Manchester, Monday @PeopleSports11
Not a day goes by when Wilf McGuinness doesn’t think of the friends and teammates he lost when the Munich air crash ripped the heart out of Manchester United’s “Busby Babes”.
The disaster, 60 years ago this week, killed eight of the young, vibrant side who had won successive league titles and left manager Matt Busby fighting for his life. The events of February 6, 1958 are woven into the fabric of the club, who recovered to become the first English team to lift the European Cup 10 years later on a deeply emotional night at Wembley.
McGuinness, now 80, was not on the plane which crashed on the third take-off attempt in terrible weather conditions because he was injured. The ill-fated aircraft was bringing the team back via Munich from Belgrade after they had reached the European Cup semi-finals.
Twenty-three people died in total. “You think of the ones who went, you don’t think of yourself escaping or not going on the trip,” says McGuinness, who was in hospital following a cartilage operation when he heard the terrible news. “I was thinking how great they were, it will never ever stay out of my mind. It is the number one thing that remains with me.
“They were extra-special and so young when they died… unbelievable.” For McGuinness, whose own career ended prematurely aged just 22 when he broke his leg, the two standouts were the halfbacks, “cheeky chappie” Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards, “a giant”, to whom McGuinness played understudy.
“I couldn’t have licked their boots,” says McGuinness modestly at his home in Sale near Manchester in the northwest of England. Colman’s parents did not have a telephone and only learned of the accident through his close friend and Manchester City goalkeeper Steve Fleet as he ran to their corner shop to tell them. Edwards survived the crash but died two weeks later in hospital.
“They would have been the best-ever United team, in fact they were the best ever. They would have won everything,” says McGuinness, who attended all his teammates’ funerals. “But then the crash happened and eight were killed and two never played again. It was a very difficult time, even now,” he adds with tears welling in his eyes. -AFP