Redknapp recalls Busby Babes experience

Monday 06 February 2023 13:14

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the darkest day in Manchester United's history.

On 6 February 1958, 23 people - including eight players and three members of the club's staff - suffered fatal injuries in the Munich Air Disaster.

Former football manager Harry Redknapp, aged just 11 at the time, witnessed a game involving the Busby Babes just five days before the tragic events unfolded, as the Reds took on Arsenal. The game finished 5-4 at Highbury, as Tommy Taylor (2), Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards and Dennis Viollet all netted for Matt Busby's side.

Here, he reflects on his excitement at witnessing that United team play, and the sadness in the aftermath of the events that occurred just five days later.

What Munich means today


Sixty-five years on, 6 February 1958 remains the central day in Manchester United’s history.

''I was a big Arsenal fan growing up,'' Redknapp began. ''My dad was a big Arsenal fan. We used to get there about three hours before kick-off because there used to be a manhole cover that was stood up about 18 inches by a crash barrier.

''I used to get to our position early so I could see. We couldn't afford a seat. We'd stand up behind the goal up in the corner in our regular spot.

''Man United coming to town was always the biggest game of the year really, because they were the best team. The Busby Babes were the best team in the country. It was an amazing game.''

''I'll always remember that day,'' the now 75-year-old added. ''The game itself was just the best game of football I'd ever seen – 5-4 to United. Arsenal played so well that day. United brought a couple of younger players in, but it was like a conveyor belt at that time, they had so many good young players.

''It was special for me, being there and watching that. I knew they were flying off then to play in Europe.

"You went to football. We'd get on the bus, another bus, eventually get there. Most people where I lived in the East End of London were West Ham supporters.

''But we lived on a big council estate and we were Arsenal. We'd get there and it was fantastic times. We'd have a cup of tea and a cheese roll. The excitement of it as a kid, watching all the great players. You knew, when Man United came to town, that you were watching the very best out there.''

United Foundation honours the Babes' legacy Video

United Foundation honours the Babes' legacy

United players and Foundation participants commemorate the Busby Babes to mark the 65-year anniversary of Munich...

United midfielder Edwards, one of the 23 fatalities in the crash, scored in the match against Arsenal and was an exciting young talent that was tipped by many to reach the very pinnacle of the game prior to his sad passing.

Redknapp recalls the enthusiasm that watching the midfielder player gave him, echoing how his talents were inspiring for many lovers of the game like himself.

''He was [an inspiration] for everybody,'' said the former Spurs boss. ''He was just such a fantastic player. It was crazy how good he was. You've only got to read Bobby Charlton's book.

''Bobby left school as a schoolboy international — probably the most sought-after schoolboy in the country. He went to Man United, started playing with Duncan Edwards, and thought: 'I can't play. Thought I could play until I played with Duncan'. Duncan was that good.

''To be that much better than Bobby Charlton, it tells you how good he was. Bobby Moore was my big pal, but if Duncan had been alive he'd have probably been captain of England in the 1966 World Cup. He'd have still been in his prime.''

Forever remembered


On 6 February 1958, 23 people - including eight United players - suffered fatal injuries in the Munich Air Disaster.

Recalling the day he found out about the sad news of the crash, Redknapp told United Review of the togetherness shown by the British public in the aftermath that followed.

''For everybody, the whole country came together,'' he added. Every morning the whole school would say prayers for those players. The whole country was in mourning.

''It wasn't like 'they support this team'. It wasn't tribal. It was a very sad time. You followed it through the newspapers and bits on TV. You waited for the news to come on.

''We never had ITV or anything. You sometimes listened to the radio at that time, and it sounded like Duncan Edwards was recovering.

''There was a picture in the paper of him sitting up in bed. Sadly, within days, he'd gone. You held onto every bit of information you could get as to how everybody was that was involved in the crash. It was an incredible time.''