The humble collosus: Duncan Edwards
All the Pretty Lasses
With Smiles on their faces
Came all the Way to Manchester
To watch Matt Busby’s aces.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar are undoubtedly the best footballers in the world today. Not only are they the best, but also the most marketable people in the world. Rumors have it that Cristiano Ronaldo has insured his legs for an eye catching price. Duncan Edwards on the other hand was neither a superstar or a brand name. He was nothing but a young lad with an unbelievable love and passion for football. He just wanted to play.
“Busby called Dunc in one day and said: ‘The boys are playing in a youth tournament and I’d like you to present the prizes.’ Dunc said: ‘Why aren’t I playing, Boss?’ Duncan was a full England international! He just wanted to play “- The Telegraph
At first, Edwards was attracted toward Morris dancing. The rhythm and speed of the dancing moves including the bell pads on the shins gave him the speed he required to bolt past defenders as a wing half. After all great skill comes to those who move their feet the quickest. Hence, as destiny would have it, Edwards signed for Manchester United, quenching speculation of him joining the likes of Wolverhampton and Aston Villa. His modesty and character was perfectly illustrated when he chose to sign with Manchester United since then manager had personally visited his home to persuade him to play for the Red Devils.
“today seen a 12-year-old schoolboy who merits special watching. His name is Duncan Edwards, of Dudley”.- United Scout Jack O’Brien report to Matt Busby, 1948
Along with Roger Byrne, Eddie Coleman, Jackie Blanchflower, Wilf McGunniess and Bobby Charlton, he was a member of the famous batch of immensely talented players popularly known as ” The Busby Babes”.
It is indeed strange to think that a person with such a physique would be so modest to take permission from Sir Matt Busby during regular training routine to jump the fence and pose for a picture with the boy cleaning the stands at Old Trafford. If Nat Lofthouse is the living equivalent of Iron Man, then Duncan Edwards is certainly the Incredible Hulk. His physical presence was put to show during the European Cup clash against Athletic Bilbao. Due to his herculean physique, he was referred to as “Big Dunc” or “The Tank”.
“Just before half-time, he got the signal from Matt to go forward, and Bilbao couldn’t live with his physical presence. He hit a cannonball shot, which was semi-blocked and Dennis Viollet scored. We went on to win 3-0.”- John Russell
On 6th February 1958, the plane comprising of possibly the greatest ever team met with a fatal crash, hence robbing Manchester United of what would have been the greatest squad for a long time to come. Despite being severely wounded in the legs and kidneys, Big Dunc showed his passion for the game when he requested then assistant manager Jimmy Murphy to put him on the team sheet against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“What time is the kick off against Wolves, Jimmy? I mustn’t miss that match”- Edwards to assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, a few days before his death
Legends are usually remembered by moments that showcase their character. I believe that this one sentence is enough to make Duncan Edwards a footballing legend for all the right reasons. A tall statue stands to this day, along with the famous ” Duncan Edwards Close” in Dudley. Manchester United too did their bit to honor him by exhibiting all his football memorabilia in the prestigious Old Trafford Museum.
” Duncan Edwards was my idol….. I used to clean his boots extra special”- Nobby Stiles
Sir Bobby Charlton fittingly sums up Duncan Edwards as a footballer.
Physically, he was enormous. He was strong and had a fantastic football brain. His ability was complete – right foot, left foot, long passing, short passing. He did everything instinctively.- Sir Bobby Charlton