Much has been written about the Munich air disaster, and in particular the lost generation of footballers that perished on that fateful day in 1958. Players like Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Roger Byrne and Liam Whelan - a native of Cabra in Dublin - were part of the exciting team that was been moulded by Matt Busby. Their goal was to conquer Europe. The icy runway at Munich put pay to that dream and it was another 10 years before Busby, who was twice given the last rites after the crash, realised his own ambition for the club by guiding them to European Cup success. That sultry night in Wembley in May 1968 was a night to savour for all Manchester United fans and a perfect way to remember the eight players and three club officials who were cruelly taken from this world. Their place in soccer immortality is ensured, whether it is in Manchester or in the many other parts of the globe where United are followed.
Jeff Connor is a fan, yet he has only seen one game at Old Trafford since Munich, preferring to remember the exciting style of football played by the Babes before the disaster. His fascination with this period lead him to focus on the players who survived Munich and the relatives of the victims. While Connor had some reservations about writing the book and cashing in on Munich, he was encouraged to do so by the relatives.
They were stories to tell of neglect on the part of the biggest soccer club in the world to help those who were directly affected by the tragedy. Former players Johnny Berry and Albert Scanlon spoke of how their confidence was shattered. Indeed Berry was later evicted from his club house and never played for United again. The revered Northern Ireland player Jackie Blanchflower lost his home and lived for many years enduring both physical and mental trauma. The common view echoed was that those who died in Munich had gone on to us a better place, while those who survived were denied a chance for the wounds to heal, as they should have done, with time.
It wasn't until 1997, on the eve of the Champions League final in Munich that the surviving players gathered in a hotel and came up with a plan to ask Manchester United for compensation. The question is why it took it so long.
In his introduction to the book, Connor noted that the powers that be at Old Trafford were somewhat sensitive about the subject of the Munich air disaster. The many e-mails that Connor sent to United's former Chief Executive Peter Kenyon were unanswered. It is also interesting to note that Bobby Charlton, now a director of Manchester United, was not present at the meeting in the Munich hotel.
This sensitivity on the part of Manchester United obviously hindered Connor in giving a more detailed account on how the club as a whole was affected by Munich. That's a pity, because in reading the book, you feel there is much more to tell. The frustration felt by the victims is palpable.
As a fan, Connor outlines the history of Manchester United and how the club emerged in the post war years to become a power house of English football. The formation of the Busby Babes is also explored in much detail. There are countless books written about United and I didn't think another history lesson was going to be on offer in 'The Lost Babes'. Maybe we could have been spared this if Manchester United, in the words of the author, were more forthcoming about the events and the aftermath of what happened on that snowy day almost 50 years ago.