Fifty years ago today an airliner carrying Manchester United players and backroom staff, plus some supporters and journalists, crashed on its third attempt to take off from Munich airport during a blizzard.
United were on their way home from Belgrade having beaten Red Star in a European Cup tie, and had stopped at Munich to be re-fuelled.
Twenty three of the forty four passengers on board lost their lives.
The twenty three – Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Liam Whelan, Walter Crickmer, Bert Whalley, Tom Curry, Alf Clarke, Don Davies, George Follows, Tom Jackson, Archie Ledbrooke, Henry Rose, Eric Thompson, Frank Swift, Kenneth Rayment, Bela Miklos, Willie Satinoff and Tom Cable – included several “Busby Babes but there were also some well-known survivors such as Matt Busby, Jackie Blanchflower and Bobby Charlton.
United’s closest home game to the anniversary just so happens to be the Manchester derby, and there will apparently be some unique touches to the game.
Both kits will have all sponsor logos removed and United have been given special dispensation from the Premier League to wear a 50s-style kit and the numbers 1-11 on the back as opposed to the normal name and squad numbers.
(I know what you’re thinking – great, another new United kit for them to peddle onto kids. I thought the same, but apparently it isn’t being sold).
There have been concerns raised that City supporters could disrupt the festivities. There was even talk that a minute’s applause would replace the traditional minute’s silence but I’m glad that has been rejected. As I’ve said before I’m not a fan of a minute’s applause in general, and certainly not for an occasion such as this.
To try and minimise any problems, City have apparently sent a letter to all 3,000 supporters who will be attending the game from Sven Goran Eriksson and Richard Dunne, and a picture of one of the victims, Frank Swift, a former City goalkeeper. The letter reads:
Prior to this game, the 50th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster will be marked with a special commemoration. Many supporters will already be aware that Manchester City lost one of our own in the tragedy, goalkeeper Frank Swift. Twenty-two players, staff and journalists also lost their lives.
We ask that all supporters uphold the good name of Manchester City and respectfully support the commemorations which will also be attended by friends and family of the victims including Frank Swift’s family.
This initiative is backed by the Official Supporters Club and Centenary Supporters Association. Thank you for your support.
It has often been said that you either love or hate Manchester United. Well I’m certainly not in the first category. But as a football fan first and foremost I just hope for the sake of both clubs – and for the families of all those involved in the tragedy – that tonight at the England game and on Sunday in the Manchester derby all supporters treat the occasion with the respect it deserves.