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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jack Crompton. Book Review by Tony Smith

this first appeared in RN150, you can read exclusive extracts of Red News' interview with Jack in RN151-153.

The Grandfather of Manchester United

Since the formation of the Newton Heath football club in 1878, to the glories of the modern Manchester United, there has been a select band of men whose service to the club has been extraordinary. Perhaps the greatest of them all is Sir Matt Busby, the founder of the modern United, who dedicated almost 50 years to his beloved club. But the history of United, from 1878 to the present day has also been enhanced by two men whose United careers not only overlapped, but were inextricably linked – two men whose connection with the club extends from those earliest times of 1878 to the present day.

Louis Rocca, the legendary United scout and administrator, began as a Newton Heath tea-boy, was instrumental in renaming the club as Manchester United, and died in 1950, still serving United. A few years before his death, Rocca had been responsible for bringing a young goalkeeper to United – a boy called Jack Crompton, whose association with the club continues to this day. In the intervening years Jack Crompton has been a star in Busby’s first great United side, played a vital role in the club’s recovery from the tragedy of Munich, was a European Cup winning United coach, was manager of United reserves and was even, briefly, Manchester United’s caretaker manager.

As we approach Christmas, the bookshops will offer a variety of new books to tempt the United supporter, but if you only buy one book this year make sure it is the fine autobiography of Jack Crompton. Because if you want a real football story, a real life story of a true Manchester man, and if you want a change from the ‘story so far’ of a twenty-something millionaire footballer, the tale of Jack Crompton has the lot. As Sir Alex Ferguson says in the foreword, “Jack’s story is a refreshing departure from the endless modern and unremarkable football autobiographies which hit the bookshops these days. His recollections are taken from a veritable treasure trove of memories and make truly fascinating reading.”

This is a tale of war-time football, the early years of Matt Busby, Cup glory, player strikes, tragedy and triumph. It is also a tale of the post-Busby decline of United, and of the human spirit. Today Jack Crompton can still be seen watching United reserves from the touchline, his passion undiminished. He is the modern day grandfather of Manchester United, an inspirational figure, and a true gentleman. His story will be relished by those who remember, and will enthral those of the younger generation who have United in their hearts.

From Goalline to Touchline: My Career with Manchester United, by Jack Crompton (with Cliff Butler), Empire Publications.