Renowned for playing football with teammates several years his senior, Duncan Edwards made his first appearance for England Schoolboys at just 13. The precocious and powerful teenager began to attract the attention of a number of First Division sides, and in 1952, Jimmy Murphy and Bert Whalley took a midnight trip to Dudley to sign Edwards for United.
Duncan Edwards' England B Team shirt, c.1956.
After six months, Edwards made his first team debut and from then on, the sixteen-year-old became a first team favourite, claiming the number 5 shirt. A defensive midfielder who broke up opposition attacks only to surge forward, Edwards became the youngest post-war England international in 1955 at 18 years and 183 days. In a single season he played over 100 matches, making appearances for his club, his country and his national service regiment.
Duncan Edwards during a training session at Old Trafford.
Although Edwards owned a car, he could not drive and would cycle to and from Old Trafford on his Raleigh bike. After a defeat, he was cycling home when he was stopped by a policeman for not having lights on his bike. He was fined 10 shillings in the Magistrates Court and a further 2 weeks’ salary by Matt Busby for bringing the club’s name into disrepute.
Hugely popular with the fans, Edwards often appeared on the covers of football magazines. This March cover of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly had already been printed when news about Edwards’ death was announced.
Shortly before the disaster, Edwards became engaged to Molly. Molly visited Edwards whilst he was in the Rechts der Isar Hospital and begged reporters to stop questioning her about his condition. Edwards suffered fractures to both of his legs, broken ribs and severe kidney damage.
One of many letters Duncan Edwards received while in hospital from worried fans wishing him well.
Although his friends believed that Edwards’ physical strength would pull him through, he died fifteen days after the crash, the final blow to be felt by the club.