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


United fans everywhere boo every time they hear the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”  But that has not always been the case.  The anthem of Liverpool Football Club was first sung at Old Trafford and not at Anfield. Did the scousers steal the song from us? 




22 FEBRUARY 1958


In season 1957-58, Manchester United were the dominant force in English football, winners of the English First Division Championship title in seasons 1955-56 and

1956-57, FA Cup runners-up in 1957, and a side revered across Europe having reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1956-57.  

At the start of the 1957-58 season, Elvis Presley was No.1 in the UK Singles Charts with his first No.1 chart hit entitled “All Shook Up.”  Matt Busby’s young side, The Busby Babes, were all set to shake up not only English football but European club football as well.  United were the reigning English First Division Champions and had narrowly missed out on becoming the first team to win the Double in England in the 20th century after losing the 1957 FA Cup final to Aston Villa.  Furthermore, in season 1956-57 United reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in their first season in competitive European club football.  Although they were fondly dubbed “The Busby Babes” by the British press, their football abilities belied their youthful age. 

“Small boys become big men from the influence of big men who care about small boys.” 

Eleven of the first team squad who missed out on completing the Double in season 1956-57, Bill Foulkes, Roger Byrne (Capt), Jackie Blanchflower, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, Wilf McGuinness, Eddie Colman, Liam Whelan, David Pegg, Dennis Viollet and Bobby Charlton had all began their football careers as young boys playing for the Manchester United Junior Athletic Club which was run by Busby’s right hand man, Jimmy Murphy.  Busby was a manager who placed his faith and trust in the ability of his youth team players over and above buying players on a regular basis.  In Murphy, United’s teenagers had much more than a patriarch figure to look up to, they had a second father looking after them and they would have done anything for their mentor.  They may have been known as The Busby Babes but they were most definitely Murphy’s Boys.  Edwards, Whelan, Scanlon, Pegg, Charlton, McGuinness, Colman, Jones had all won FA Youth Cup winners’ medals in teams assembled by Murphy.  Murphy’s young players were his vessel out on the pitch, finely tuned and sweeping all before them. 

“The Young Lions” is a 1958 American World War II drama film directed by Edward Dmytryk.  Murphy’s Boys were only cubs but destined to be lions. 

The Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958, claimed the lives of 7 of Murphy’s Boys – Byrne, Edwards, Colman, Whelan, Bent, Jones and Pegg – as well as the life of Tommy Taylor who was signed from Barnsley.  Just thirteen days after the disaster, United had to resume their season with an FA Cup Fifth Round tie versus Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford.  Matt Busby was lying in his hospital bed in the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich, West Germany recovering from the horrific injuries he sustained whilst Duncan Edwards was, like his manager, lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life.  Murphy was the manager of the Wales national football team and had not been on the flight as Wales had a 1958 Fifa World Cup qualifying game to play on the same night United drew 3-3 with Red Star Belgrade on 5 February 1958 in their quarter-finals, second leg tie.  And so, back in Manchester he had the unenviable task of leading the club in Busby’s absence and putting together a side to play Sheffield Wednesday.  Murphy looked to his youth players who along with two survivors of the Munich Air Disaster, Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes, beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 on a very emotional night at Old Trafford.  Shay Brennan scored twice on his debut with Alex Dawson also scoring.  The people of Manchester celebrated as one, red and blue sides of the football divide joined in the euphoria of watching a team rise from the ashes of a slush covered runway less than two weeks earlier.  For the United and City fans, there was no “Us and Them,” there was just “Us” as many of the players who died were local lads and City also lost a former player in the disaster, goalkeeper Frank Swift who played for them from 1936-39 and was capped 19 times by England (plus 14 Wartime games), who was a reporter for “News of the World,” covering the game in Belgrade, Yugoslavia for his newspaper.  

Two days later, 21 February 1958, Duncan Edwards died in hospital aged just 21 years and 144 days old.  The following day a distraught Murphy having lost yet another one of his boys had to field a team to play Nottingham Forest in the English First Division on 22 February 1958. 
“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.”  (Mineko Iwasaki)

Jimmy Murphy was in a daze, a distraught man with a broken heart which had been stabbed 8 times, a knife wound for each lost Busby Babe.  But despite the club being in its darkest hour he had to carry on for his friend, Busby, his 7 Boys, Tommy Taylor and the club officials who also perished in the disaster (Walter Crickmer, Club Secretary, Tom Curry, Trainer & Bert Whalley, Chief Coach).  Murphy was unquestionably the greatest ever signing Matt Busby made for Manchester United.  In February 1945, after accepting an offer to become the next manager of Manchester United, 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.  Murphy led United’s Youth Team to success in the inaugural FA Youth Cup final in 1953 and the following four finals.      

Manchester United:

Harry Gregg, Bill Foulkes, Ian Greaves, Ronald Cope, Stan Crowther, Frederick Goodwin, Colin Webster, Ernie Taylor, Shay Brennan, Alex Dawson, Mark Pearson 

Foulkes, Goodwin, Cope, Dawson, Pearson and Brennan had all played in Murphy’s youth teams.  Forest were just establishing themselves in the top flight having won promotion to the First Division the previous season after finishing runners-up to Leicester City in the Second Division.  Murphy’s selection was a very inexperienced side, a patchwork quilt of experience and youth, with Gregg playing in what was only his eighth League game following his transfer from Doncaster Rovers in December 1957, Webster was making his seventh League appearance of the season, Goodwin his fifth, Dawson his second whilst Greaves, Cope, Crowther (made his debut in the Sheffield Wednesday game), Taylor, Pearson and Brennan were all playing their first League game of the season.    

The loss of 8 Busby Babes captivated the city of Manchester.  What was the most appropriate way to celebrate the lives of 8 young players who just wanted to play football for Manchester United?  Many theatres up and down the country were staging their version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1945 musical “Carousel.”  A popular song from Carousel was “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a song which is the anthem of Liverpool Football Club and is despised today by United fans across the globe.  In February 1958, the New Mills Operatic Society in Derbyshire were rehearsing to perform Carousel in their local theatre.  Jane Hardwick, a United fan and a teenage opera singer with the New Mills Operatic Society attended the Nottingham Forest game and when she began to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in tribute to the lost Busby Babes, her friends joined in and soon a large section of the crowd had also joined in the singing.  For Jane and her fellow New Mills Operatic Society members they thought that the opening two verses of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” was a fitting tribute to the lost lives of Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan. 

“When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone”

United were not facing a storm post the Munich Air Disaster, a Tsunami had enveloped the club.  Murphy, with his British Army background set about steering United through a storm, ensuring his players held their heads up high, ignoring the darkness which clouded Old Trafford, to come out of the darkness and reach a golden sky.  The game ended 1-1 with Dawson scoring for United.  Murphy worked a miracle at Old Trafford as he began the process of building a new team for Busby and lift the club like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes of Munich.  United ended the 1957-58 season in 9th place in the League, lost the 1958 FA Cup final 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers and lost 5-2 on aggregate over two legs to AC Milan (scorers: Ernie Taylor & Dennis Viollet) in the semi-finals of the European Cup.  United’s top goal scorer in season 1957-58 was Dennis Viollet, who found the back of the net 16 times in the League and 23 times in all competitions despite the fact that he was out of action for two months (missed 12 League games) as he recovered from injuries sustained in the Munich Air Disaster.  On the international scene, Murphy’s Wales team qualified for the Fifa 1958 World Cup finals where they reached the quarter-finals losing 1-0 to Brazil whose goal was scored by a relatively unknown 17-year old who would go on to become the best player in the world (well until George Best arrived on the football scene), Edson Arantes do Nascimento otherwise known as Pele.    

The United fans soon adopted “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and would regularly sing it at Old Trafford, their way of remembering the eight players whose lives were so cruelly snatched away from them at such a young age.  The Munich Air Disaster was the day a team died.  However, when Gerry & The Pacemakers released the song as a single in November 1963 it gave the band from Liverpool their third consecutive No.1 hit in the UK Music Singles Chart.  “How Do You Do It?” and “I Like It” were their other top selling songs.  When the Liverpool fans adopted the song as their anthem the United fans stopped singing it.  
In 2007, Jane was interviewed by the Manchester Evening News about her and her friends singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” post the Munich Air Disaster.  “It has annoyed me so much that people think the song was first sung by the Liverpool fans.  The Munich crash was so horrible and everyone was feeling down and despondent and it just seemed an appropriate song to sing.  It was an emotional time and I managed to persuade my friends to join in with me.  Soon the whole ground was singing it and many people, including me, were in tears.  I never dreamed it would become the anthem of our old rivals but I wanted to put the record straight about where the song originated from on the terraces.” 

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” (Bob Marley) 

Jimmy Murphy was not born into greatness, his was a journey to greatness and along that path he transformed many young boys from being promising players into great players.  He helped Manchester United to five English First Division Championships (1951-52, 1955-56, 1967-57, 1964-65 & 1966-67), two FA Cup wins (1948 & 1963), five FA Charity Shields (1952, 1956, 1957, 1965 shared & 1967 shared), and the European Cup in 1968.  As the manager of United’s Youth Team his Boys won six FA Youth Cups in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957 & 1964, the last with two prodigious teenagers under his watchful eye, David Sadler (aged 18) and 17-year old George Best.  Murphy’s Boys also won the Central League Championship three times in 1946-47, 1955-56 & 1959-60.  Sadly, he passed away on 14 November 1989 aged 79.  Quite fittingly in his honour the club commissioned the “Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year Award” which is presented to the best player in the club’s youth system in the previous season. It was first awarded in the summer after Murphy’s death, with Lee Martin winning the inaugural award in season 1989-90. 

Jimmy Murphy was a coach who was coveted around the world and despite being linked with taking charge of Arsenal, Juventus and Brazil (clearly they were impressed with his coaching skills of Wales at the 1958 Fifa World Cup finals) he never left his Boys in Manchester and continued working in the background as the Assistant Manager at Old Trafford until his retirement in 1971.

Did You Know That…

Gerry & the Pacemakers were managed by the same two men behind the success of The Beatles, manager Brian Epstein and record producer George Martin, and they almost never released “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as their third single.  They were supposed to release The Beatles’ “Hello Little Girl” but Gerry Marsden, who formed Gerry & the Pacemakers in 1959, along with his brother, Fred, Les Chadwick and Arthur McMahon was a big fan of Carousel and the songs from the musical ever since he first saw it as a young boy.  The band were originally known as Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars but after receiving a complaint from the Mars Company who made the chocolate Mars Bar, they were forced to change their name.  In the second act of Carousel Nettie Fowler, the cousin of the protagonist Julie Jordan, sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to comfort and encourage Julie when her husband, Billy Bigelow, the male lead in the show, falls on his knife and dies after a robbery attempt which went wrong.  The song is then sung again in the final scene to encourage a graduation class of which Louise (Billy and Julie’s daughter) is a member.