A short walk from Old Trafford, there is a War memorial at Gorse Hill on the Chester Road that bears the name of Sgt A. Turnbull – Alexander ‘Sandy’ Turnbull to football fans.
A brilliant inside-forward who won the FA Cup with both Manchester City and United, it is important to pay tribute to his impact in the game on the day that the derby coincides with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The club will be doing just that by issuing special shirts to the United mascots at the Etihad Stadium for the Premier League game, which kicks off at 16:30 GMT.
Turnbull was one of many who lost their lives in Arras, France, with the date of his death registered as 3 May 2017, even though he was missing in action for some time and initially it was hoped he had merely been captured. Sadly, he was one of those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield. During an in-depth profile of the player in Inside United, the official club magazine, in 2010, it was suggested he is likely to have died in captivity and was buried somewhere in Cherisy by the Germans.
Much has already been written about the Scot, and particularly the circumstances that led to him joining United from City for a reported £350 in 1906. He had already helped City win their first major trophy, the 1904 FA Cup, after a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Crystal Palace. With United, he twice won the championship and, despite being a major injury doubt beforehand, scored the only goal when the Reds (although we played in white shirts with a red ‘V’) beat Bristol City in the 1909 FA Cup final to secure our first triumph in the competition.
On Friday, current first-team defender Chris Smalling was presented with an illustration by Tim Gooden of Turnbull and said:
“I’m delighted and honoured to accept this picture of Sandy Turnbull on behalf of Manchester United. Sandy is a true legend of the club who like so many others, sadly lost his life in the First World War. He will always be remembered here at Manchester United.”
A lot more can be learned about Sandy at our Museum at Old Trafford, with a number of precious artefacts from his life and career currently on show as part of a Remembrance exhibition.
Patrick McGuire was another to die in the Great War, on the Somme – he played for United’s Reserves and represented City’s first team. Consequently, his name will also be on a mascot's shirt. So, when the two clubs supposedly ‘do battle’ on Sunday, it is worth remembering that history tells us some things are far more important than football.
It is time to pay the proper respects to all of the fallen before the game starts at the Etihad Stadium on what promises to be a poignant occasion, and the minute's silence promises to be extra special 100 years after hostilities in the Great War officially came to an end.