This year alone we have lost Jack Chharlton and Nobby Styles, passing on after long battles with dementia. Now, with her husband’s consent, Lady Norma Charlton has confirmed that Sir Bobby Charlton has become one more member of that greatest team of all to suffer dementia. Not death, yet, but living death. There aren’t the words to speak the sorrow. We will remember him always as he was, in red and white, drawing back one foot to fire another thunderbolt into the net past another despairing goalkeeper.
Fortunate was I to live in his time.
It’s no time since we lost Jack Charlton and now Nobby Stiles, the little man in Red, has followed his team-mate into the sunset. The balance has finally tipped: there are fewer now who remain than have gone before and now I fear that the decline will be rapid.
Nobby was ours, not just England’s but Manchester’s and Manchester United’s. Two of our men were among the Boys of Summer in 1966, the Forever Immortals, whose names will stand as long as there is life.
And now there is one. He will once again be feeling the pain of loss, of friend, of team-mate, of colleague. And everyone who holds our club in esteem will feel the same pain.
Get in there, Nobby. They shall not pass, you always nmade sure of that.
A friend has just e-mailed me the following:
Droylsden FC have as of today resigned from the Northern Premier League and will also take no part in Cup Competitions this season
In a letter sent to the Northern Premier League Chairman Dave Pace described the decision as the most difficult he has ever had to make.
However the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis has left him with no alternative.
The closing of the social club and its function rooms since the start of the pandemic, the main income source with no indication of any restart on viable trading terms along with a loss of income from the club’s main sponsor has left the club with no visible alternative income stream during the crisis.
“The club may hopefully survive this crisis and continue into the future in less challenging circumstances than we find ourselves in during the present”
The club will be making no further statement at the present time.”
Well, that’s a facer. To be completely honest, part of me doesn’t feel a thing about it, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in there. I don’t have any time for Dave Pace who was responsible for separating me from the Bloods, and I swore never to go back whilst he was still there. There’s a bit of ‘serve the f****r right’ in hearing that news. It’s the fans I feel sorry for, who’ve gone through a lot. Some of them were mates, lots of them were acquaintances, and all of them are the undeserved sufferers.
I wonder how many other clubs up and down the country are going to have to do the same.
One day, soon maybe, I’ll talk about how and why the deaths of the people that I refer to on this blog affect me as they do.
I’ve already written about Jack Charlton, but this, with far fewer words, says much more than I ever could, especially in the last tier, and that last panel.
For those who don’t follow the Guardian, and who won’t otherwise see David Squires’ beautiful tribute.
Stirling Moss, Tim Brooke-Taylor and now Peter Bonetti, all in the same day, as awful a cull at once as any we experienced in 2016.
Though he was a truly great goalkeeper, Peter Bonetti was doomed to be remembered, by those of us who were not Chelsea fans in 1970, for coming into the England team for the quarter-final of the World Cup against West Germany. After conceding only one goal in his first six appearances for England, Bonetti conceded three, as England slipped from a seemingly impregnable 2-0 lead. He never played for England again.
It’s unfair to him, but that is the memory. It can haunt him no longer.
I’m going to say this now, before anything of the sort might happen and I appear to be insincere.
As a Manchester United fan, I had to experience my team going 26 years without a Championship. In 1990, our deep and bitter rivals Liverpool began a similar drought. The one thing I wanted was for theirs to last longer than ours and in 2016 I got my wish. I’d have liked that to continue indefinitely, but there’s no denying – even if there is regretting – that they’re going to be worthy Champions any time now. I’m resigned to it, and I’m happy to settle for thirty years.
The coronavirus has changed everything. There’s been mocking anticipation already about Liverpool’s inevitable progression being kicked in the fact by the possibility that the Premier League season will be voided. Thirty years ag, I’d probably have joined in that.
There’s an emergency meeting this morning of the Premier League to decide what to do abut the rest of the season. Suspension is pretty much inevitable, especially given the number of cases already affecting clubs. Some are saying that it’s a distinct possibility that the season will indeed be voided, and count for nothing.
Here’s my two’pennorth: Don’t. Suspend it by all means, safety demands it. But don’t void it. Nobody deserves to have something so long awaited denied them by what amounts to a dirty trick. I remember what it felt like back in 1993 and I don’t want even Scousers deprived of that for anything but events on the pitch. Susppend, yes. Catch-up, yes. But vid?
She’s a Liverpool fan. They’re odds on to break a thirty year gap since their last League Championship. I’m a Manchester United fan. We went twenty-six years, and the Scousers’ long wait has been a source of fun for twenty-nine years. Truthfully, I wanted them to never win it again in my lifetime, and I got very nervous when they looked likely to do it in twenty-five.
But we beat them at that, and now I can accept it’s going to happen and not really care.
As for this piece, I know how Hannah Jane Parkinson feels and I don’t begrudge her a moment of it. She speaks for all of us in one manner or another (except that Leicester’s story in 2016 will always be better than yours).
At the moment, the last Fifth Round tie in this season’s FA Cup is going Manchester United’s way. In the Sixth Round, they would face bottom-placed Norwich City, away. United ought to win. As for the Bitters, they’re away at Newcastle United: a bit of a harder tie, but they too ought to win.
At which point we can dispense with a semi-final draw and just put us against them. Every single time the two Manchester clubs have both reached a semi-final, they have been drawn together and this will continue until eternity.
Equally, should the Magpies actually knock ut the Bitters, they are the one team in the semi-final draw that United will not be paired with.
Accept the word of one who knows.
There are not many of them left, the ones who walked away from the Munich Air Disaster that threatened to kill Manchester United, that happened 62 years and 11 days ago, and now there is one fewer. Harry Gregg, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper for whom United paid the then-worled record fee for a keeper, has passed away aged 87. That only leaves Wor Bobby, Sir Bobby Charlton, who walked away from that plane.
But Harry Gregg didn’t just walk away. He went back inside to do what he could to help. He got a woman and her baby, trapped in their seat, out of the plane.
Harry Gregg was unlucky in his years with United not to win a single trophy, but he had something more, something that no-one ever wants but which is beyond praise. We bow our heads at his passing.
… and we will never forget the Flowers of Manchester.
6th February 1958. If you don’t know the significance of that date, go away and find out.