Old Trafford’s Record Crowd – Wolves v Grimsby

On this day (March 25) in 1939 Old Trafford attracted its highest ever attendance when 76,962 packed Manchester United’s ground to see Wolves defeat Grimsby 5-0 in the FA Cup semi-final.

At the time this was the third highest attendance ever attracted in Manchester (behind 84,569 MCFC v Stoke, 1934 & 79,491 MCFC v Arsenal, 1935; fourth highest was 76,166 MCFC v Cardiff, 1924) and today it is the eighth highest.

You can view film of the semi-final here. Well worth watching to see Old Trafford at that time. The Old Trafford scenes begin after about 48 seconds:

There were lots of crowd safety issues at this game – these were the days when fans were packed in without the authorities really considering the potential for disaster or injury (which happened frequently).

Incidentally, Dorsett (seen below after a collision) was related to two of Manchester City’s early heroes Joe and George Dorsett.

You can read about the 84,569 record attendance set in 1934 for Manchester here:

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I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my website. I’ve set up this website to help share my 32 years plus writing and research. The intention is to develop the archive and to provide access to as much of my material as possible over the coming weeks, months & years. Subscribers can already access over 280 articles/posts including the entire Manchester A Football History book and audio interviews with former City bosses Malcolm Allison and John Bond.

It costs £20 a year (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time to get full access for as long as you subscribe (see below). Thanks for the support, Gary.

The 108th Manchester Derby in the League

On this day (22nd March) in 1986 Manchester United hosted Manchester City in the 108th League derby between the teams. The fixture was the first of two high profile games for the Blues in consecutive days with the other game coming on Sunday at Wembley (see: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/02/wembley-wembley-86-mcfc-v-chelsea/for details).

Here for subscribers are the match stats, background, match report, film and other details from that day. 

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To access this please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 280+ articles and audio interviews posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

The First Manchester Derby at the Etihad

The first Manchester derby at Manchester City’s new stadium (then called the City of Manchester Stadium, now the Etihad) occurred on this date (14th March) in 2004.  For pride’s sake it was important Kevin Keegan’s side did not lose that fixture, but with United some 13 places above the Blues pre-match Ferguson’s side were clear favourites.  It was time for City to upset the form book.

On a wonderful day, perhaps the best the stadium had enjoyed in its inaugural year, a terrific atmosphere helped Keegan’s side achieve a memorable victory.  Fowler opened the scoring in the third minute and Macken made it 2-0 after 32 minutes.  Scholes made it 2-1 three minutes later.  

In the second half goals from Mancunian Trevor Sinclair (73) and Shaun Wright-Phillips made it 4-1 to the Blues.  You can hear my interview with Trevor Sinclair about this game here:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/03/14/trevor-sinclair-interview/

Matt Dickinson (The Times):  “Humiliated by Manchester City last season, Sir Alex Ferguson and his men used the pain to fuel their drive to the title.  Humiliated again yesterday, they are condemned to live with the despair for months – perhaps even years.”  

Keegan felt the win was thoroughly deserved:  “We had played better against Chelsea and lost.  But against United we got that important early goal which gave us something to hang on to.  We had personnel problems because we had players doing jobs that don’t come naturally to them and also had to make two enforced changes at the interval.”

Chris Bailey explained the significance of the match in the Manchester Evening News:  “Maine Road saw some pulsating derbies in its time but few could have matched this first-ever neighbourly spat at Eastlands.  And how satisfying that Kevin Keegan’s side should choose this day of all days to win their first home game since October 18 and banish all thoughts of the drop.”

In 2012 Dennis Tueart, who was a director at the time of the stadium move, told me his memories of that derby match, believing it was an important moment in the stadium’s inaugural season:  “When we moved to the stadium Kevin Keegan worried about whether the atmosphere would be the same and I told him that fans would take a bit of time getting used to it because they were no longer sat with the people they’d been with for years.  The dynamics were different.  He felt we should try and get fans in the ground earlier, but I said that performance on the pitch would be the most significant factor.  

“When we beat United 4-1 in the first derby at the stadium the atmosphere was incredible.  Kevin came to me afterwards and said ‘I see what you mean’.  That then set the tone of the place.  The place was rocking – people were singing as they walked down the spirals at the end of the match and the atmosphere was absolutely superb.”

If you would like to read about other Manchester derbies then check out this:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-derbies/

Subscribe to get access to the entire site

This was a brief taste of the material on http://www.GJFootballArchive.com If you would like to read all the in-depth articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 270+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Trevor Sinclair Interview

The first Manchester derby at Manchester City’s new stadium occurred on this date (14th March) in 2004. To mark this anniversary I’ve interviewed former City winger Trevor Sinclair. Trevor scored in that game, which the Blues won 4-1. Here he talks about being a City fan; signing for City; scoring the first competitive goal at the City Of Manchester Stadium (now Etihad); and the 4-1 derby. He also talks about the 3-1 victory over Manchester United in 2006 (again he scored); present day City and other memories. 

Here’s the audio from our chat (it lasts about 26 minutes so get yourself a brew and settle down to listen):

While you’re here I’d like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit my website. I have been researching and writing about Manchester football for a long time (no wonder I’m going grey!) with my first book published in 1989. I am not employed by anyone and no one pays me to do research or interviews like the one posted here. I do not have sponsorship either. I’ve set up this website to help share my 32 years plus writing and research.

From Wednesday, for subscribers I’ll be posting the entire hour long plus interview I did with Malcolm Allison about his first period at Manchester City. Here’s a brief clip from the interview (he’s talking about his relationship with Joe Mercer):

The intention is to develop the archive and to provide access to as much of my material as possible over the coming weeks, months & years. Subscribers can already access over 280 articles/posts including the entire Manchester A Football History book and an audio interview with former City boss John Bond I performed in 1995. My interview with Allison will also be available from Wednesday.

If you’d like to support my research and writing while benefitting from accessing all the content on here then it costs £20 a year (it works out £1.67 a month) or £3 if you’d like to sign up a month at a time (you get full access for as long as you subscribe).

If you enjoyed the interview posted here then please subscribe (see below) to access all the content and, over time, I’ll add other interviews too. Thanks for the support and interest in my work, Gary.

Subscribe here for £20 per year or £3 per month

Each subscriber gets full access to the 280+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming months.

If you would like to read about other Manchester derbies then check out this:

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-derbies/

Decisive Derbies MCFC v MUFC 13 March 1974

Score 0-0, Attendance 51,331 Maine Road

The Old Trafford derby of 1974 is usually quoted as a decisive derby, however the Maine Road match was viewed at the time as being vital to United’s survival.  In fact in the programme Red manager Tommy Docherty claimed:  “Tonight’s game is one which decides our fate.  City’s League Cup defeat is a big anti-climax for them and could help our fight for First Division survival.” Here for subscribers to this site is the story of that game – a highly controversial one that was almost abandoned due to player indiscipline!

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If you would like to read this and all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 270+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

80 Years Ago Today The Bombing of Old Trafford

On  this day (11th March) in 1941 Old Trafford was hit by bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe.  The highly industrialised Trafford Park had been the target and by daybreak the news of damage to Old Trafford was circulating around Manchester, although the Manchester Guardian and other newspapers did not mention the ground by name.  Due to the wartime situation the newspaper did not want to give away too much information and reported:  “Slight damage was done to dwelling-houses in one or two working class districts and slight outbreaks of fire were reported from a football ground and a training institute.”

The ‘slight damage’ saw a bomb hit United’s Main Stand.  The stand was almost completely wrecked, while the pitch was scorched by the blast.  Manchester City contacted United and offered the use of Maine Road immediately and the first home United match to be staged at City’s ground was the 5th April meeting with Blackpool in the North Regional League.  The Seasiders’ won 3-2 before a crowd of around 2,000. 

Further wartime matches followed over the course of the next four years with United paying the Blues an annual rent of £5,000 plus a share of the gate receipts.  Initially City were to use United’s training ground, The Cliff, for reserve fixtures, but both sides also used Old Trafford at times.

After the war United were granted £4,800 to help cover the costs of tidying up the venue, and then a further £17,478 was given to help rebuild the Main Stand and damaged terracing.  This allowed the redevelopment of Old Trafford to commence and between 1945 and 1949 the Main Stand was rebuilt as was the terracing at the Popular Side (United Road).

This was a brief section from Manchester A Football History. The entire book (including images) is now free to download for subscribers to this site. See: https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-a-football-history/page/4/ or subscribe below.

Subscribe to get access

This is a sample of the in-depth material available on this site on Manchester’s clubs, players & grounds. If you would like to read all the in-depth articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 270+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

International Women’s Day – Manchester Football

Today (8th March 2021) is International Women’s Day and so I thought I’d post a few links to great content about pioneering women connected to Manchester football on this website.

My intention over the coming months and years is to make http://www.GJFootballArchive.com an archive of my past writing and new material on all aspects of football in the Manchester region (and material on activity beyond Manchester or involving national figures connected with the region). To subscriber to my site then please see the details below.

This includes material on the women’s teams of Manchester, such as the pioneering Wythenshawe/Manchester Ladies of the 1940s & 1950s; the Manchester Corinthians (globe trotting pioneering team of the 1940s to 1980s); Manchester City; Manchester United and the other clubs, such as FC Redstar, that have existed in our region. It also includes profiles and interviews with footballers; those working in football and the media; footballers’ partners; supporters and more.

All of this is based on my detailed research and writing on football in the region. I attended my first women’s game in 1988 (home team was F.C. Redstar) and was a regular at their games and Manchester City Ladies (now Women) during their formative years, including brief details on their first ever game in my first book published in 1989. Since then I’ve also written Manchester City Women: An Oral History (see https://gjfootballarchive.com/shop/ to order copies) and am researching for a detailed history on women and football in Manchester at the moment.

Listed here are a few links to articles connected with women, football and Manchester that may be of interest:

I did an interview with Premier League World on Manchester City Women. It’s episode 38 and can be viewed here (if you have Amazon Prime): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Premier-League-World/dp/B08HDGSNZN Or it can be viewed on the following channels:

BT Sport 1                                      Monday              12pm

BT Sport 1                                      Tuesday              12:30am

Sky Sports Premier League         Thursday            5pm

Sky Sports Premier League         Friday                  3pm

Sky Sports Premier League         Saturday             8am

The feature is the last one shown in the programme, so please keep watching to the end. The piece starts after about 18 minutes.

Here’s a story about Jan Lyons, a Mancunian who went to play for Juventus in the 1970s: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2020/12/26/the-italian-job-a-manchester-corinthians-journey/

Here’s a piece I’ve written on the Manchester Corinthians: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/14/pioneering-mancunian-women/

A piece on games between Manchester City and Manchester United: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/11/manchester-city-v-manchester-united/

The story of Manchester City’s relaunch: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/24/manchester-citys-womens-team-the-relaunch/

The earliest film of Manchester City Ladies/Women: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/22/manchester-city-ladies-the-earliest-film/

An academic article on my Manchester City Women project: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/01/07/establishing-women-in-sports-history-manchester-city-football-club/

Here’s Steve Bolton’s guest blog on Manchester Ladies from 1940s/50s. Part One: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/26/guest-blog-steve-bolton-the-pioneering-manchester-ladies-part-one/

Part Two: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/03/05/guest-blog-steve-bolton-the-pioneering-manchester-ladies-part-two/

To access all of the above and everything else on this site please subscribe:

Subscribe to get access

If you would like to read all the in-depth articles on this site (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and the audio interview with John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 270+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

The Manchester Derby

It’s the Manchester Derby today (7th March 2021) at the Etihad Stadium. As Martin Tyler always says ‘and it’s liiiive’ on SKY TV at 4.30pm. While you’re waiting for the game why not have a read of all the Manchester derby articles already posted on this site? 

There are articles about the first derbies, the first competitive derby, the first League derby, League Cup semi finals in the 60s/70s and 2010s, rare film of derbies and so much more. Here’s a quick link to some of the material: 

https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/manchester-derbies/

On This Day 1963: The 1st FA Cup Tie

On this day (6th March) in 1963, due to an exceptionally snowy winter, both Manchester City’s and Manchester United’s first appearances in the FA Cup that season occurred. The games had been delayed until this date due to the poor weather.  

For the record, the Blues won away at Walsall 1-0 in the 3rd round (Alex Harley scored).  7 days later they beat Bury (1-0 at Maine Road, 41,575 crowd) in the 4th round and then lose to Norwich (2-1 at Maine Road on 16th March) in round 5.

The Reds defeated Huddersfield 5-0 at Old Trafford (Law 3, Giles & Quixall) before 47,703. They also defeated Aston Villa (1-0 on 11th March at Old Trafford), Chelsea (2-1 on 16th March at Old Trafford), Coventry (3-1 on 30th March), Southampton (1-0 at Villa Park on 27th April) and Leicester City 3-1 in the final at Wembley on 25th May.

Subscribe to get access to the entire site

This was a brief sample of the site. If you would like to read the in-depth articles (including the entire Manchester A Football History book and listen to a frank interview from John Bond) then please subscribe. It works out about £1.67 a month if you take out an annual subscription (£20 per year) or £3 a month if you’d like to sign up for a month at a time. Each subscriber gets full access to the 260+ articles posted so far and the hundreds scheduled to be posted in the coming weeks.

Guest Blog – Mark Metcalf Writing About Bert Whalley

Mark Metcalf has been working with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on a number of ‘blue plaque’ initiatives in recent years. One, which should be unveiled in August this year, is for a major figure in both Stalybridge Celtic’s and Manchester United’s history. That man, Bert Whalley, is perhaps not too well known amongst football fans today but his influence on the Manchester United of the 1950s was immense. 

I’ve asked Mark if he would write this guest blog in the hope that it helps United fans, and football in general, to remember Bert and his contribution. On a personal level, I have to declare an interest. Bert Whalley was a friend of my grandfather, Fred. Fred was a United fan who travelled to most of United’s cup finals up to the 1980s and he’d known Bert through footballing connections when he was a young man. Bert’s death as a result of the Munich Air Crash inevitably affected Fred, as it did many people in 1958 (if you would like to learn more about the air crash and how it affected Manchester at the time please read the in-depth piece I posted here: https://gjfootballarchive.com/2021/02/05/the-munich-air-disaster-a-long-read/ ).

Here’s Mark Metcalf’s piece on Bert Whalley…

Bert Whalley information for PFA plaque unveiling at Stalybridge Celtic in the summer of 2021, provisional date is Saturday 7 August 2021 and followed by a special tribute match 

Bert Whalley: 1912- 1958

Born in Ashton-Under-Lyne on 6 August 1912, Herbert (Bert) Whalley played as a central defender for Stalybridge Celtic in the Cheshire League during the second half of the 1933/34 season. Following which he moved in May 1934 to Second Division Manchester United where he remained as a player and coach until his tragic death at Munich on 6 February 1958. 

Stalybridge Celtic (SC)

After three SC reserve games, Whalley made his first team debut for the club on Saturday 16 December 1933 in the Cheshire County League home fixture at Bower Fold against strugglers Sandwich Ramblers. He replaced at centre half Bliss, who had injured his ankle, in 3-0 victory. ‘Looker-On’ in the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter (ALR) felt that despite ‘the conditions not being the best on which to judge his true merits, he gave a really polished display, exhibiting some delightfully tricky footwork.’ 

The new man had originally played for Ferguson-Pailin, where he worked, in the Manchester Amateur Alliance League. He had also recently signed for Third Division North side Stockport County, whose reserves also played in the Cheshire League. This move had been blocked by new rules that an amateur, as Whalley was, signed to one club in the CL could not be signed by another club in the same league. County were forced to withdraw Whalley’s signing on forms. 

Whalley remained in the SC first team for the match at Bower Fold  on 23 December 1933 and Prescot Cables were beaten 3-1. According to the ALR he played ‘impressively’ in a deserved victory. 

Playing away to Mossley, SC grabbed a point with a last-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw. There was praise for Whalley in the ALR. “He is not as skilful with his head as his feet, but he tackles well and never gets flurried.”

League champions Macclesfield were heavily beaten 6-3 when Stalybridge Celtic visited them on New Year’s Day 1934. The ALR commented: ‘to a man, the team.. was excellent ..each played his part splendidly… Whalley again deputised for Bliss at centre-half with credit.’ (Monday 1st January)

The victorious team had though been beaten two days earlier, 2-1 at Northwich Victoria. Whalley was expected to drop out of the side as Bliss’s ankle injury was now sufficiently recovered but late in the week he contracted tonsilitis and was confined to bed. As such ‘Whalley appeared for the fourth successive game at centre-half, and again gave a promising display, supplying his forwards with clever passes.’   Prince in the home goal produced a series of great saves that included a penalty stop from Prior. 

On Saturday 6 January, Whalley’s side beat Congleton Town 3-1 at home and he had a fine game, especially in the first half, being ‘conspicuous with pretty and effective work which was much appreciated by the spectators.’ (ALR) Prior scored twice from the penalty spot.

The following Saturday, Whalley, although reported as not well, was at Bower Fold to play in a 3-2 victory against Witton Albion. In a lengthy match report his name did not appear once.

However, Stalybridge Celtic then suffered a shock defeat 4-3 at home to amateur side ICI (Alkali) in the first round of the Cheshire Senior Cup. Whalley’s place at centre-half was taken by Bliss. ICI of the Manchester League were more used to playing the Celtic reserves.

When SC beat Winsford 5-2 away on 10 February 1934, Whalley was back at centre half and came in for praise as, ‘resourceful.. tackling determinedly when he and he and his partners, Suttie and Kellard, spent much time helping Mountney and Thornley.’(ALR)  (the full-backs) Staffs Sentinel reporter noted ‘Parkin and Whalley were dangerous on the rare occasions when Celtic attacked, but Robinson made two wonderful saves.’

A month later on 10 March 1934,  Celtic were beaten 3-0 at Runcorn but Whalley was noted by the paper in a brief report as ‘relieving the pressure’ in the first period. The following weekend Whalley was part of the Celtic XI that fell behind at home to Nantwich only to later dominate their opponents to win 10-3. 

In mid-April, Chester Reserves beat Stalybridge Celtic 2-0 and according to the Liverpool Echo reporter ‘Whalley’s generalship was the feature of the Celtic’s team work.’ His side of Travis, Thornley, Mountney, Suttie, Whalley, Kellard, Prior, Scullion, Parkin, Hornby, Murphy was beaten 4-2 in the penultimate game of the season away to Crewe Alexandra reserves. 

The following weekend saw a heavy 6-3 defeat at home to Tranmere Rovers with Mayers at centre-half struggling to contain the Rovers centre-forward Spencer who notched three. Midway through the second period, Suttie took over at centre-half.

Against Chester at home, the half-backs were reported as ‘delightfully skilful, both in attack and defence’ and the visitors left beaten 2-0.

There was a crowd of over 3,000 to witness a 3-3 draw at Hyde United, who recovered to grab a point after falling two goals behind. Whalley was praised for his efforts. 

At home to Nantwich, SC fell behind to a side they had beaten 16-2 the previous season at Bower Field. A shock though was not on the cards as Whalley’s side soon equalised and went on to win 10-3 with Hornby grabbing three and Allen, leading the attack for the first time, scoring four.

It was reported that ‘Whalley gave a magnificent display. Celtic’s centre-half plays the third back game to perfection, while in attack he exerts a commanding and forceful influence.’ 

Away to Prescot Cables, Whalley’s team drew 2-2 and he ‘never allowed Harris, Prescot’s centre-forward any scope, while his passes were so perfect that Prescot were continually chasing the shadow.’ Playing before a crowd close to 2,000, Prescot grabbed a point with two late efforts.

Hyde deservedly beat Stalybridge Celtic 2-0 on the last day of March 1934. On a hard ground at Bower Fold they dealt more easily with a bouncing ball than their opponents. A late Whalley header might have reduced the arrears but it was a day to forget for the home side who ended the day in seventh place in the Cheshire County League.

Stalybridge drew 1-1 at home to Mossley on Good Friday with the home goal coming after a good run by Whalley saw the centre half then find Prior who crossed for Murphy to turn the ball into the net from close range. 

On Tuesday 16 April 1934, Stalybridge Celtic played their last home league match of the 1933-34 season and drew 1-1 with Wigan Athletic. It was probably a game the home side should have won in a match where the ALR felt ‘Whalley was inclined to over-dribble at times but when he discarded this policy he was at his best.’ 

Stalybridge were beaten 4-3 at home to Macclesfield in the Cheshire League Challenge Cup. The winner in extra-time, which because of the emerging darkness had been cut to five minutes each way by the referee, Mr Sergeant, came at the very end of the additional time that had been played and following which the official dashed off to the dressing room as he sounded the whistle. With many home fans believing there was still a minute or so remaining this incensed a fair number who made a rush after Mr Sergeant. The arrival of police officers prevented any serious disturbance. The defeat came despite Celtic having led 3-1 at one point. Whalley played in a half back line-up that included Suttie to his right and Kellard to his left. 

There was better fortune in the Ashton Challenge Cup as Celtic beat Hurst 3-2 in a midweek semi-final fixture with the winner coming on 86 minutes. The winning side’s strength was the half-back line with ‘Whalley putting an effective check on Halliday.’ (ALR)

A 3-1 defeat at Buxton was reported as being the result of the away forwards missing a number of chances whilst the ALR contended that ‘Celtic’s half-back line was their best department.’ 

Hyde United had overcome Ashton National away to reach the Ashton Challenge Cup Final against Stalybridge Celtic that was played on National’s ground. 

Prior to the final, Celtic, winning 2-1 at the interval, were beaten 4-2 at Crewe Alexandra. There was, again, praise for the half-back line up ‘which has been one of the strongest and most consistent departments in the team since Whalley was brought into the side.’

The Ashton Challenge Cup kicked off at 6.45 on Friday 11 May. Hyde had won the trophy in the previous three seasons and started the match as slight favourites. 

The crowd was a large one but they saw a poor game in which Hyde just squeezed home by two goals to one with Keers at outside left, who had earlier scored the equalising goal, netting the winner on the 84th minute. Whilst Whalley was good in defence he was rarely able to get forward to shine in attack. When the Hyde captain, Dennis Izon, was presented with the cup, there were large cheers and scenes of great enthusiasm amongst the Hyde players and their supporters. 

The Reporter of May 12, 1934 that ‘Whalley, who had played as an amateur for most of the season… before signing as a professional for Celtic several weeks ago… signed professional forms for Manchester United on Monday,’ which would be 7 May. 

Whalley, aged 20, 5’ 10” tall and weighing 11st 7llbs, had joined Celtic at the start of the 1933-34 season but after only playing a few reserve games he left to join Ferguson Pailin’s team, where he was employed. 

When he returned to Celtic reserves he was then also signed for Stockport County as an amateur. This resulted in the Cheshire League passing a resolution barring any player from the league playing with the reserves in another League. Whalley was allowed to remain at Celtic and his break came when Bliss, Celtic’s centre-half, was injured and when the reserve player stepped up a level he was an immediate success. 

Whalley was reported as being a keen cricketer, playing for the Trafalgar square first XI in the Glossop and District League. 

Also leaving Bower Field was Ronald Hornby, who had joined Celtic in November 1933. The clever inside-left had made 34 consecutive appearances for the club and scored 13 goals. Hornby joined Burnley.

It was to be eighteen months before Bert Whalley made his first team debut for his new club. 

He was selected by manager Scott Duncan for the Old Trafford side’s Second Division fixture  against Doncaster Rovers at home on 30 November 1934. The match ended in a 0-0 draw before a crowd of 23,569.

Bert Whalley’s Manchester United debut side was Langford, Griffiths, Porter, Whalley, Voce, McKay, Cape, Mutch, Bamford, Rowley and Manley 

In a playing career cut short by WWII, during which played for United and Bolton Wanderers in unofficial wartime competitions, and injury, Whalley went on to make 32 League and 6 FA Cup appearances for Manchester United.  His final game for Manchester United was at home to Blackburn Rovers in Division One on 19 April 1947. This resulted in a 4-0 victory before a 46,196 crowd. With Old Trafford out of use due to war damage this game was played at Maine Road, Manchester City’s ground at the time. Whalley was by now the longest serving professional at Old Trafford and in 1946-47 he led the reserves to the Central League championship. The Manchester Evening News of 18 March 1947 said of him; “The experience of Bert Whalley is a real asset to Manchester United…. signed from Stalybridge Celtic in 1934. His transfer cost nothing, but he has turned out as an invaluable utility player – as pivot, wing-half and even full-back.”

His final first team game side was Jack Crompton, Johnny Carey, John Aston senior, Jack Warner, Whalley, Henry Cockburn, Jimmy Delaney, Johnny Morris, Jimmy Hanlon, Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley 

Later in 1947, Whalley, who according to Jimmy Murphy, manager Matt Busby’s assistant, always described himself as “just an honest trier”, was coaching some schoolboys at Stockport County when a miskicked ball hit him in the eye. The player did not complain until on the way to a reserve match at Newcastle United, he confessed that he was having trouble with his vision. 

On visiting a Tyneside hospital, he refused to be kept in and returned to Manchester for treatment. On Christmas Eve 1947, Whalley was as depressed as anyone as he faced losing his sight in one eye and the end of his football career. It was then that Matt Busby showed one of the reasons why he was a great manager by demonstrating loyalty. Busby, who had become manager at United in 1945, told Whalley that when left hospital he had just the job. In August 1948, Whalley replaced Arthur Gale as the man in charge of Manchester United’s ‘A’ side, the third team at the club. 

Manchester United had ended the 1946-47 season as runners-up in Division One but nevertheless Matt Busby took seriously the comment of Jimmy Murphy, who had managed the successful Central League side that season, when he told him there was not one reserve who could strengthen the first team. Busby replied: “in that case we will have to find our own youngsters.” 

That remark led, after a time, to great players such as Duncan Edwards, Dennis Violet, Bobby Charlton and later George Best. Getting these players was no fluke and in addition to Murphy the two key men were Joe Armstrong, the Manchester United chief scout, who was a shrewd judge of a schoolboy, and Bert Whalley, one of the best coaches in England. Armstrong oversaw a small group of scouts that covered Britain and Ireland and when a youngster came to Old Trafford consideration as a member of the ground staff, he was assessed by Whalley and Murphy, who ultimately had the final say.

With Murphy, by now assistant manager to Busby, occupied with the Wales national team at the time, Bert Whalley, by now the chief coach, accompanied the first team to Belgrade for European tie with Partizan Belgrade in February 1958. On the return flight he, along with many players he’d worked with over the years. was tragically killed at Munich on 6 February 1958. 

Bert Whalley’s funeral was held on Thursday 13 February 1958. Thousands lined the route to Dukinfield Crematorium for what was the longest funeral procession for many years in Ashton and surrounding areas. Crowds of people gathered at factory entrances, having been given time away from their work benches. Shop assistants lined the pavements and school children looked on. 

The cortege of 50 cars stopped briefly a few yards from the Trafalgar Square Methodist Church where Bert worked voluntarily for many years at the youth club. James Scullion, who originally signed the player for SC, was amongst those at the crematorium. Jimmy Murphy was present as was Sandy Busby, representing his father Matt, plus Henry Cockburn and John Aston senior. Stalybridge Celtic were represented by J Turner, R Peace and ex-manager Ernest Ollershaw.  There were floral tributes from a number of football clubs including Manchester City, who had lost of one their own at Munich in Frank Swift. 

Family members listed at the funeral include

Mrs W Whalley

Mr and Mrs R Whalley

Mr and Mrs D Whalley 

John Doherty – a member of the Manchester United side that won the title in 1955/56 described Bert: “What a lovely man. It was a pleasure to have known Bert and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single soul say a wrong word about him…. it was clear that he had been a useful performer in his time, a stylish central defender who was comfortable on the ball and invariably had time to move it on without panicking. 

“He was not big for a centre-half, standing perhaps two inches under 6ft, and certainly he didn’t go around kicking people, but he carried authority because he had a certain presence about him…

“The hierarchy when I arrived was Matt Busby at the top, with Jimmy Murphy and Bert doing most of the coaching and sharing an office until Bert died at Munich.

“He was terrific to all the young players, always ready with a kind work to lift our spirits. A Methodist lay-preacher, he was a quiet man, in contrast to Jimmy, who was more fire-and-brimstone in his approach, likely to singe the hair on the back of the neck. 

“Bert offered a buffer zone where we could recover our equilibrium after feeling the Murphy wrath, although he was nobody’s fool and people couldn’t take advantage of his good nature…looking back, I loved them both.” 

Taken from The Insider’s Guide to Manchester United: Candid Profiles of every Red Devil form Rowley to Rooney by John Doherty with Ivan Ponting. Bert Whalley is listed at number 1 in this book. 

Further details on the plaque unveiling can be obtained from Mark Metcalf, who is responsible for the project on behalf of the PFA as well as two further projects in 2021 that will see plaques unveiled to Joe Mercer and Stan Cullis in Ellesmere Port: metcalfmc@outlook.com

Thanks Mark for writing this. It is important men like Bert Whalley are remembered. I am also delighted that Joe Mercer will be having a plaque unveiled to him in Ellesmere Port later this year. This is great news. If you’ve not read my pieces on meeting Mercer take a look at: https://gjfootballarchive.com/category/joe-mercer/