The late, great Tom Clare in his own words
Last month, we received the sad news that much-loved fan Tom Clare had passed away, aged 78, after a long struggle with cancer.
Tom was a hugely popular figure in our fan base, and a well-known face at Old Trafford for decades, ever since he first began following the team in the 1950s.
Born in Chorlton-on-Medlock – then a severely impoverished area of inner-city Manchester – he would regularly walk to the Theatre of Dreams and bask in the aura of the side he worshipped: our legendary Busby Babes. There didn’t need to be a match on!
Tom never lost his affection for United, those early years cemented within him. In later years, he would immortalise his memories – and many interactions with the Babes – in several books.
Despite emigrating to Texas in later life, he never stopped visiting M16; never stopped making friends with fellow Reds; never stopped spreading the United gospel; never stopped writing.
Only a few months ago, despite the wretched pain from his illness, he volunteered to speak to UR for the 65th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. From his home in the States, love and joy poured out as he brought the Babes to life.
As a tribute to Tom, we bring you some of those precious words here...
'I WAS INFATUATED WITH UNITED...'
“The earliest memories I have are when I was about eight or nine. I’d play truant from school and go up to Old Trafford! I’d walk from All Saints [Church] all
the way up to Old Trafford. Many a morning, I’d walk around United Road and the back of the Stretford End. It all used to be cinders. As I walked up United Road you could hear all this shouting and carrying on going on at the back of the Stretford End. There they’d be. All these players, kicking lumps out of each other!
“They used to play a game at the back of the Stretford End, and it was a toughening process. There were all these young lads, as well as a lot of the 1948 side, who were coming to the end. At times, they’d split the teams into two: married lads against the single boys.
“The single boys always came out on top. I remember little Henry Cockburn, a member of the ’48 side, telling the older guys: ‘Look, watch your peg in the dressing room, because these kids are going to take it. These kids are something special.’ And of course they were.
Tom would never forget his childhood heroes, who he followed closely as they rose from the youth ranks to first XI.
'THEY LEFT THAT INDELIBLE IMPRINT UPON YOUR MIND'
“The Youth Cup was introduced, and we started to see this youth programme that Sir Matt and Jimmy [Murphy] had put together, which was initially the idea of James W. Gibson. All these young kids started to come through and they were phenomenal.
“It was just a joy to watch them. There was no pretentiousness; there was no bigging it up. One by one, you started to see these guys come into the team. Wood. Foulkes. Byrne. Colman. Jones. Blanchflower. Edwards. Whelan. Taylor. Viollet. Pegg. Scanlon.
“They were a precocious, outgoing bunch, but they always had time for the fans. You’d see them at the local youth clubs giving out prizes. You’d see them at local schools cup finals. It was just a joy to be around at that time and to be with them.
“[Munich] affected not only me; it affected all of my generation. Manchester was just one veil of mourning. And we never really recovered from it. You talk to my contemporaries today, and they will virtually tell you the same thing. But I feel so privileged and so happy with the memories that they left me, even though the sadness gutted me. The memories are incredible – I can remember games back then more vividly than I can remember games today!”