that fans’ pressure groups have at their fingertips today to advertise their dissatisfaction with their team’s Board of Directors whose resignations they were calling for.  The club’s eleventh League game of the 1930-31 season was against Arsenal on 18 October 1930, and the disgruntled Reds placed advertisements in the local press calling upon fans of the club to boycott the game.  On the day of the game the same group of angry Reds paraded the concourses of Old Trafford with a placard in one hand and a leaflet in the other calling upon all Manchester United fans to boycott attending the match.  However, the loyal Reds paid no heed to the call to boycott watching their team play and 23,406 fans attended the game which was the club’s highest home attendance of the season at the time.  United lost 2-1 with George McLachlan scoring United’s only goal of the game.

United’s record home attendance of the 1930-31 season was set on 7 February 1931, when they lost 3-1 at home to their rivals, Manchester City.  Joe Spence scored for United.  However, the 1930-31 season was not a complete disaster as Manchester United won the Manchester Senior Cup for the fourteenth time since the formation of Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Cricket and Football Club in 1878.

Did You Know That?

United’s difficulties on the pitch in season 1930-31, mirrored their financial position off it.  The club, and not for the first time, were in deep financial trouble.  Old Trafford was owned by a local brewery and the club’s Board of Directors asked their landlord to suspend mortgage interest payments until the books were close to being in the black.  The club also owed a significant sum to the Inland Revenue in respect of income tax arrears.  However, in December 1930, the club faced bankruptcy for a second time (the first was in season 1901-02 as Newton Heath Football Club) when the bank refused to extend more credit which meant players’ wages could not be paid.  But, as time has shown, history has a habit of repeating itself and for Manchester United Football Club, history came about for the club for the second time in 28 years.  In 1902, John Henry Davies rescued the club when Newton Heath Football Club became Manchester United Football Club.  And in early December 1931, the club had a second benefactor to thank for their survival, their Guardian Angel, and his name is James W. Gibson who placed the princely sum of £2,000 at the club’s disposal and paid all of the back wages owed to the players.  He even ensured every player’s family had a turkey to enjoy for their Christmas dinner.  However, James W. Gibson expected nothing in return for his generosity, he just wanted the club to survive and entertain his fellow Mancunians.

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