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Your song. Munich 60 years on

Submitted by on February 4, 2018 – 1:33 pmNo Comment

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By John Ludden

Ever since British European Flight 609 careered off the end of Munich runway and killed outright seven Manchester United footballers and many other poor souls on board, the amount of tears shed for those fallen could fill an ocean.

Now, sixty years on there will be many more poignant words spoken, poems recited and songs sung. Few events have touched the heart of British sport like the events of February 6th 1958. After drawing 3-3 with Red Star Belgrade and winning overall 5-4 on aggregate, the Busby Babes had made it into the European cup semi-finals for the second year running.

The previous season saw them go head to head with the reigning champions, Alfredo Di Stefano and his wizards and magicians of Real Madrid. Two pulsating contests finally saw Real through and although it was clear a gulf in class existed between the two teams it was by no means a chasm. Rightly so it was thought by Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy one easily breachable. Given time.

Time.

Tragically, fate decreed it wasn’t to be and nine months later as the clock turned three o’clock in the afternoon in Munich and two in Manchester, amid the fire and flames and the blood in the German snow. A broken plane, the fuselage split in two, bodies laid out under coats and rags. Survivor stunned, cold, shocked, wounded and dying. The grim reaper had come calling with larcenous intentions and ripped the heart out of Manchester United football club.

Back home the sense of despair was overwhelming, people found it hard to breathe, never mind take in what had occurred to their lads far away in southern Germany. A sense of great pride and relief the day previous when news filtered back that Busby’s exuberant young team had knocked out Red Star in a breath-taking match in Belgrade, was replaced by feelings of utter horror.

As the death toll mounted and supporter’s favourites were named people gathered outside Old Trafford as if drawn by some invisible thread. Praying it was all just a simple nightmare and they would wake up and life continued as normal. A top of the table clash against Wolves at home on the coming Saturday. Hoping for no injuries, that the boys weren’t too tired.

That Big Dunc was fit.

For when Edwards played it was like 12 against 11. Duncan was a colossus and he was theirs. Tragically, as the crowds stood in mournful silence under black Mancunian skies, Duncan Edwards was fighting for his life in the Rechts Der Isar hospital in Munich. One that after an astonishing battle to stay with us he finally lost.

On 21st February 1958, the last victim of the Munich air crash took his final breath. For fifteen days the mindset of United supporters was if Duncan survives, even after the loss of so many, hope remained. Then, suddenly he was gone. As appeared the last grain of salvation.

There was though another who by hands wretched and sometimes blessed by fate never travelled to Belgrade because of other duties. Despite wanting to go and be with his boys, Busby insisted that assistant manager Jimmy Murphy stay behind and travel to Cardiff in his position of Welsh team coach. ‘We’ll be back before you know it Jim lad’ said Busby. ‘Your job is to ensure Wales beat Israel and make the World Cup finals.’ Reluctantly Jimmy agreed, only to walk back into hell on earth returning to Manchester and finding out what had occurred on the afternoon of 6th February.

That somehow from the depths of personal hell he found the strength to keep United going is a miracle, a cruel one albeit. Jimmy ranted at the world, he cursed, cried, pleaded, threatened, prayed and gave every inch of his being to drag his beloved club back from the brink. There were those on the club board who thought it a fight unwinnable and wanted to shut the gates, but on informing Jimmy of this idea, amid a Welsh firestorm they swiftly changed their minds.

On the 19th February, in a traumatic atmosphere of pure unmitigated relief of grief, United roared back into life and at Old Trafford, with a concoction of young boys, reserves and veterans fired up by Jimmy Murphy, they beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the FA cup fifth round. As the crowd roared, painted smiles engulfed by tears, it was recognised that night Manchester United would go on, but to where and for how long remained written in the stars. Jimmy Murphy had given the club the invaluable gift of time. This time around not a curse.

Time…

Sixty years have now passed and the feelings Munich still evoke amongst not just United supporters of that era, but so many others remains powerful as ever. Those of a younger red vintage have learned, read or had the story of how those Babes flew so high only to ultimately come crashing down whilst still in the beauty of youth passed down by family. A dad or grandad, an uncle. Who walked up Warwick Road proud with a United ribbon and loved their team equally as any young supporter does today.

Your twenties, an age where you believe life goes on forever. Death belongs to someone else much older because you’re too busy living, laughing and loving. That those footballers who lit up not just Old Trafford, but every town or city they visited should be ripped away and taken so violently and suddenly, still bleeds the heart today of all whom witnessed them play. They speak the names of the lost players and it doesn’t take long before the eyes moisten and the tears fall.

As the 60th anniversary is remembered, not celebrated, never the word. Songs such as the ‘Flowers of Manchester’ will be sung with passion and heartfelt gusto. Another in particular no doubt will be getting a hearing at the forthcoming home game against Huddersfield at Old Trafford. When the minute silence ends, the whistle blows and ‘We’ll never die’ resonates loud across every part of the stadium, just look up for a moment. Because, well, if you’re up there watching lads.

This will be your song…

For more from John visit: https://johnludden.wordpress.com or https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Ludden/e/B0034Q95O4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1517751311&sr=1-3

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