Bet now with totesport - Free £25 bet!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dudley remembers Duncan Edwards

On February 21st 1958 Duncan Edwards lost his final battle. He survived the plane crash for 15 days but eventually his injuries were just too much for him to survive. 50 years later on, on a cold, dark and damp Black Country morning over 700 people braved the weather to attend his memorial in Dudley town centre.

The service of thanksgiving was organised by Sean Coughlan, a council officer and loyal United fan, but this wasn’t just about Manchester United, it was about a town celebrating the life of one of its most famous sons. This wasn’t a day when we were afraid our local rivals would wreck the minutes silence nor was it purely a day when United fans remembered one of their legends... this was a day football fans came together to pay their respects.

Of course there were many scarf wearing United fans there, some like myself had travelled down from Manchester, some from all parts of the Midlands and some who had travelled up from London and the South Coast. There were even a few that had arrived back from Lyon at 3:00 am that morning, but amongst every United fan there were 2 or 3 fans from other clubs, I saw West Brom, Wolves, Aston Villa and Walsall scarves and I’m sure there were many more sprinkled amongst the crowd.

Underneath the Duncan Edwards statue the crowd sang Abide with Me and then the Mayor of Dudley ,David Stanley, read from Sirach 44 verses 1-8 and 14-15.

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning
Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation

How fitting those verses are

Reverend Geoff Johnston, priest of St Francis , the Edwards family church, spoke of Duncan as a boy. Stories of how he loved his food, his competitive sporting spirit and the occasion when he and his mates found a crate of lemonade outside and decided to nick one each. He told of Duncan’s popularity, not only with fellow children but with the teaching staff at his schools and the story of the day Duncan and his mates bunked off school to go and play snooker. Of course they were found out and the next morning ordered to the headmaster’s office to be caned. However, upon seeing Edwards there the Head Master decided that a stern telling off would suffice. He also told of how the gentle giant would return from Manchester on public transport and pop round the off licence to get his parents a beer or things have changed.

Maurice Watkins represented the club and laid a wreath along with family and friends. Also in attendance was Jimmy Murphy Jnr, who was 15 years old at the time of Munich and remembers Big Dunc as a colossus of a man with a smile that illuminated the room.

Following this we were asked to honour the big man with a minutes applause, today we were not there to mourn the passing of a young man but to celebrate the joy he brought to all those who were touched by his life.

As a Manchester United fan who has been brought up on the history of the “babes” it was paramount that I should attend this, but what was so pleasing was the response of fans from other clubs and of course the local community.....Dudley did their son proud today.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo – Simply The George Best?

Whenever a young talented forward signs for Manchester United, the obvious but perhaps unfair comparison with the late George Best arises. Willie Morgan, Norman Whiteside and Ryan Giggs to name a few are several players who were associated with the Belfast Boy.

An immature Portuguese winger was the latest footballer to have had this comparison made. He was a “one trick pony” that was producing the same tricks, the same self-indulgent step-over time and time again. The lack of end product and tired tricks were frustrating his teammates, the opposition and more importantly his own fans. The teenager would often bear his marker then wait for the player to recover and try to beat him again. This youngster had an astounding talent for the game but seemed too ignorant and arrogant to become one of the worlds best.

During the last World Cup Ronaldo and colleague Wayne Rooney clashed during the Portugal vs. England game in Germany. Many expected Ronaldo to flee to Spain, a league where he could play without the constant kicking he received from English players. It looked like the move was ready to happen, Ronaldo admitted to the press "I should get out of Manchester as the circumstances are not right."

Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that the contentious star would be a United player till the end of his contract. Cristiano Ronaldo remained a Red Devil for the start of the 2006-2007 campaign. Ronaldo felt the backlash from the England fans on his return to England. He was blamed for England’s exit. Every away ground he visited every touch was booed

Like Best one of Ronaldo’s greatest strengths was courage. The Portuguese winger never shirked a tackle just like the Ulsterman. Even as an eighteen year old, if Ronaldo got knocked down by an opponent he was never afraid, he bravely got up and ran straight back at his marker often beating him. The booing didn’t trouble Ronaldo; it seemed to make him stronger. He found the best way to silence his doubters was to score goals past them.

That season Ronaldo notched up an impressive twenty-three goals from his favoured right wing position. He helped his club against the odds lift the English Premier League title for the first time in four years. He picked up individual awards such as PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Player of the year. He became the first player since 1977 to achieve this feat. He started to win over his doubters, but however a few still remain.

Ronaldo’s biggest criticism is that he hasn’t performed in the big games. Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League to eventual winners AC Milan at the Semi Final stage of the tournament last season. George Best was a player who flourished in the big games. In 1966 Manchester United were due to play Benfica in the European Cup. United travelled to Lisbon with plans protect a 3-2 first-leg lead. George Best famously put Manchester United 2-0 up inside, against a team who previously were unbeaten at home in Europe. The away side went on to win 5-1. Ronaldo has yet put his mark on a game like Best did but this season he looks to have improved, one goal and an assist against league leaders Arsenal. He also produced a vital assist away at Anfield last season.

So far in the 2007-2008 season Ronaldo has scored twenty-nine goals from midfield. He looks like the first midfielder since best to score over 30 goals in one season for the club since Best. His free kick against Portsmouth was magical. No other player in the world at the moment could do that. The seventy-five-thousand crowd looked at each other in disbelief. A shot with such accuracy yet so much pace.

Genius in sport is extremely rare. Ronaldo like Best is a genius. They both possessed the ability to score goals, are athletic, dazzling dribblers, brilliant headers of the ball and two-footed. They can have the talent to change defence into attack. Players like George Best Diego Maradona and Ronaldo don’t come along very often. The greatest compliment I can pay to Ronaldo is that he is my generations 'George Best', the player I will tell my son about.


RN recommends the following two diverse and enjoyable reads: