Did we like it?
A sombre tribute to the people who lost their lives 50 years ago in the Munich Air Disaster. It wasn’t something to enjoy or abhor, it was more an invitation to contemplate and reflect.
What was good about it?
• Hugh McIlvanney’s sparse, economical narration. It perfectly carried the story along; at no point did you think it was intrusive and at no point did you hanker for more details or elucidation.
• Bobby Charlton’ humble contribution. He was sat in a darkened room and confronted by images of many of his best friends who had perished in an instant. Unsurprisingly, he was trembling with grief for much of the time. He also expressed his guilt and amazement that he had survived such a catastrophe, putting it down to luck that perhaps it was only because he was sat in backwards-facing seat.
• The other testimony came from goalkeeper Harry Gregg, who summed up the mood of the players after they had secured a place in the European cup semi-finals the night before in Belgrade. “That was a wonderful, happy time for a bunch of fresh, happy young players.”
• Fans Beryl and Olga Townsend who lamented of the funeral procession in Manchester, “Once we’d seen the coffins go past we knew it was true.”
• The chilling report in which the camera panned over a team photograph and newscaster solemnly declared each player as either “dead” or “injured”.
What was bad about it?
• As with any tragedy that robs a sublime team/ individual of fulfilling their burning potential there is a tendency to exaggerate the imagined sum of their achievements. While Bobby Charlton’s assertion that the Busby Babes “were certain to win the European Cup” is understandable, the assumption that the late Duncan Edwards would have been England captain in 1966 and that England would have been triumphant is perhaps a little presumptuous. While Edwards would have made the team better, there would have been no guarantee that they would have necessarily been victorious and England could have been eliminated through a quirk of fate.