MANCHESTER UNITED`S RED OF HEAVEN - BETTER READ
Arthur Albiston Left Back Successful In Manchester United`s Era Of Mediocrity
In 1973 Tony Dunne retired, who had been Manchester United`s left full back since 1960 when Sir Matt Busby had been searching for a replacement for Roger Byrne, the young captain of England and his `Busby Babes`, which were decimated by the Munich air crash. The team`s plane had collapsed on the runway on February 6, 1958, as ice and melting snow prevented the aircraft from taking off.
English league champions Manchester United were returning home to their stadium at Old Trafford after a successful European Cup quarter final against Red Star Belgrade. They`d won 2-1 at home and drew 3-3 away to progress to the semi-final stage after entering the competition for the first time as 1956 English league champions the previous season. On that occasion United had lost to Real Madrid after losing 3-1 away and drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford. Real were European Cup holders and the winners again that season for the second time, but United had been looking forward to a rematch with the Spanish giants who would go on to win the trophy for a third time.
The squad lost eight players in the disaster; inside forward Eddie Coleman (England), Irish inside forward Liam Whelan, centre forward Tommy Taylor (England), left-winger David Pegg (England), and the inimitable skillful midfield `giant`, Duncan Edwards (England), whose burgeoning talent was mourned for a generation. In defence, centre half, Mark Jones (England), reserve left back Geoff Bent (England), and the England full back and captain, Roger Byrne, who`d been anticipating a significant England showing in the 1958 World Cup and thereafter, because of United`s youthful talented contingent and undoubted continued contribution, were also lost to the club.
England centre forward Dennis Viollet, though badly injured, went on to be a great star for United in the post-crash era, scoring 75 goals in 110 appearances, but Jackie Blanchflower, brother of Irish and Spurs` 1961 league champions and FA Cup double winning captain, Danny Blanchflower, who always said Jackie was `the better player`, never played again, and neither did England right winger Johnny Berry.
Bobby Charlton was the great left-sided player with the unstoppable dynamite in his left boot, who survived to win the World Cup with England in 1966 and the European Cup, finally, in 1968 for United alongside left-back Tony Dunne who Busby had found to replace Byrne after Munich. Dunne went on to win an FA Cup winners` medal with the club against Leicester City, 3-1, in 1963, and campaigned successfully for United to become champions of England in 1965 and 1967.
Left-back Tony Dunne retired in 1973, after Sir Matt Busby`s own final relaxation of the managerial reigns, and new United boss Tommy Docherty found himself relegated in 1974 with a young apprentice left back called Arthur Albiston not yet ready to sign professional terms. Stewart Houston was the left back in the season United spent in the second division before returning in 1975 as champions. Houston`s appearance in the FA Cup FInal of 1976 ended in disappointment for the team as the Southampton side, including such luminaries as England strikers Mick Channon and Peter Osgood, held United for most of the game before a quick strike, by forward Bobby Stokes in the 83rd minute, took the trophy down to the South coast.
The post-Busby era had begun in earnest, and it`d be 22 years after the European Cup triumph of 1968 before the seemingly insatiable desire for winning trophies that characterized the exploits of managerial legend, Sir Alex Ferguson, would begin at Manchester United. Docherty steered the players to something of a fairy tale return to Wembley the following year and a 2-1 victory over Liverpool, who were already league champions and went on to win the European Cup of 1977 despite goals from Lou Macari and Stuart Pearson giving United the FA Cup and dampening the mood on Merseyside temporarily.
Stewart Houston had been injured for the game against Liverpool and Arthur Albiston, who`d signed as a professional for Docherty in 1974, started. The soon-to-be Scotland stalwart had begun a career that would see him as the most successful player in the pre-Ferguson era at a time when United`s success on the pitch following the triumph of their European Cup FInal win of 1968 could only be viewed as mediocre. In a period of mediocrity Arthur Albiston was a shining star of footballing resilience.
After the departure of Docherty close on the defeat of Liverpool, United achieved success only twice more under the stewardship of Ron Atkinson, who at least had the maturity of Arthur Albiston to rely upon in the FA Cup Final of 1983 when Brighton and Hove Albion were despatched in a replay 4-0 after a 2-2 draw in the initial contest. In 1985 Manchester United reached the Final of the FA Cup once more and beat Everton 1-0 thanks to Norman Whiteside`s curling the ball inside the post from outside the Everton box in a wonder strike that left a 10-man United elated but surprised after centre-back Kevin Moran`s earlier sending off.
Arthur Albiston left United after the 1987-88 season when United finished runners-up in the league and Alex Ferguson`s trophy laden reign as United manager had just begun. Ferguson`s first success would wait until new left full back Lee Martin`s 1990 FA Cup replay strike against Crystal Palace would win the game 1-0 for United. The only player to collect a medal memento of the prizes won during the paucity of United`s success in the period after Matt Busby`s eventual victory in the European Cup in 1968, Arthur Albiston was the most successful player of the generation which failed to win enough to satisfy the legend. That would have to wait until 1993`s successful league campaign bridged the twenty-six year gap between Sir Matt Busby`s last championship success in 1967, from his total of five (`52, `56, `57, and `65), and the first of Sir Alex Ferguson`s thirteen triumphs.