Red letters: United fan mail through the years

Thursday 08 July 2021 15:00

Ever since professional football began, there has been fan mail. Letters asking players for football tips, requesting their autographs or asking to meet them... examples of all can be found in the Manchester United Museum.

Although a piece of written correspondence only shows half a conversation, they can still provide fascinating insights into relationships between players and supporters. Even if, at times, they leave us to make guesses about the other side of an exchange that may have occurred 70-plus years ago!

In 1947, club officials Louis Rocca and Ted Connor admitted to being “certainly a bit puzzled” when they received some wedding cake in the mail!

Nine years later, United captain Roger Byrne replied to a fan who had asked for advice on how to train. The defender began the letter by acknowledging how difficult it was to fulfil the request, since he didn’t know the sender’s age, but as you can read in our gallery below, he still offered some guidance on how to improve.


Much like the messages we now see in their thousands on social media, letters that were sent to the club decades ago would often convey what fans thought of the team's performances on the pitch.

During the 1937/38 season, United right-half James Brown received a note telling him how much he was loved by the fans and begging him to help save the team from relegation.

The fan enquired, “What’s happened, what’s wrong, there must be something... the team that beat City and Arsenal are here, but where’s Jimmy Brown?”

The correspondent ended his message by asking Brown to show the note to his manager, Scott Duncan, and James Gibson, the club’s owner, with an impassioned plea for Brown to be made captain.
James Brown, pictured at Old Trafford in the 1930s.

Another reason for fans to write to the club was when players were injured or unwell - even if their United careers had long since ended. When Welsh winger Billy Meredith was in hospital almost 40 years after hanging up his red shirt, he was inundated with letters from fans who had loved watching him play.


During the 1950s, as media attention around players increased, there was a trend for players’ former schools to get in touch. For example, Albert Quixall received congratulations from Meynell Road Secondary School in 1953, ahead of his international debut.

Albert Quixall, pictured at Old Trafford in the late 1950s.

Several of the Busby Babes received letters from their old teachers, whilst Duncan Edwards’ former school named an entire competition in his honour.

Another gem in our gallery above is a letter that appears to be fan mail from a player. 
In 1958, shortly before his death in the Munich Air Disaster, Mark Jones drafted a letter to Roy Genders, an author.

Mark Jones giving autographs to fans outside Old Trafford in the 1950s.

Genders had written a book about growing mushrooms, and Jones was keen to meet him to learn more about the process which had captured his imagination.

While letters like Mark's might be less common these days, fan mail continues to flood into the club in various forms and, to quote a reply from Matt Busby, it's "very much appreciated by the players and staff."

To see our amazing collection in person, book your visit to the Museum & Stadium Tour at Old Trafford.