The Busby Babes will always be remembered by Manchester United fans and possibly by all of English football. With all the great players that were in that team what must it have felt like to be the captain? Well that honour went to Roger Byrne. Byrne was the ultimate professional in that era where footballers really cherished every moment of their career- no matter how long or short it was.
Byrne had abundance of strength and skill and together with the help of his talented team-mates, Manchester United were a force not only in England but in Europe as well. In his three seasons as captain of United the club won two league titles and led them to an FA Cup final as well as becoming the first person to lead out an English team in Europe. He also played for England 33 times and was expected to go on and captain the national side at the 1958 World Cup.
In what was, and still is, one of English football’s saddest and tragedy-filled stories Byrne lost his life in the Munich air disaster. Due to the way Byrne was as a footballer and a person he must still be held in high regard by older followers of United. It is said that he was the olden day Roy Keane or Bryan Robson- so younger readers can imagine what type of a player he was. This was the case even though central midfield was not his position; Byrne was a traditional full-back.
Maybe the comparisons came with him and Keane because Byrne was not the most gifted of footballers, but possessed a great work ethic and intelligence of the game. A match report from a game in 1956 explains what kind of a player he was. It said: “Here was the captain courageous – a strong man who listened to the crowd’s boos and heard a call to action who listened to two stern lectures from the referee and charged back into the game as if they had been pep talks. This was the moment when Byrne stepped in, the longer they booed, the harder he played. He loved it!”
Just like many of his colleagues, Byrne had his life taken away from him at a very young age. He was 28 when he died and had he survived he would have seen the birth of his first child, who was born eight months after he passed away, and was named Roger junior.
There is no doubting Byrne’s status as a legend at United- this was the only club he played for. He was said to have the ability to truly inspire players with his leadership skills, and along with being one of United’s all time greats, he can be considered one of the club’s greatest captains.
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