The Munich survivors who never played again

Sixty years ago on Tuesday, the sporting world was stunned by news that eight of Manchester United’s iconic Busby Babes had died in a plane crash in Munich.

Duncan Edwards – tipped to become one United and England’s greatest ever players – and captain Roger Byrne were among the players killed on the afternoon of 6 February 1958, along with several journalists and coaching staff, a club official, a steward, a supporter, a travel agent and the co-pilot.

Some of those fortunate to escape with their lives went on to become some of the most successful figures in the history of Old Trafford, from manager Matt Busby to former record scorer Bobby Charlton, while the likes of Albert Scanlon and Dennis Viollet also continued their careers at the top.

But two of that talented squad who did survive the tragedy were never able to play again.

:: Manchester United honour Munich victims on 60th anniversary

Jackie Blanchflower (back row, centre) and Johnny Berry (front row, second from left) were key members of Matt Busby's squad

Image: Jackie Blanchflower (back row, centre) and Johnny Berry (front row, second from left) were key members of Matt Busby’s squad

Jackie Blanchflower

Born in Belfast in March 1933, Blanchflower had only just turned 25 when tragedy struck on the slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport.

The Northern Ireland international – younger brother of Tottenham Hotspur skipper Danny – had made his debut for United in November 1951 against rivals Liverpool as part of a back four, but he became well known at Old Trafford for his versatility.

In the 1953/54 season he made his name in a more forward role and won his first cap for his country, only to become a centre-back by the time the 1956/57 campaign came round. He even had a go in goal that year, when keeper Ray Wood was forced off injured in an FA Cup final defeat to Everton.

Jackie Blanchflower was capped 12 times by Northern Ireland

Image: Jackie Blanchflower was capped 12 times by Northern Ireland

Blanchflower had made 117 appearances for United when he travelled with the squad as a reserve for a European Cup tie against Red Star Belgrade – the fixture from which the team were travelling back when the air disaster happened.

In the aftermath, there was hope he would be able to continue a career that had seen him lift two league titles and score 27 goals the club, his injuries proved too severe. He suffered a fractured pelvis, multiple limb fractures and crushed kidneys, which forced him into an early retirement.

Despite the role he played in a trophy-laden period for United, he was evicted from club accommodation when it became he would not play again and went on to pursue a life as a businessman. He ran a sweet shop and then worked with a bookmaker, but would find true post-football success as an after-dinner speaker.

He died after a long battle with cancer in September 1998.

The Munich clock at Old Trafford reads 3.04pm, the time that the plane crashed on Feb. 6th 1958

Image: The Munich clock at Old Trafford reads 3.04pm, the time that the plane crashed on 6 February 1958

Johnny Berry

The Old Trafford faithful have been blessed with some incredible wingers down the years, from George Best and Ryan Giggs to David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Three of those men wore United’s iconic number seven shirt, the latest incumbent of which is the Chilean Alexis Sanchez, but Johnny Berry wore it before them all.

Signed from Birmingham City for £25,000 in 1951, Berry helped the Reds to the championship in his first season, scoring six goals in the process. He arrived from the Midlands with a big reputation and he lived up to it immediately.

Johnny Berry is considered one of the greatest players to wear Manchester United's iconic No.7 shirt

Image: Johnny Berry is considered one of the greatest players to wear United’s iconic No.7 shirt

Berry was a quick and skillful player who regularly made the right flank his own over the course of 276 appearances for the club, in which he notched 45 goals.

In an era blessed with some of England’s most celebrated ever wingers in the form of Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney, the Aldershot-born Berry still managed to impress.

But like Blanchflower, he was only a reserve when United flew to Serbia to take on Red Star just four months before his 32nd birthday. And like Blanchflower, severe head injuries meant he was never able to play again.

Berry was also kicked out of club accommodation and so moved back to Aldershot to open a sportswear business with brother Peter, who used to play for Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace.

He became the first surviving player of the air disaster to die when he passed away after a short illness in September 1994, aged 68.

Manchester United fans display a banner commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on February 3

Image: United fans display a banner commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster at the weekend

The victims of the air disaster

Twenty-three people were killed when the plane crashed as it took off in the snow – the third attempt captain James Thain had made to get airborne.

Players: Roger Byrne (club captain), Mark Jones, Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Eddie Colman, Liam Whelan, David Pegg, Geoff Bent.

Staff: Walter Crickmer (secretary), Bert Whalley (coach), Tom Curry (coach).

Journalists: Alf Clarke (Manchester Evening Chronicle), Don Davies (Manchester Guardian), George Follows (Daily Herald), Tom Jackson (Manchester Evening News), Archie Ledbrooke (Daily Mirror), Henry Rose (Daily Express), Eric Thompson (Daily Mail), Frank Swift (News of the World).

Other: Kenneth Rayment (co-pilot), Bela Miklos (travel agent), Willie Satinoff (fan), Tom Cable (steward).

The Busby Babes

Image: The Busby Babes are among United’s most celebrated players

The survivors

Of the nine United players to survive the crash, just two are still alive – Bobby Charlton, who is now 80-years-old and a club ambassador, and goalkeeper Harry Gregg, now 85.

Players: Bill Foulkes, Harry Gregg, Johnny Berry, Jackie Blanchflower, Bobby Charlton, Ken Morgans, Albert Scanlon, Dennis Viollet, Ray Wood.

Staff: Matt Busby (manager).

Journalists: Frank Taylor, Peter Howard (photographer), Ted Ellyard (photographer).

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Other: Vera Lukic (passenger), Venona Lukic (passenger), James Thain (captain), Rosemary Cheverton (cabin crew), Margaret Bells (cabin crew), George Rodgers (radio officer), Nebojsa Tomasevic (passenger), Mrs Miklos (wife of Bela).

:: Manchester United will host a service at Old Trafford from 2.40pm on Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster, with turnstiles at the Lower East Stand to open from 1.30pm.