"Roger Bryne was morally one of the biggest men I ever met both as a captain and as a person. He was a wonderful captain with the moral fibre to fight the club's battle with the players and the players' battle with the club. Roger was very much a man" - Harry Gregg
Bryne was a Gorton lad, who played played for a local amateur side, and also turned out for a cricket team, Denton West, with future England hero Brian Statham. He made 246 League appearances for United, won 33 consecutive England caps, and played in the 1954 World Cup. Roger became captain of his club in 1954, with the average age of the team just 22, and led them to league titles in 1956 and 1957. He died two days short of his 29th birthday. His wife, Joy was pregnant at the time of the crash.
His son, Roger jr, now 39, became a ballboy at Old Trafford in the late 1960's. His idol was George Best. "It was marvellous the way he would take on defenders twice his size and beat them with ease. There were so many sides to his skill. But he also had an Irish temper"
"Geoffrey Bent was my personal friend and was always recognised within the club as probably the best player who could not get into the first team. He could not nudge out Roger Bryne, the best left back in the country, but would have walked into any other First Division team" - Ian Greaves
Bent was spotted playing for Salford Boys, and captained them to the English Schools trophy in 1947. A patient understudy to his skipper, he made only 12 First Division games over 4 years. He was only called into the party to fly to Belgrade on the day before departure. He was 25 years old. His father once played for United's 'A' team and Reserves, and his son, Paul, had a trial with United and trained at the Cliff.
His wife, Marion recalled "He asked for a transfer but United wouldn't let him go. Several clubs wanted Geoff, including Wolves, but Matt Busby used to tell him "There are no first team players here. You are all first team probables". And that was the way it was. He once put eight internationals into the reserves but they took it well and joked with the first teamers "Oh, so are you not in the REAL team this week!"
"Eddie Colman was one of those people you cannot say enough about. Wherever he was there was fun. I have never met before or since anyone with a bigger personality. It shone out of him. Eddie was one of the most underrated players, but was a creator, an artist, and would have been one of the game's greats without the shadow of a doubt" - Wilf McGuinness
Eddie played for Salford Boys and Lancashire Boys, and during his National Service, was the Camp 'Rat Catcher'. He won 3 FA Youth Cup winners medals and 2 League Championship medals. Colman made 85 League appearances , scoring just twice as a first teamer (one was against Red Star Belgrade in the last pre-Munich European fixture). He died aged just 21.
His cousin, Albert Valentine said "Eddie's other abilities more than made up for any lack of shooting power. His control was brilliant. He could receive the ball on the touchline and beat an opponent by just body-swerving and rolling the ball back and forth with the sole of his boot. He could control a ball with either foot, too, and was excellent at moving into openings and creating space."
"Mark Jones was a very solid character. He was my ideal as a centre half, big, very strong and commanding in the air. He once told me he wished he could do things like me, "in cold blood." A nice fellow and a fine player" - Bill Foulkes
Jones was born near Barnsley, and captained England Boys before making his United debut aged 17 in October 1950, the first of 127 League appearances. He missed the 1957 FA Cup final through an eye injury, but claimed both League title medals in 1956 and 1957. He died aged 24.
His son, Gary had a trial at United, but he was still recovering from a broken leg and failed to impress, but became a regular 'Stretford Ender'. His wife June said "Mark was everything that is good, and I'm not just saying that because he's gone. They called him the gentle giant, and though he could dislike people he could never hate anyone. He would never have a bad word for team that beat United or even players who kicked him."
"Duncan Edwards was a man in football but still a boy at heart. His ability was good enough for England but his potential was good enough for Heaven" - Jackie Blanchflower
Duncan represented England Schoolboys, made his United debut aged 16 years and 184 days, and his full England debut aged 18 years and 183 days, the youngest this century. His medal collection included 3 Youth Cups and 2 League titles. One of his most-remembered moments was playing against West Germany in Berlin in 1956. Suddenly, he put all his strength and dexterity into one of his famous runs. The Germans who attempted to stop him were brushed aside. Nothing could stop Duncan from scoring and England went on to win 3-1 against the reigning World Champions. He died aged 21, after battling for life 15 days after the crash.
Jackie Milburn the Newcastle and England forward, recalls his first meeting with Edwards. "This big lad came up to me and said "Reputations mean nothing to me and if you come near me I'll kick you over the stand." And that's what he tried to do as soon as I got the ball. United beat us 5-2 in that game."
"David Pegg was the complete left winger, a brilliant ball player. Whichever of us was in the first team would be shunned by the other, but this was rivalry, not bitterness. David was one of the boys, always someone to be respected, and if he ever got there first, as he did with me, it was very difficult to shift him" - Albert Scanlon
Pegg was born near Doncaster, and played for Yorkshire Boys and England Boys, before making his United debut at 17. He played in 2 FA Youth Cup wiining sides and totalled 127 League games for United, winning two League Championship medals. He won one England cap, versus Republic of Ireland in 1957. This was in competition with Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney. He was 22 when he died.
His mother, Irene, recalled the 1957 FA Cup final, from which David had collected a runners-up medal. "We were at the banquet and I saw Duncan Edwards. He must have thought by the look on my face that I was more upset than I was. David looked at his medal and said "I need that to complete my collection, because we'll be back with winners medals next year." United did return to Wembley in 1958....
"Tommy Taylor was the finest header of a ball I've seen. He suffered a lot from a bad ankle and took a lot of stick from the fans, but as far as the lads were concerned he was terrific. A player's player and a great person" - Dennis Viollet
Taylor signed for Barnsley at 15, scoring a hat trick in his second game for them. He joined United five years later in March 1953 for £29,999. He scored 112 goals in 168 League appearances for United. For England it was 16 goals in 19 games. Taylor won League title medals in 1956 and 1957, and scored in the 1957 FA Cup final. He died aged 26.
Barnsley manager Johnny Steele talked of his international career. "I remember when people started talking about twin centre forwards. Tommy told me of the time he was on tour with England, when Walter Winterbottom was in charge. Walter decided to use Tommy and Nat Lofthouse as his twins and told one player to take the far post and the other to go for the near post when the ball was ready to be crossed. But this is where instinctive play takes over. Tommy and Nat both went for the far post and ended up knocking each other over".
"Liam Whelan was a great player. He had everything except an extra bit of pace. When I got into the side it was at Liam's expense but he would have been back because he was a dedicated professional with a tremendous amount of skill" - Bobby Charlton
Whelan chose soccer ahead of Gaelic football after winning medals for both, and at 18, joined United, playing in the 1953 Youth Cup final against Wolves nine days later. He scored in a 7-1 win. Later he won 4 international caps, including two against England, when he 'nutmegged' Duncan Edwards, who was less than amused! He scored 43 goals in 79 league games for United. He won one FA Youth Cup winners medal and two League Championship medals. Liam died aged 22.
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