"I have untold affection for Bill Foulkes. We went through so much together."
- Sir Bobby Charlton
"I owe so much to Bill. Without him my career might have panned out differently."
- Nobby Stiles
Quotes from Inside United in December 2012.
was called into Matt Busby's office in December 1952 to be informed that he was to make his senior debut at right-back the next day against Liverpool at Anfield.
Though he was nursing a sore ankle, he concealed the injury, desperate to grab the opportunity even though his direct opponent would be the Merseysiders' magnificent Scottish international flankman Billy Liddell. In the event, the formidably pacy Liddell opened the scoring after 10 minutes, but the feisty Foulkes refused to be cowed, settling to meet the challenge and eventually shining so brightly in a 2-1 victory that he was retained for the next game.
After that his ankle ballooned and he missed the remainder of the campaign, but he had laid down a significant marker and in 1953/54 he displaced Tommy McNulty to claim the no.2 shirt on a regular basis.
Such was Foulkes' consistent excellence in Busby's refreshing young team that, while still spending most of his working hours at the bottom of a pit-shaft, he was rewarded with what was to prove his only full England call-up, to face Northern Ireland in October 1954. Only after completing a Lea Green shift did he sail for Belfast to join his fellow internationals, then performed with customary competence in a 2-0 win before re-crossing the Irish Sea to resume his double life, an unimaginable scenario today.
Having thus far resisted Busby's repetitive entreaties to become a full-time footballer, not least because he was making more money from mining than he was from the game, Bill relented in mid-decade, just as the Babes as a unit were evolving from precocious rookies into serial high-achievers.
Captained by left-back Roger Byrne, and featuring the stellar likes of wing-halves Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards, and marksmen Tommy Taylor, Dennis Viollet and Billy Whelan, United romped away with the league titles of 1955/56 and 1956/57 and lost the '57 FA Cup final to Aston Villa only after being reduced to 10 men for most of the match when goalkeeper Ray Wood suffered a controversial injury.
In addition, with Bill an automatic selection at right-back, they had blazed a British trail into Europe, bowing only to the incomparable Real Madrid in the semi-final of the European Cup in 1957, then reaching the last four again in February 1958.