Albert Quixall celebrates with his FA Cup winners' medal in 1963

Obituary: Albert Quixall

Thursday 12 November 2020 22:00

It was with great sadness that we received the news that former Reds attacker Albert Quixall had passed away at the age of 87.

When Matt Busby paid Sheffield Wednesday a British record fee of £45,000 to sign Albert as his first major rebuilding block after the Munich air disaster in 1958, the Manchester United boss had recruited a performer seemingly destined for the game’s loftiest peaks.

At 25 and a five-times-capped England international who had partnered Stanley Matthews in his country’s attack, the exuberantly gifted inside-forward appeared to have the lot. Deliciously skilful, capable of searing acceleration and brimming with self-belief, at least outwardly, he had shone throughout nearly a decade of productive service at Hillsborough.

To complete the picture, Albert was blond, baby-faced and oozed charisma, prompting headline writers to christen him the golden boy of English football, which created colossal expectations of the engagingly modest Yorkshireman.
Albert, then aged 19, cleans and repairs his Sheffield Wednesday shooting boots.
His life as a Red began positively, with a perky showing in a home draw with Spurs that September, but that was part of a run of seven league appearances without a victory following his arrival, which still embarrassed him when he reflected on it decades later.

“It sounds daft but I think I was trying too hard,” he admitted, “what with having that big fee on my napper, and it was only when I started doing what came naturally that matters improved.”

The manager was patient, believing unswervingly in Quixall’s talent, and sure enough he began to produce the most convincing form of his Old Trafford tenure, combining in an all-star attack with fellow inside man Bobby Charlton, centre-forward Dennis Viollet and wingers Warren Bradley and Albert Scanlon. Soon the season was revived so comprehensively that the Reds, still reeling from the crash, surged up the table to finish as runners-up to champions Wolves.
Quixall scores a penalty past Fulham goalkeeper Ken Hewkins, during United's 4-4 draw at Craven Cottage in December 1960.
Over the next four spadework seasons Albert was rarely out of the side, but while he dazzled occasionally, United’s collective form stuttered in 1962/63 and relegation was a real possibility until a nerve-shredding climax to the season yielded survival.

However, one gilded achievement remained. In that term’s FA Cup, Quixall made a mammoth contribution, scoring against Huddersfield, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Coventry on the way to a Wembley confrontation with high-flying Leicester in which he featured tellingly. He passed crisply and inventively, combining sweetly with recent arrivals Denis Law and Paddy Crerand as well as old comrade Charlton as the Reds triumphed 3-1.
Quixall, with the trophy on his head, celebrates United's 1963 FA Cup final win with his team-mates Bobby Charlton, Noel Cantwell, Paddy Crerand and David Herd.
Approaching his 30th birthday, that sunlit afternoon beneath the twin towers proved to be the zenith of Albert’s time as a Red, and a key landmark in Busby’s ongoing restoration work.

Little more than a year on, with constant change a theme at Old Trafford, Albert departed to join Oldham, prior to fleeting stints with Stockport and non-League Altrincham before he ran a scrap metal firm in Moss Side.

In the final analysis, Albert’s 56 goals in 184 outings place him close to the club’s all-time top 100 appearance-makers, but moreover they amounted to a worthy Old Trafford shift at an absolutely crucial stage in the club’s post-Munich history.

May he rest in peace.