The Peerless Duncan Edwards - a tribute to the most complete British player
Widely regarded as being among the best ever young talents to ever play the game, Duncan Edwards was a man who had everything but time on his side. Having started playing for United at the young age of 17, Edwards quickly rose through ranks and became a key member of the Busby’s Babes. Standing tall at 6?2 Edwards was an imposing figure and played with great authority at the heart of the midfield. No wonder he was fondly called as “The Tank”.
Born in Dudley, Edwards’ remarkable talent was evident since his schooldays as his coach once remarked, “I have seen a young lad who would one day play for England.” He was blessed with tremendous stamina and a good physique. Soon he was representing England’s school team. At 16, a number of top clubs such as Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Manchester United were vying for his signature. He eventually signed for United after Matt Busby paid him a visit.
Manchester United Career
As soon as he joined United he got drafted into the club’s youth side. He won the FA Youth Cup in his first year at the club, a trophy he would win for the next two years as well.
The following season he made his debut for the first team against Cardiff City at the age of 16 years and 185 days thus, making him the youngest ever player in English top-flight football history. It was here that Edwards played alongside fellow youth academy graduates Bobby Charlton, David Pegg and Tommy Taylor – the trio would be playing an instrumental role for both club and country in the following years.
The 1955-56 season was a breakthrough season for him as he featured in 36 games for the Red Devils. Solid performances for United resulted in him getting a National call up against Scotland where he became the youngest to play for England, a record that would stand till Michael Owen made his debut in 1998.
The following season he became a first-team regular and played a key role in United winning the League by a whopping 11-point margin. He won another League title the subsequent season and also played in European Cup (now called UEFA Champions League).
By now Edwards was a well-known public figure and he started appearing in Television Commercials and on Magazine covers. His brilliant form for United attracted offers from many top clubs around Europe.
His last performance on home soil was in United’s 5-4 victory against the Gunners. Five days later, he featured in the 3-3 draw against Red Star Belgrade in the quarters of the European Cup. Unfortunately, this was his last appearance for Red Devils.
He has won a total of 3 FA Youth Cups and 2 League titles with Man United.
Ever since making his International debut for England, Edwards became a regular member of the squad. He took part in the side’s World cup Qualifying matches against France, Portugal and Spain.
In all, he played 18 matches for the national side and scored 6 goals including a brace in England’s 5-2 victory over Denmark.
Seven United players lost their lives in the Munich Air Tragedy, Edwards was one of the survivors though he had been badly bruised and suffered multiple injuries.
On February 21st, 1958, Duncan Edwards aged just 21 breathed his last.
Despite dying at such a young age, Edwards’ legacy lives on and continues to inspire people. Such was his commitment to the game that while lying in the hospital with blood oozing from all parts of the body, he asks the Assistant manager Jimmy Murphy to name him in the starting line-up to face Wolves.
He had remarkable versatility and could change positions with ease and still play with the same intensity. He would bulldoze his way past defenders and shoot with immense power and precision. Matt Busby regards him as the “most complete player of his Generation” while fellow teammate Bobby Charlton describes him as “the only player he ever envied”.
One can only speculate the heights a player of Edwards’ caliber would have reached while taking into account his outstanding talent. Two years after the Munich Tragedy, Man United would become the first English side to win the European Cup.
Shortly before his death, Edwards released his autobiography “Tackle Soccer This Way.” Perhaps the one word to sum up Duncan Edwards would be “Peerless.”