Showing posts with label Albert Quixall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albert Quixall. Show all posts

Ode to the lost Babes

The dreadful year that was 2020 also took away eight of the best Busby babes. RIP

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

16 February: Harry Gregg
The courage and determination of Harry Gregg to get back into the burning plane in Munich and get many of his colleagues out of the wreckage, led the fightback of Manchester United from being completely destroyed. With Bill Foulkes played in the first match at Old Trafford after Munich against Sheffield Wednesday on 19th February. Brought from Doncaster Rovers for a record fee to be the final jigsaw of Matt Busby's great side that aimed to win the coveted European Cup. Against the odds United finished runners-up in 1958-59 season in which Gregg played a huge part to protect inexperienced defensive unit without skipper Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Geoff Bent and Jackie Blanchflower. He missed the 1963 FA Cup final triumph with a shoulder injury and couldn't make enough appearances to win 1965 League winners medal, the only medal he won with United was the 1958 FA Cup runners-up medal. He returned to United as a goal-keeping coach under Dave Sexton in 1978. In 2012 Sir Alex Ferguson's side played in his testimonial match held in Belfast. Years of campaigning from fans of this humble giant for a knighthood yielded an MBE and later an OBE in 2019.

08 June: Tony Dune
Wrote a detailed piece of United's best defensive left back earlier in June.

17 July: Alex Dawson
Saw United beat his home town club Aberdeen in a friendly in 1950. Signed up as an amateur schoolboy and won two FA Youth Cups before breaking through to the first team where he scored in each of his first three games when first choice Tommy Taylor was injured. Mark Pearson or Alex Dawson were supposed to fly to play against Red Star Belgrade but an injury to captain Roger Byrne meant that fullback Geoff Bent went instead. Made to play first team football regularly much ahead for his age meant carrying load of expectations and responsibility that many times stifles the natural growth. Alex took it in his stride scoring a hat-trick against Fulham in the semi-final of the FA Cup replay at Highbury to send United through to the final, where United lost to Bolton 2-0. Got his form back after a brief lull to score hat-tricks against Chelsea and Manchester City in the derby, which was the first by a United player since Joe Spence in 1921 and later Andrei Kanchelsks did it in 1995. Despite scoring 15 goals in 1959-60 season and 16 goals in the next, Dawson was sold to Preston Northend by Sir Matt Busby who had acquired David Herd. 54 goals from 93 games return made many fans to believe he was unlucky to be sold and his United career cut short.

09 September: Reg Hunter
Welsh player Reg was in the third team when he was fast-tracked into the first team following the Munich air crash alongside Bobby Harrop and Reg Holland but didn't actually end up playing. Yet the courage showed was exemplary. Won FA Youth Cup with United and made one senior appearance vs Aston Villa in Dec 1958 before leaving United in 1960 after four seasons.

30 October: Nobby Stiles
Local lad from Collyhurst part of Manchester he won the World Cup with England and European Cup with Manchester United playing alongside Sir Bobby Charlton. Watched the 1948 FA Cup final on the shoulders of his dad which United famously won at Wembley. Adored Eddie Colman as a kid and came through the youth ranks despite his small stature. His excellent vision and tackling marked Eusebio out against Portugal and Benfica to win laurels for both club and country. Picked by Alf Ramsey to add steel to the England side with Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and Roger Hunt and stood by him despite public pressure after a rough game against France. Knee operation ended his career prematurely at only 27. Never had an official testimonial despite his heroics on the field. Played with veteran Bill Foulkes in the heart of defense to also win two league championships. Later was youth coach at United between 1989 and 1993 when Fergie Fledglings came through. Club statement read "An integral part of our first-ever European Cup-winning side, Nobby was a titan of the club’s history, cherished for his heart and personality on and off the pitch."

12 November: Albert Quixall
Matt Busby uncharacteristically spent big after Munich on players like Albert Quixall and Maurice Setters to ensure Manchester United did not go into oblivion like Torino who had also lost their entire team to a plane crash. Tasked with leading the charge of United to compete for trophies, Quixall suffered a nervous breakdown mainly due to his record fee and lost his England place too. He led the Sheffield Wednesday side when United played their first match after Munich and with his 5 England caps was regraded as the blond star on everyone's radar. Provided perfect passes for Sir Bobby Charlton to score and ended up scoring 56 crucial goals himself including a hattrick versus newly crowned champions Ipswich Town in 1961. Won the 1963 FA Cup by being United's leading goal scorer but was dropped alongside David Herd and Johnny Giles in the first league match of the next season after a heavy 0-4 defeat in the charity shield confirming the end of his United career.

22 November: Maurice Setters
Two of Manchester United's worst defeats tell the tale of start and end of Maurice Setters. 7-3 loss to Newcastle United in January 1960 made Matt Busby to stiffen the midfield and fill the void of Wilf McGuiness whose career ended due to injury, by signing Maurice Setters from West Bromwich Albion for a huge fee. Busby for a time felt the likes of Setters and Noble with tough tackling could help win matches against mid-table opposition. His hard tackles helped team to regain possession and win the 1963 FA Cup. The 0-5 loss to Sporting Lisbon in the second leg of European Cup Winners Cup in March, 1964 is the worst defeat suffered by United in Europe especially since they won the first leg comfortably 4-1. The three legged FA Cup tie against Sunderland and loss to West Ham in semi-finals was the main reason the squad appeared exhausted in Lisbon. Its the only result in the long stint of Matt Bubsy at United in which the Scot lost his cool and slammed his players. Setters' subsequent injury when he slipped on the marble floor of the Lisbon hotel made Busby pick Nobby Stiles instead and was soon transferred to Stoke after 159 appearances for United.

21 December: John Fitzpatrick
Shaggy-haired Scottish lad won the 1964 FA Youth Cup with the likes of David Sadler, George Best, John Aston Jr, Jimmy Rimmer and Bobby Noble. Became United's first ever substitute when he replaced fellow Aberdonian Denis Law in a match against Tottenham Hotspur in October 1965. Stood-in for Nobby Stiles initially and his versatility made him indispensable in the late 60's and early 70's. His best was against Polish champions Gornik Zabrze to keep the score 0-1 and progress 2-1 on aggregate to the semi-final of 1968 European Cup. One of only four players to avoid the cull of Tommy Docherty with Alex Stepney, Jimmy Rimmer and Bobby Charlton, spate of injuries made him retire at the age of 27 and dealt a huge blow to United's efforts to avoid relegation.

Suspension of all football matches due to Coronavirus pandemic

Club released a statement on Friday, 13th March confirming the suspension of football matches with immediate affect. The matches slated to be played till the end of this month have been impacted. This follows behind closed door game against LASK Linz which United won emphatically 5-0 with Tahith Chong fresh from signing a new contract created two assists. There has been instances in the past where the season has been suspended due to unusual winter weather or hooliganism that has disrupted the season but were able to resume and finish nonetheless. Example the 1962-63 season had to be extended by a month due to the Big Freeze to complete the backlog which seems challenging due to this summer's Euro 2020.

After the boxing day match in December 1962 the next one that United played was on 23 February. Without the outlet of playing that few used to vent their frustrations things came to a head regarding the tactics and training when few seniors like skipper Noel Cantwell, Maurice Setters, Harry Greg questioned the methods. Post Munich it was the ever reliable ex-keeper Jack Crompton who conducted the training sessions on Sir Matt's behest. Players targeted Jack but actually wanted to know the reaction of 'the Boss' if he was receptive to the ideas that were flooding the game at Ipswich, Tottenham, Leeds, Liverpool, Celtic et al. During clear the air meeting 'the Boss' was all ears and Jack did speak out on being targeted especially by Cantwell. The Boss knew about these murmurs more than everyone thought and it merely confirmed to him the team's receptiveness. Like Bruno Fernandes now, it was Pat Crerand then who had joined the club recently and the fortunes of the club started turning positively.

Despite finishing 19th just avoiding relegation United won their first trophy after Munich the 1963 FA Cup where 4th placed Leicester City were the favourites who had one of the best defenses in the league with keeper Gordon Banks, captain Colin Appleton, Ian King and Frank McLintok dubbed the 'Ice Kings'. Crerand flourished in the wide expanse of Wembley after struggling to settle at Old Trafford initially, created the crucial passes for Law to score that was captured by Alan Hoby of Sunday Express as "a deadly duet danced by those two tartan magicians, Crerand and Law." United played Leicester twice in two days on 15th and 16th April over Easter drawing the first match 2-2 at home and losing a scintillating encounter 3-4 away where Denis Law scored a hat-trick that was cancelled by hat-trick of Ken Keyworth that took Leicester to the top of the league.

Freeze meant United played 3rd to 6th round of FA Cup matches in March starting with a 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town where Denis Law scored a hat-trick then beat Aston Villa, Chelsea, Coventry City and Southampton in semi-final in April all without needing a replay. Albert Quixall scored in the first four FA Cup matches and converted a crucial penalty after Denis Law was fouled to draw 1-1 at Maine Road the result that kept red half of Manchester in the league while relegating the blue half. Youth Cup winners of 64 in George Best, David Sadler, Bobby Noble, John Aston Jr, John Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Rimmer then combined to provide the exuberance with Shay Brennan, Tony Dunne, David Gaskell, Nobby Stiles, Johnny Giles that jelled with the experience of the seniors Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Bill Foulkes, David Herd, Paddy Crerand needed to lift the team to glory.

Euro 2020 is being held in 12 different countries this time to commemorate the 60th year of the tournament with finals to be staged in Wembley. If the outbreak is not curtailed by end of this month UEFA and FA will have a tough decision to make; either allow the league to finish provided Euro's are postponed to next year in which the new expanded Club World Cup format is to be rolled out by FIFA or end the league season as is to let the Euro's be staged. Last time a season was involuntarily interrupted completely was in 1939-40 which only managed to have three games played before the second world war halted all major football till 1946-47. United had started the '39 season with a win and a draw then traveled to London to play Charlton Athletic to whom they lost 0-2. Next day war was declared and within two days the entire league season was cancelled.

This is the second break of the season after the FA introduced a winter break in February for the first time. After freeze United needed to play 18 league matches and 6 FA Cup matches which meant playing 7 league games in month of April and May each which was a huge ask. Now United just need to play 9 times in league, 3 times in FA Cup and 6 times in Europe if they go all the way to the finals. In 60's cup was probably given higher importance by finishing it first except for semi and finals but now the league might be given the first priority then European competitions and lastly the FA Cup that has all Premier League clubs in quarter-finals that compounds the situation. Euro 2020 starts from 13th June but with major leagues having their national teams based in their own countries the traveling logistics at the start of the tournament are minimized. United have already played 9 games each in December and January, and similar number of games are required to be played in April and May to complete the season which is definitely possible. Hoping the efforts of everyone to limit the spread of virus comes good. God speed!

United are on a 11 game unbeaten run since the shock loss to Burnley. Unlike the issues that cropped up for Busby despite just one loss in nine league games prior to suspension, Solskjaer is in a much healthier terrain having taken tough structural decisions early about the deadwood, getting the recruitment right, reorganized the setup at youth level, getting the best out of Fred, easing Williams and Greenwood, naming Maguire as captain, winning over Matic and all this despite injuries to Martial, Shaw, McTominay, Rashford and Pogba. Busby did hold his flock together while inducting the youth to reap the rewards.

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