A couple of weeks ago I placed this photo in the Express and Star for two reasons; one to ask for more information on it, and two to hopefully introduce readers to my website. I achieved excellent results from both aims. In one week I received 57 all-correct replies; including this one from Arthur Sanders, an octogenarian from Bilston.
I’m sure many people have already pointed out that the picture referred to was not a local amateur football team but the famous Aston Villa 1939-45 War Team, which I saw many times at Villa Park during this period. The trophy in the centre of the picture had just been won when they defeated Blackpool over two legs. The Blackpool team included Stanley Matthews.
The players in the picture are:
Back row: Ronnie Starling, Ernie Callaghan, Alan Wakeman
Middle row: Bob Iverson, Alex Massie, George Cummings, Harry Parkes
Front row: George Edwards, Vic Potts, Frank Broome, Eric Houghton
Seated on the right of the picture is Mr Joe Heath, the owner of a large fruit and veg business in Bilston town centre. Mr Heath was a Villa director, who I have to thank for getting me a ticket for Wembley in 1957 when Villa beat Manchester Utd 2-1.
Links with the past
Now that last paragraph was like grist to the mill for me. I thought with my catalogue of pictures I could keep this series going for quite awhile. Manchester Utd 1957-8 – what a tragedy! For anyone who perhaps still doesn’t already know, the Munich air disaster took place on 6 February 1958, when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport , West Germany.
On board the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes”, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board the aircraft died in the crash, which included eight of the players.
In 1958 the new Man Utd, as seen above, were trying to maintain the record that no losing finalist of one year lose, if they get to Wembley the next.
At the time of the disaster, Manchester United were chasing a third successive League title, being six points behind League leaders Wolves with 14 games to go. They were also holders of the Charity Shield and had just advanced into their second successive European Cup semi-final. The team were also on an 11 match unbeaten run, and had booked their place in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup two weeks previously.
Anyway with the luck that sometimes comes to the underdog and a little bit of help from their friends, Manchester United were able to make their second appearance at Wembley in successive years . In 1957 they had been beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa .
( The Connection)
Unfortunately the story wasn’t going to have a Cinderella ending. They lost 2 – nil to Bolton Wanderers.