The following article is reproduced with the kind permission of John White, Branch Secretary of the Carryduff Manchester United Supporters Club. You can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/carryduffmusc
MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 WEST BROMWICH ALBION
ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION
29 APRIL 1957
“Youth has no age,” (Pablo Picasso).
On 29 April 1957, Manchester United played their final English First Division game of the season against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. United had already been crowned Champions a few weeks earlier and following the game versus West Bromwich Albion they won the League by a stretch, 8 points over their closest challengers, Tottenham Hotspur. Before the game United had notched up 102 goals and conceded 43 winning 27, drawing 7 and losing 6 of the 41 games they had played. They were an incredible side, they were the famous Busby Babes. They attacked teams from the opening whistle to the last and had one of the most potent strike forces the English game has ever seen. Their Republic of Ireland international, Liam Whelan, was the club’s leading goal scorer in the League with 26 to his name and 33 overall in all competitions. United’s powerful England international marksman Tommy Taylor, bagged 34 in 45 games whilst Dennis Viollet contributed 26 goals, 16 of them in the League.
Some teams could simply just not live with them including teams on the continent as United were competing in the European Cup for the first time, the firs English club to participate in the competition. They scored 12 goals versus RSC Anderlecht over two legs, 3 against Borussia Dortmund, 6 against Atletico Bilbao and 3 versus the best team in Europe at the time, Real Madrid. Domestically they had swept aside all before them to reach the 1957 FA Cup final, scoring 14 times in their five FA Cup ties to reach the season’s grand finale game beneath the famous Twin Towers at Wembley Stadium.
With the FA Cup final being played on 4 May 1957, Matt Busby decided to rest most his first team before they travelled to London to play Aston Villa. Busby wanted to win the Double of League and FA Cup to become the first team to achieve this feat in English football in the 20th century. Winning both competitions in the same season had only ever been done twice before, by Preston North End in 1888-89 and Aston Villa in 1896-97.
“Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We,” (Phil Jackson).
Matt Busby trusted his players and for the game versus West Bromwich Albion, he fielded 9 players who had progressed their way through the junior ranks at Old Trafford 9 players who were all former trainees. No other top flight club in the history of English football at the time, or since, including Fergie’s Fledglings some 38 years later had played so many young players who began their careers as trainees before stepping up to play in the first team. But then again, Busby, aided by Jimmy Murphy, built three great Manchester United teams from the nucleus of their youth system. In the 1950s every young boy, regardless of where they lived or the team they idolised as a child, wanted to be a Busby Babe. They saw themselves as the next Bobby Charlton or Duncan Edwards. The famous Glasgow Celtic side, nicknamed “The Lisbon Lions,” which won the European Cup in 1967 with a team comprised of players who were all born within a 30 miles radius of Glasgow and had 9 Celtic trainees in their side.
The Glasgow Celtic team which became the first British club to win the European Cup in 1967 comprising of all Scottish born players was:
Ronnie Simpson (joined Celtic from Hibernian in 1964), Jim Craig (Celtic trainee), Tommy Gemmell (Celtic trainee), Bobby Murdoch (Celtic trainee), Billy McNeill (Capt, Celtic trainee), John Clark (Celtic trainee), Jimmy Johnstone (Celtic trainee), Willie Wallace (joined Celtic from Heart of Midlothian in 1966), Stevie Chalmers (Celtic trainee), Bertie Auld (Celtic trainee), Bobby Lennox (Celtic trainee). All but one member of the 15 man squad were born within 10 miles of Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland. Bobby Lennox was born 30 miles away in Saltcoats. Celtic manager, Jock Stein, like his close friend Busby, placed his trust in his young trainees.
The Manchester United XI which played West Bromwich Albion was:
Gordon Clayton, Ian Greaves, Roger Byrne (Capt), Frederick Goodwin, Mark Jones, Wilf McGuinness, Johnny Berry, John Doherty, Alex Dawson, Dennis Violet, Albert Scanlon
Goalkeeper Clayton, aged 20 and a former trainee, was making his second and last appearance for United after making his debut on 16 March 1957 in a 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux Stadium in the English First Division (scorer: Bobby Charlton). Total Games: 2, Goals 0.
Roger Byrne, the United captain, aged 28 and a former trainee, made his debut on 24 November 1951 in a 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the English First Division and had scored 16 goals for the club. It was his 225th League appearance for United. Total Games: 280, Goals 20.
Frederick Goodwin, aged 24 and a former trainee, was making his 19th League appearance for United after making his debut on 20 November 1954 in a 2-1 home win against Arsenal in the English First Division (scorers: Tommy Taylor & Jackie Blanchflower). Total Games: 107, Goals 8.
Mark Jones, aged 23 and a former trainee, was making his 93rd League appearance for United after making his debut on 7 October 1950 in a 3-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday in the English First Division (scorers: John Downie, Harry McShane & Jack Rowley). Total Games: 121, Goals 1.
Wilf McGuinness, aged 19 and a former trainee, was making his 16th League appearance (scored 1 goal) for United after making his debut on 8 October 1955 in a 3-2 home win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English First Division (scorers: David Pegg, Tommy Taylor & John Doherty). Total Games: 85, Goals 2.
John Doherty, aged 22 and a former trainee, was making his 24th League appearance (scored 6 goals) for United after making his debut on 6 December 1952 in a 3-2 home win over Middlesbrough in the English First Division (scorers: Stan Pearson 2 & John Aston Snr). Total Games: 26, Goals 7.
Alex Dawson, aged 17 and a former trainee, was only making his third start for United after making his debut a week earlier, 22 April 1957, scoring in a 2-0 English First Division win over Burnley at Old Trafford. Colin Webster also scored. The 17-year old Dawson impressed Busby immensely but did not select him to face Real Madrid three days later in the European Cup semi-finals, second leg tie when United drew 2-2 with the Spanish giants, and reigning European Cup holders, at Old Trafford (scorers: Tommy Taylor & Bobby Charlton). However, Busby did give him another game when United travelled to the Welsh capital for an English First Division game versus Cardiff City just two days before the West Bromwich Albion game. Once again Dawson did not misplace Busby’s trust in his abilities and scored in a 3-2 win at Ninian Park with Albert Scanlon scoring twice including 90th minute penalty to seal victory for the visitors. Total Games: 93, Goals 54.
Dennis Viollet, aged 23 and a former trainee, was making his 127th League appearance (scored 68 goals) for United after making his debut on 11 April 1953 in a 2-1 victory at St James’ Park against Newcastle United in the English First Division. Tommy Taylor netted both goals for Manchester United. The game also marked the debut of Robert Leslie Olive who took over in the United goal from Jack Crompton. Olive signed for United as a trainee in September 1942 aged 14 but the Second World War interrupted his progress at the club as he only played one more game for United, a week after his debut in a 2-2 draw in the English First Division against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford when Stan Pearson scored for United along with Viollet who scored the first of his 179 goals for the club. Total Games: 293, Goals 179.
Albert Scanlon, aged 21 and a former trainee, was making his 25th League appearance (scored 7 goals) for United after making his debut in a 2-1 English First Division home victory over Arsenal on 20 November 1954 (scorers: Tommy Taylor & Jackie Blanchflower). Total Games: 127, Goals 35.
In addition to the 9 former Manchester United Junior Athletic Club players, Busby played two players who he bought.
Ian Denzil Greaves, aged 24, a right back was signed from Boston United in May 1953 (aged 21), was playing in his 18th League game for United after making his debut on 2 October 1954 in a 4-2 loss versus Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux Stadium in the English First Division (scorers: Dennis Viollet & Jack Rowley). He won an English First Division Championship with United in season 1955-56 when he replaced Bill Foulkes in the team. When Foulkes got injured in a 3-1 loss away to Preston North End in the League on 21 January 1956 (scorer: Liam Whelan) he played in United’s remaining 13 League fixtures and kept Foulkes out of the Starting XI when he recovered from injury. In total he played 15 League games in United’s Championship winning side in 1955-56. Greaves took Roger Byrne’s left-back spot in the 1958 FA Cup final loss to Bolton Wanderers after the United captain lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster. But a knee injury in 1960 brought the curtain down on his United career after 67 games (0 goals) and he joined Lincoln City in December 1960. He may not have been a stylish defender but he was an effective one. Greaves went on to manage five clubs including Bolton Wanderers from 1974-80. He guided Bolton Wanderers to two consecutive fourth place finishes in the English Second Division in seasons 1975-76 and 1976-77 narrowly missing out on promotion to the top flight. When Tommy Docherty was sacked by Manchester United on 4 July 1977, the Board of Directors at Old Trafford considered appointing Greaves as his successor but opted instead for Dave Sexton. In season 1977-78, he steered Bolton Wanderers to the English Second Division Championship title with players like Sam Allardyce, Peter Reid and Frank Worthington in his side. Total Games: 280, Goals 20. Total Games: 75, Goals 0.
The second player who Busby bought and who played in the West Bromwich Albion game was Johnny Berry, aged 30. Busby paid Birmingham City £25,000 for the services of Berry in August 1951. He made his United debut on 1 September 1951, a 1-0 loss in the English First Division to Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park, Bolton. The West Bromwich Albion game was his 227th League appearance for United (scored 33 goals). Johnny Berry helped United to three English First Division Championship titles in 1951-52, 1955-56 and 1956-57 and was one of the first names Busby put down on his team sheet making 37 appearances (scored 6 goals) in his debut season, 1951-52, 45 appearances (scored 7 goals) in 1952-53, 38 appearances (scored 5 goals) in 1953-54, 43 appearances (scored 3 goals) in 1954-55, 35 appearances (scored 4 goals) in 1955-56 and 54 appearances (scored 14 goals) in 1956-57. When Kenny Morgans made his debut for the club on 21 December 1957 in a 4-0 home win over Leicester City in the English First Division (scorers: Dennis Viollet 2, Bobby Charlton & Albert Scanlon) he lost his place in the side. The 18-year old Morgans joined United as a trainee in January 1955 when he was 14 before turning professional in April 1956. Berry was on the trip to play Red Star Belgrade away on 5 February 1958 as a back-up player, Morgans played in the 3-3 draw in the Yugoslav capital (scorers: Bobby Charlton 2, Dennis Viollet). Johnny Berry was one of the nine United players who survived the Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958 along with Jackie Blanchflower, Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Kenny Morgans, Albert Scanlon, Dennis Viollet and Ray Wood. Sadly, eight Busby Babes lost their young lives in the plane crash including five of his teammates who he played alongside when he made his final appearance for the club. United drew 2-2 at Kenilworth Road with Luton Town in the English First Division on 26 December 1957 (scorers: Albert Scanlon & Tommy Taylor). The United team for the game was: Harry Gregg (survivor), Bill Foulkes (survivor), Roger Byrne (Capt, died), Eddie Colman (died), Mark Jones (died), Duncan Edwards (died), Bobby Charlton (survivor), Tommy Taylor (died), Dennis Viollet (survivor) and Albert Scanlon (survivor). Johnny Berry, along with Jackie Blanchflower, never played again such was the severity of the injuries they sustained in the Munich Air Disaster. Total Games: 276, Goals 45.
And so, to the West Bromwich Albion game on 29 April 1957. With the English First Division title already in the bag, Busby’s inexperienced side played quite freely against their opponents who finished the campaign in 11th place and were beaten in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, in a replay, by their city rivals, Aston Villa, United’s opponents in the 1957 FA Cup final. In the 24th minute of the game Alex Dawson scored his third consecutive goal for United in his third game for the club, United’s 141st goal of the season in 55 matches (League 103, FA Cup 14, European Cup 24). Johnny Berry missed a penalty which would have sealed a win for the team packed full of former trainees and it proved to be a costly miss as Len Millard scored a penalty for The Baggies in the last minute to earn the Birmingham based club a 1-1 draw.
Between them, the United team had played a total of 534 English First Division games scoring a total of 16 goals. Len Millard played 436 League games (Divisions 1 and 2) for West Bromwich Albion from 1946-58 scoring 7 times.
United missed out on completing the Double losing 2-1 (scorer: Tommy Taylor) to Aston Villa in the 1957 FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium., London.
In 1957, the book “Bridge to the Sun,” written by Gwen Terasaki was published. The future looked bright for Matt Busby’s “Babes” who had just won back-to-back English First Division Championship titles and almost completed a unique Treble. However, whereas human life can be nine months in the making, within nine months of celebrating their 1956-57 title success, eight of the Busby Babes who helped United claim the Championship perished in the Munich Air Disaster.
I give you this one thought to keep –
I am with you still – I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone –
I am with you still – in each new dawn.
(North American Prayer)
A team which was destined for greater glory, was gone in an instant, but these young eight men will forever have a special place in the hearts and minds of every Manchester United fan. They still walk in the shadow of every player who walks out of the tunnel at Old Trafford to play for Manchester United.
Did You Know That?
Robert Leslie “Les” Olive was born in Salford, Manchester on 27 April 1948 and joined United in 1942, at the age of 14. After his national service in the RAF, he returned to Manchester United in 1948. But instead of going back into the Reserves he decided to take up an administrative role at the club and oversaw Reserve Team matches. In season 1948-49, Olive missed playing and began to train once again with the Reserves and played a few times for them mainly as a defender. In 1953, he was appointed Assistant Secretary to Walter Crickmer, the Club Secretary. When Crickmer lost his life in the Munich Air Disaster, Olive succeeded him as Club Secretary. One of the first jobs he had to do was, along with his wife Betty, and Crickmer’s secretary, Alma George, knock on the doors of some of the players’ families, several of them did not have a telephone, and break the harrowing news that befell the team in Munich on 6 February 1958. When he stepped down as Club Secretary in 1988 he was appointed to the Board of Directors at Old Trafford. He also represented the club on the Manchester County Football Association from 1959, and was President at the time of his death on 20 May 2006