United will be travelling to Belfast to honour your career in football, and inevitably your name will forever be linked with Munich and the Busby Babes…
My time at United was a long time ago. It was a tragic and yet wonderful time. As far as I’m concerned I was part of something that was on the point of developing into greatness. I was a very small part of that, but I’m very proud of that small part. I don’t live in the world of fairytales. We had qualified for the semi-final of the European Cup and had done well against Red Star both home and away. We had the possibility of becoming, for the first time, European champions. For such a wonderful young side that would have been an incredible feat. The Babes… it was the finest thing that ever happened to English football. When you stop and think about it, it was the beginning - although the end for the Babes - of what was to become the great Manchester United.
Is there ever a day that goes by where you don’t think about the Babes?
Of course there is. You don’t live your life that way. You can’t. You’d finish up a loony. Honestly, I’m not given to emotion - I hide my emotions. I am, repeat, very proud to have been a small part of something that was the Busby Babes.
Did the crash change your attitude to football?
Had it not been for football I could possibly have lost my sanity. It’s easy to talk in memory now but at the time I didn’t and would never discuss it. I didn’t talk about it for maybe 40-odd years. I’ll tell you why football saved my sanity… if I had had to sit in a house after what had happened I’d have gone crazy. I’d seen so much, I’d seen things I regretted seeing. After the crash we trained at White City, behind closed doors, and I kicked lumps out of everybody. I mean that in the nicest possible way. If I had had to sit in the house with those things in my head… football saved my sanity. Therefore, I think it saved my life.
Sir Alex has said he’ll be honouring your unique contribution to the club by bringing over a strong squad…
From what I’ve been told, the club has been more than complimentary and have pledged as best as they can to have a good team coming over. That’s important because I don’t want it to be something where Joe Public felt let down. But I know the club will not let them down.