On the 6th of February 1958, a British European Airways flight 609 of the “Elizabethan” class, took off, or attempted to take off (on its third attempt) off a slush-covered runway at the Munich-Riem airport. On board were a glittering assortment of some of the finest footballers, England and the world had the privilege to see. The flight also had some of the most stellar journalists to have put pen to paper. The Manchester United footballers, lovingly referred to as “Busby’s Babes” had qualified for the semi-finals of the European Cup by the skin of their teeth after having drawn their last game against Red Star Belgrade. The aircraft careened off the runway, ploughed through a fence and had its tail dismantled after making contact with a house. Amidst the tangled wreckage of metal and leather were 20 bodies out of a total of 44 passengers. In one cruel fell swoop the world had lost one of its greatest collection of athletes.
The youngest star to perish in the ill-fated crash (after a brave fight for life in the Rechts der Isar Hospital that lasted 15 days) was the most acclaimed player of them all. The 21 year old Duncan Edwards had already clocked up 18 international appearances for England, in addition to over 100 appearances for Manchester United. The proud winner of 3 consecutive FA Youth Cup Championships, Edwards was at the pinnacle of his form and at the peak of the footballing world. A certified and unassuming genius, Edwards was a complete footballer. Although his favourite position was left-half he could be found prowling the whole pitch donning the alternate mantles of midfielder, defender and a powerful striker possessing one of the most powerful long range shooting abilities.
In this touching book, James Leighton pays tribute to arguably the most complete footballer the world has had the privilege to witness, albeit for an extremely short period of time. The book sketches the rise and rise of Edwards from a schoolboy prodigy to a Manchester United talisman.The book also provides gleaning insights into the impeccable character of this gentle giant who was a near teetotaler and a stickler for discipline. Grasping out of the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers who almost signed him, Duncan Edwards distinguished himself under the able stewardship of Sir Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy to make the “Theatre of Dreams” at Old Trafford his personal playground. James Leighton is impartial and unbiased in his assessment of this prodigy. Taking recourse to newspaper reports and views of his team mates and opponents alike, Leighton paints the picture of Duncan Edwards on a pristine canvas.
Sir Matt Busby, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Bobby Robson and Terry Venables et al are of the universal opinion that had tragedy and fate, not so heartlessly intervened, it would have been Duncan Edwards and not Bobby Moore who would have gone on to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy for England in 1966. Duncan Edwards did not live long to play the game that he so dearly loved. But in the short span of time that he did, he left the whole footballing world a debt of gratitude that could never be repaid, until eternity.
“Duncan Edwards” – A marauding Angel of indecipherable greatness!