With the 50th anniversary of the tragic Munich air disaster taking place today, FFC columnist Nick Rostron-Pike concludes his look back at the lost babes who lost their lives that fateful day. In the final of this three part series Nick pays tribute to fan favourite Liam Whelan and the exceptional footballing talent that was Duncan Edwards.
It was a tragic event that claimed the lives of 23 people and wiped out half of what many considered one of the finest football sides this country has ever seen. It united a City who will undoubtedly be paying tributes in various forms this week. Here at FFC we just wanted to profile those who lost their lives in such tragic circumstances.
Name: Liam Whelan
Liam Whelan was a player whose brain worked faster than his feet. Sometimes he looked inept and uncomfortable on the ball but had the ability to ghost past players and turn teams. Once he was in shooting range, he rarely missed; a goal scoring record better than once every two games confirms this. One of the best sellers of the dummy he could make experienced, quality defenders look very ordinary with the drop of a shoulder.
He was signed as an 18-year old to replace the injured John Doherty in the 1953 FA Youth Cup final against Wolves. Liam – or Billy as he was affectionately known to Mancunians, stared in a 7-1 first leg victory and quickly became another fan's favourite.
If only this exceptional dribbler had possessed pace he would have been the dream centre-forward.
Name: Duncan Edwards
Position: Half-Back / Wing-Half
The most well known and revered of the Busy Babes, Edwards will always be a figure, cut so dramatically short of reaching his full potential. Duncan Edwards was a one and only, a true football phenomenon who crashed into the First Division and was then so cruelly taken only five years later.
He was the complete player. Nothing on the field seemed to be beyond him, ball control, heading, playing with both feet, passing, tackling, shooting. He truly shone above all others. The most startling discovery was his reading of the game, so adapt to playing the right ball or picking the right pass, his maturity at such a young age was startling. Edwards had started his First Division football career at just 16.
From the moment he arrived at Old Trafford there was little doubt that Duncan Edwards was going to be special. Much the same as Eric Cantona later on, Duncan would be seen for hours after training had finished perfecting the finer elements of his game. Duncan would have played all day, every day if someone would have let him.
He played most of his football at wing-half, a position where he could put his full skills to effect. His last league match for the Red's was against Arsenal in a 5-4 thriller, Edwards scored one of his trademark goals, and arriving late at a corner smashed a ball from Dennis Viollet into the goal from the edge of the box.
Players and fans alike hold Edwards in high respect. Sir Bobby Charlton, a man who has played with Best, Kidd and Law stated that ‘If I had to play for my life, and could take one man with me, it would be Duncan Edwards'.
After a two-week battle for life following the events at Munich, Edwards died at just 21, with his talent barely exposed.
His kind will not be seen again