“Best player ever”, “Hottest young talent in the world”; statements like these are thrown around frequently and although people will put their mortgage on such claims, they are all subjective.
There are people who will say Maradona is the best player ever, some may argue Pele whilst some might even suggest that Messi has pipped both in his short but brilliant stint at the top of world football.
That’s the good thing about these statements, they will provoke endless hours of discussion on message boards, twitter, blogs and the like.
But there is one statement you can make that will be met with universal agreement:
“The Busby Babes were the greatest team the world never saw.”
On February 6th 1958 the Munich Air Disaster robbed the world of a potential dynasty. In their relatively brief, bright spell at the top of English football the world were given a glimpse of what The Busby Babes could potentially do, so we can only wonder what would have happened if the team was allowed to reach it’s peak.
It is easy to highlight him, but for those that saw Duncan Edwards his death was a tragedy in itself. A player of such brilliance would surely have gone on to achieve greatness had he survived, but instead we are left with just memories, a star that will forever burn brightly rather than ever having faded.
Thus it is understandable that there has been such excitement with Phil Jones, a player likened to Edwards.
Players of Edwards’ ilk come around once in a generation, if even that, so for Sir Bobby Charlton to even liken the two is enough to build anticipation, as those of us that were unlucky not to have seen ‘Big Dunc’ cling to the hope that we may get some sort of an encore.
It isn’t just Edwards though, players like Taylor, Coleman, Jones, Whelan, Byrne, Pegg and Bent were all parts of a team that could have gone on to achieve immortality.
Having conquered England, in Europe they were finding their feet and it is felt that had the disaster not taken place Real Madrid would not have won the first 5 European Cup competitions.
But that isn’t the biggest tragedy.
Beyond football we have to realise that amongst the 23 fatalities a large number of the dead were young healthy men, football becomes of secondary importance when death is added to the equation.
As United fans we often look at the effect the crash had on the club in footballing terms, but we have to remember the effect it had on their families, friends and people who knew them because whilst they were footballers they were also fathers, brothers, sons, cousins etc
The tragedy rocked the country and football itself, Real Madrid offered to donate the European Cup they won that season to the club but we rejected, and gestures like that confirm this.
They is a saying ‘People never get the flowers while they can still smell them’, meaning people only get praise when they have passed, but in the Babes’ case their deaths simply brought more as people fully understood what they could have become.
Like many, I will have to make do with footage and second hand accounts of the brilliance of Sir Matt Busby’s side, but I 100% believe there is no over exaggeration or hyperbole when people claim that when Flight 609, carrying Sir Matt Busby’s Manchester United, skidded on the runway of the Munich-Riem Airport and crashed, it robbed the world of ‘the greatest football team the world never saw’.