Former United full-back Francis Burns turns 60 today. He started seven of the Reds’ nine games on the way to lifting the European Cup at Wembley in 1968. All told, the Scot played 156 times for United between 1967 and 1972.
I’d like to think I wasn’t blasé at the time I was handed my debut, but when you’re brought up at the club after arriving as a 15-year-old schoolboy from Glasgow, playing in the first team just seemed like a natural progression.
You’d start in the B team and then progress to the A team and the Reserves. That next step felt natural. It’s not like you’ve been dragged off the terraces and given a red shirt to wear. To fans, that’s the ultimate dream, but for players it’s something that takes years and years.
Back in 1967, the first-team always trained at Old Trafford on a Friday morning, even if they were playing away on Saturday. I was training with the Reserves at The Cliff when a phone call came through, telling me to get to Old Trafford as soon as possible. So I went across and the apprentices told me to hurry into the dressing room and look at the team-sheet.
At the time, you try and be as nonchalant as possible, but I was absolutely bursting with pride and excitement on the inside. I walked up to the team-sheet and there was my name. I tried to stay calm but as soon as I left the room I let it all out and I could have done cartwheels and somersaults all the way back home to my digs in Stretford.
All I could think about was telling my family and trying to get hold of them because they didn’t have a phone in Glasgow. I was calling neighbours and friends to try and ask them to get in touch with my Mum and Dad and then people started ringing me to try and get tickets for the game, which was at West Ham. In a way, that was probably good because all the organising helped take my mind off the game.
I played against Harry Redknapp that day and he was very, very quick. I didn’t really know his reputation though and thankfully the smallness of Upton Park favoured me because he didn’t have the space to really run at me. I could have been a one-game wonder had Harry been at the top of his game that day – he could