Those of you who are regular readers will notice that this is a series looking at some of the players who played in the Manchester United team that was famously known as the Busby Babes. Today we look at another outstanding youngster in Liam Whelan- who also lost his life on the infamous date of February 6th 1958.
As was the case with most of the players on the aircraft, Whelan was a young man with a bright future ahead of him. He was only 22 when he passed away. The start to his United career was an olden era reflection of the fine United production line that has been so good since the 90s. Whelan was scouted whilst playing in Dublin, and just like many of the Reds who have gone on to achieve success today, he played and won the FA Youth Cup.
When his career really took, after his achievements with the youth team, he progressed as nicely as anyone could have hoped for. He was said to have a striking rate of more than one goal per two games- not bad for someone who played in the traditional inside-right position. His goal scoring contribution helped United claim two consecutive league championships, in 1956 and 1957, although a double was prevented in the 1956-57 season when Whelan was part of the team that was beaten by Aston Villa in the FA Cup final.
In what would turn out to be the Irishman’s last season, the following season, due to the horrible circumstances that were to follow, he had the most testing period of his Old Trafford career- fighting for the inside right position with a certain Sir Bobby Charlton. Eventually Whelan lost out on a place in the team to his good friend Charlton who was some player at the time.
Speaking of his game, it comes as no surprise to learn the reason as to why he played in the position he did in the team. He would go past opponents with sheer ease and could run half the length of the pitch with dribbling skills that were technically very good. In addition to this, and his goals, he was a very useful in the creative aspect of the game. Apparently his displays were so eye-catching that, following a youth tournament in Switzerland, the club received an inquiry from Brazil about his availability.
The death meant that not only was Whelan’s United career cut short but also for the fact that he was only able to make four appearances for Ireland. When the plane was on the runway he was heard to say these words: “If the worst happens I am ready for death…I hope we all are.”
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