The players' player

"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.

25/11/2013 10:01, Report by Ivan Ponting
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Foulkes: A United giant

That was when calamity overtook Manchester United.

Twenty-three people lost their lives at Munich, including eight players, while two more were so fearfully maimed that they never competed again. Foulkes climbed from the wreckage of the crashed plane, physically unharmed but bearing mental scars that would never leave him.

Less than two weeks later he was back in action, skippering a patchwork United side on an emotional rollercoaster ride which, against all odds, culminated in another FA Cup final, which was lost to Bolton Wanderers.

Thereafter Busby, who had escaped only narrowly with his own life, set about rebuilding his decimated team. Soon Foulkes, who quickly relinquished the captaincy as he wasn't ready for it, was switched to his preferred position of centre-half, where he looked twice the performer he had ever been as a flank defender.

Invariably facing the play with majestic composure instead of having to twist and turn against elusive touchline tricksters, he became one of the most dominant stoppers in the land, virtually unbeatable in the air, eye-wateringly ferocious in the tackle and intelligent in his reading of the action.

In this pivotal role he helped to collect the FA Cup in 1963 and then, forming an outstanding partnership with the diminutive but fearsomely combative and equally astute Nobby Stiles, he was rarely absent as league titles were secured in 1965 and '67.

That he was never called to his country's colours as a central defender can be explained only by his veteran status, having reached his mid-30s when he became a champion for the fourth time. However, that lack of recognition appears all the more perverse in view of his enduring influence as United - so fittingly in view of all that had gone before - went on to become the first English winners of the European Cup in 1968.

Despite a debilitating knee injury which would have finished the careers of less resolute characters, Bill was a back-line bulwark throughout most of that term, yet it was as an opportunist hitman late in the second leg of the semi-final at the Bernabeu that he made his most sensational contribution.

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