Bobby Charlton : biography
Sir Robert "Bobby" Charlton CBE (born 11 October 1937) is an English former football player, regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, and an essential member of the England team who won the World Cup and also won the Ballon d’Or for European Footballer of the Year in 1966. He played almost all of his club football at Manchester United, where he became renowned for his attacking instincts and passing abilities from midfield and his ferocious long-range shot. He was also well known for his fitness and stamina. His elder brother Jack, who was also in the World Cup-winning team, is a former defender for Leeds United and international manager.
Born in Ashington, Northumberland, Charlton made his debut for the Manchester United first-team in 1956, and over the next two seasons gained a regular place in the team, during which time he survived the Munich air disaster of 1958 after being rescued by Harry Gregg. After helping United to win the Football League in 1965, he won a World Cup medal with England in 1966 and another Football League title with United the following year. In 1968, he captained the Manchester United team that won the European Cup, scoring two goals in the final to help his team be the first English side to win the competition. He has scored more goals for England and United than any other player. Charlton held the record for most appearances for Manchester United (758), before being surpassed by Ryan Giggs.
He was selected for four World Cups (1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970), and helped England to win the competition in 1966. At the time of his retirement from the England team in 1970, he was the nation’s most capped player, having turned out 106 times at the highest level. This record has since been eclipsed by Bobby Moore, Peter Shilton and then David Beckham.
He left Manchester United to become manager of Preston North End for the 1973–74 season. He changed to player-manager the following season. He next accepted a post as a director with Wigan Athletic, then became a member of Manchester United’s board of directors in 1984 and remains one as of May 2013.
Munich air disaster
The aeroplane which took the United players and staff home from Zemun Airport needed to stop in Munich to refuel. This was carried out in worsening weather, and by the time the refuelling was complete and the call was made for the passengers to re-board the aircraft, the wintry showers had taken hold and snow had settled heavily on the runway and around the airport. There were two aborted take-offs which led to concern on board, and the passengers were advised by a stewardess to disembark again while a minor technical error was fixed.
The team was back in the airport terminal barely ten minutes when the call to reconvene on the plane came, and a number of passengers began to feel nervous. Charlton and teammate Dennis Viollet swapped places with Tommy Taylor and David Pegg, who had decided they would be safer at the back of the plane.
The plane clipped the fence at the end of the runway on its next take-off attempt and a wing tore through a nearby house, setting it alight. The wing and part of the tail came off and hit a tree and a wooden hut, the plane spinning along the snow until coming to a halt. It had been cut in half.
Charlton, strapped into his seat, had fallen out of the cabin and when United goalkeeper Harry Gregg (who had somehow got through a hole in the plane unscathed and begun a one-man rescue mission) found him, he thought he was dead. That said, he grabbed both Charlton and Viollet by their trouser waistbands and dragged them away from the plane in constant fear that it would explode. Gregg returned to the plane to try to help the appallingly injured Busby and Blanchflower, and when he turned around again, he was relieved to see that Charlton and Viollet, both of whom he had presumed to be dead, had got out of their detached seats and were looking into the wreckage.
Charlton suffered cuts to his head and severe shock and was in hospital for a week. Seven of his teammates had perished at the scene, including Taylor and Pegg, with whom he and Viollet had swapped seats prior to the fatal take-off attempt. Club captain Roger Byrne was also killed, along with Mark Jones, Billy Whelan, Eddie Colman and Geoff Bent. Duncan Edwards died a fortnight later from the injuries he had sustained. In total, the crash claimed 23 lives. Initially, ice on the wings was blamed, but a later inquiry declared that slush on the runway had made a safe take-off almost impossible.