Aston: '68 significance sank in when I retired

Monday 20 June 2022 09:00

Manchester United legend John Aston Jr. shares his pride at achieving his dreams with the club during this week's episode of UTD Podcast.

Then aged only 20, Aston was named Man of the Match in the 1968 European Cup final, as Matt Busby's side lifted the trophy for the first time in the club's history.

Such acclaim at Wembley was rare for a player used to being an unsung hero in a star-studded squad featuring World Cup winners Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles, as well as iconic figures such as George Best and Denis Law.

John Aston Jr. only reflected on the magnitude of winning the 1968 European Cup after he retired.

Aston joined United as a trainee in 1962 and after signing his professional contract in 1964, he made 187 senior appearances for the Reds. He scored 27 goals across his time at the club and departed for Luton Town in 1972.

The winger also had stints at Mansfield Town and Blackburn Rovers before retiring in 1979.

In his episode of the UTD Podcast - available from Monday afternoon in the United App and on – Aston recalls the Munich Air Disaster of 1958, and reflects on how some of his team-mates must have been feeling after achieving European Cup success 10 years after the tragedy.

“I was 10. I was at junior school, not even senior school,” said Aston explaining his age at the time of the tragedy.

“It was devastating. It was awful. I mean, that’s all you can say.

“Ten years after Munich, I was playing in a European Cup final. My life had doubled from 10 to 20, but I was still a very young man. And I was playing with Bobby Charlton, Billy Foulkes and Shay Brennan, and Harry Gregg was here. Lads who were involved in Munich [or at the club then].

“I never gave that a thought. I was a part of the team, but I had things to do. I remember being at home when I finished and I was like ‘blooming heck, how must that have been for Bobby, to win that, just only 10 years after?’ For those lads, it must have been haunting them.

“I never realised that until I’d finished playing football, I was in my 30s.”

Watch John explain why he didn't join in the celebrations for our third goal against Benfica.

As for his role in the 1968 final, Aston shares a story about how he celebrated - or rather didn’t celebrate - United’s third goal in the eventual 4-1 win.

“The [other players] ran to the corner flag and they’re all jumping, and I’m walking back by myself, looking over,” he reminisced.

“I can remember what I was thinking. I thought ‘you silly buggers, it’s not over yet!’ That was my thought at the time. I thought ‘we’ve got to defend now’ and that’s how I was. Of course, if you watch it, it does look funny. It looks as though I’m a spectator who’s just walking down the field! No emotion at all. But it’s because I was thinking.”

To hear more stories like that, don't miss the John Aston Jr. episode of UTD Podcast in the United App and on this Monday afternoon. You can find all previous episodes here.