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The Lost Babes: Manchester United and the Forgotten Victims of Munich [Paperback]

Jeff Connor
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Feb 2010

A moving story of how a legendary football team was lost to tragedy – and how this disaster irrevocably altered the lives of the survivors and the bereaved families, and ultimately brought shame on the biggest football club in the world.

The Manchester United team Matt Busby had built in the fifties from the club's successful youth policy seemed destined to dominate football for many years. Such was the power of the ‘Busby Babes’ that they seemed invincible. The average age of the side which won the Championship in 1955-56 was just 22, the youngest ever to achieve such a feat. A year later, when they were Champions again, nothing, it seemed, would prevent this gifted young team from reigning for the next decade.

But then came 6 February 1958, the day that eight Manchester United players died on a German airfield in the 'Munich Air Disaster' – a date to be forever etched in the annals of sporting tragedy.

Duncan Edwards, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Roger Byrne…the names were already enshrined in legend before the air crash, but Munich in many ways earned them immortality. They have never grown old.

Jeff Connor traces the rise of the greatest Manchester United side of all time, alongside a vibrant portrait of England in the 1950s, but he also paints a dark picture of a club that enriched itself on the myth of Munich while neglecting the families of the dead and the surviving players. The repercussions and the toll the disaster took on so many linger to the present day.

Drawing on extensive interviews with the Munich victims and players of that era, The Lost Babes is the definitive account of British football's golden age, a poignant story of the protracted effects of loss and a remorseless dissection of the how the richest football club in the world turned its back on its own players and their families.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSport; (Reissue) edition (26 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007208081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007208081
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeff Connor, was born in Manchester on January 8, 1946, making him one of the original Baby Boomers, although strictly speaking he would prefer to have been one of the last of the Baby Boomers. He left Bury Grammar School at the age of 17 to begin a career as a journalist and somewhere along the way became a climbing instructor with memorable spells at Plas y Brenin, Glenmore Lodge and White Hall, Derbyshire. Jeff's climbing career ended after a fatal accident on Mont Blanc's Brenva Face.
As a journalist Jeff worked for a number of nationals including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, Scottish Sun, Daily Mail and Scotland on Sunday. He is also the author of 12 books, including Pointless: A Season with Britain's Worst Football Team (Headline) and The Lost Babes: Manchester United and the Forgotten Victims of Munich (HarperSport). His first book was Wide-Eyed and Legless: Inside the Tour de France, which is now regarded as a cycling classic and was reprinted by Mainstream in 2011.
He has worked as a freelancer in the USA (Orlando) and Ireland (Dublin), and has covered sporting events as diverse as the Tour de France, the Rugby League Challenge Cup final, the World Darts Championship, the World Athletics
Championships, two British Lions tours and a Rugby World Cup.
A stroke and a battle with aphasia in 2008 almost ended Jeff's career (at anything) until he fought back to finally write his latest book, Field of Fire: The Tour de France of '87 and the Rise and Fall of ANC-Halfords.
It will not be his last.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Lost Babes (subtitled Manchester United and the Forgotten Victims of Munich) is Jeff Connor's compellingly readable account of one of the great tragedies in sporting history and its aftermath. The great manager Matt Busby had forged Manchester United into an invincible team in the 1950s. No one seemed able to halt the progress of these young and immensely talented players as they added the 1955-6 Championship Trophy to their accomplishments, repeating the feat next year. But all this was to change in the most tragic fashion when on the sixth of February, 1958, the plane bringing the team home from Munich crashed, ending the lives of eight of the Manchester United players along with other passengers on the plane. Britain (not just fans of the team) was devastated, as the careers of such talents as Roger Byrne (England’s Captain), Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor and Eddie Coleman were ended at a stroke. Connor describes this devastating incident with both vividness and sympathy, but he is equally to be praised for his handling of subsequent events, notably the lives of the players who survived the crash and the families of those who didn't. The Lost Babes describes the inauguration of one of the great football teams in sporting history, and does so against a richly drawn panoply of the Britain of the day. He is unsparing and when describing the aftermath of the plane crash, with the club making the Munich tragedy emblematic while not looking after the survivors or the families and relatives of those who died. Of the surviving members of the team, some were unable to play ever again, and the case of the celebrated Jackie Blanchflower, severely injured in the crash, became a cause célèbre, as he became homeless when he was abruptly removed from the club house very shortly after the accident, with virtually no compensation.

Connor has spoken at length to the victims of the Munich crash, along with many other players (and important figures) of the era, and he makes the case that the resonances of the tragedy have echoed down to the very present, with current surreal and stratospheric payments to modern stars (such as Eric Cantona) throwing into relief the injustices of the past. When so many sports books are anodyne celebrations, Jeff Connor is to be applauded for making such an uncompromising and trenchant book so immensely readable. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘A thorough, and thoroughly moving, piece of work’ Daily Telegraph

‘Highly recommended’ When Saturday Comes

'Covering a lot of ground, this splendid book provides a fascinating insight into many of those affected by the tragedy’ Winger

'Jeff Connor has written a deeply moving account of what happened…Connor's well-researched account is a powerful, enthralling and poignant addition to the growing literature on British soccer.' BBC History Magazine

‘A fascinating memoir' The Times

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Speaking as a Manchester City supporter of 43 years this is the best factual football book I have ever read, it gives life to names known only from my childhood, without spoiling anyones enjoyment I personally would urge any reader to firstly read the final chapter first as this puts a clearer perspective about the author.
I read the book in less than 2 days as it was to use an overused phrase 'unputdownable', it is not a Manchester United basher on the contrary it is critical of certain individuals who are or were connected to the club.
I,having read the book feel as if I personally knew those who died and also those who survived.
It is the only book that when finished I would want to start reading straight away again.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vital piece in the Manchester United jigsaw 19 Feb 2006
Every so often a book is published which actually adds to the history of Manchester United as opposed to merely restating what is already known. Such a book has just been published.
'The Lost Babes' is an excellent book, which provides some missing pieces absolutely essential to the Manchester United jigsaw.
As the years pass the number of people who can remember the events of 1958 reduce. And many of those left struggle to get the grey matter working properly. It is thus vital that such books are written whilst there are people around who are capable of providing accurate information which gives both a correct picture and, significantly, an accurate perspective.
Jeff Connor has done such a job and I hope that you will take the time to read his book. You might find that it gives an insight which you do not currently have - you certainly won't unless you are over fifty years of age. The book does not put either the Club or certain individuals in a good light, but that does not surprise me one little bit. One of our most celebrated ex-players, now a director, is shown in his true colours. But then, I've known that for a very, very long time.
I commend this book to you. It gives information which cannot easily be found elsewhere with regard to to some key issues.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I've been a Man Utd fan all my life. My late dad never spoke about Munich, and reading this book was like the education I never received at home.

With intimate insights into the lives of individuals affected by the Munich disaster, Jeff Connor carefully and respectfully brings to life the grief and trials post Munich; he contrasts the club welcoming publicity about the disaster with their attitudes to the families living with the consequences - sometimes living hand to mouth.

It is clear that the Busby Babes are not the only former football stars who feel let down in retirement, especially in the reflection of Rio Ferdinand and his generation earning 7m a year (more in a week than they received in total over nearly 50 years!) Connor, however, charts a careful course between the rocks of sentimentality and the cliffs of rage at the maltreatment of his fellow man (and boyhood heroes).

I, for one, was deeply moved by the experience of reading this book. I recommend it to all Manchester United fans, particularly younger ones who only remember the eras of Beckham and beyond.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing new angle 18 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are a large number of books written about the Busby Babes and the tragic air crash of the 6th Feb 1958 such that it is difficult to imagine anything new being said. Jeff Connor approaches the topic from a slightly different angle. He has the express aim of describing the unfair treatment of some of the families, the "Forgotten victims of Munich" as the sub-title describes them. To be sure he finds some individuals (notably Gregg and Wood - what is it with goalkeepers?) and families who feel let down but in general I read into this reaction the lasting sadness of loss, rather than outright anger at the club. In the event nothing Manchester United could do, would be enough would it?

Putting this focus aside, I found the book really well written and informative. Connor gives space to some of the less feted Babes (Viollet, Blanchflower, Jones, Bent) and tells their stories without neglecting the stories about Duncan Edwards, Gregg and Charlton. What struck me in the end though, however hard to face for a staunch United fan, was that the Busby Babes might not have been the legends they now are if they not been struck by tragedy. Liam "Billy" Whelan had lost his place to Charlton, Roger Byrne was aging, Wood was losing his place to Gregg, Pegg was out of the side, Geoff Cope was a permanent sub, Scanlon survived but was never a really top player and so on.

In the end maybe the Busby Babes were protected from the harsh realities of football by the fact that they never reached the point of being dropped, replaced and sold. On the other hand see what Charlton achieved and think what Edwards, Taylor and Colman might have done. A really moving read for any United fan with an eye to history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye Opener 7 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a birthday gift from my boys to their Grandad. He got straight into it and has been amazed at some of the information in it that he was so unaware of. It sheds a new light on how MU treated families and players. A great read for all football fans who know of this tragedy - a book that certain;y makes to think.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Babes
This is a must read book for Manchester United fans by Jeff Connor. The Munich Air Disaster was the greatest disaster the club suffered, and was felt by the entire nation. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Very sad, it is a well detailed document and gives the reader a balanced view of the greatest team produced by united bar none.
Published 15 months ago by crocko64
4.0 out of 5 stars such a sad story
having heard my dad talk about the busby babes, this book was an insight to the lives of footballers when all they wanted to do was play football without being paid mega bucks. Read more
Published 16 months ago by A. Dumbleton
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and moving
This is a brilliantly well written book, thoroughly researched and sourced, and tells the narrative of what happened in a really engaging, accessible way. Read more
Published 18 months ago by StevenM
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting
I have always been interested in The Busby Babes.This Book told me things I hadn't known.Very sad that such Talent was so cruely taken from us
Published 20 months ago by suzeg
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and moving
I'm not a United fan, and not old enough to have been alive for this, but you don't need to be either. Read more
Published 22 months ago by DCollins77
5.0 out of 5 stars The lost babes
This book is a MUST read for anyone who supports united.
One of those books you just can't put down and never tire of reading
Published on 4 Mar 2011 by David Connaughton
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