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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ian Greaves, Babe, RIP

Ian Greaves, Babe, RIP
Sad to hear the news that former Busby Babe Ian Greaves has passed away, Tom Clare posted this tribute on the RN Forums.

Ian Greaves

Ian Denzil Greaves, was born in Shaw, Oldham, on 26 May 1932. In the period that became famous for Sir Matt Busby’s youth policy, Ian was a late starter. He had a wonderful 21st birthday present when he joined United from Buxton United in May,1953. He quickly progressed into the reserve team and it was only the consistent reliability of Bill Foulkes that kept him out of the first team.

Ian made his debut against Wolves, at Molyneux, on 2 October 1954 and went on to make a further 74 appearances after that. In early 1956, he did win a regular starting place in the first team and was a member of the “Busby Babes” team that won their first Football league Championship that season. However, come the start of the 1956-57 season, Foulkes once again became first choice at right back.

His appearances in the first team up and until Munich were sporadic, but whenever called upon, he never let the team down. Tall for a full back, he was pacy, and knew how to tackle. If he had a weakness, it was that his left foot was for standing on. It’s rather ironic then that after the tragedy, most of his appearances were in the left back position.

That he played his part in the rebuilding of the club after Munich is without question. He suddenly became an “elder statesman” in the team at the age of 26. On the 19 February 1958, he was thrust into the first team for the first game after Munich and was virtually ever present for the next two seasons. He described the initial days after Munich as thus:

“The first training session we turned up for, Jimmy took us away from Old Trafford,” We hardly ever trained at The Cliff anyway, but that day he took us to White City, a dog track that was across the road. He was trying to remove the panic of the situation away from us.
“Having lost so many friends, it was hard to take; those first two or three weeks we were training and going to our friends’ funerals, too. Geoff Bent, the left back, was my best friend. I should have been on that trip myself, but because of an injury situation Geoff went instead. But that was the thing about Munich – we all lost a best friend.”
Talking about the game against Sheffield Wednesday, he went on to say:
“We were in the dressing-room and, at ten past seven, Stan Crowther arrived in a taxi. We didn’t know him – we just went out on the pitch and we didn’t even know what he could do. We just got on with it. We had to. While you were playing, it just went from your mind, you were chasing a ball again and you didn’t feel sorry for yourself any more. You were playing a game of football, and not for your friends or the Munich disaster. Against Sheffield Wednesday, you just couldn’t allow your mind to go. Only when it stopped did it all come back. And then, driving back home, I’d be back where I was before, thinking, ‘How did it happen?’ ”
As the team progressed into the quarter final against West Brom, he went on to say:
“I remember in the hotel before the game, the pianist was really going at it: Chopin, Mozart, the lot. We looked up and it was Jimmy Murphy!. We couldn’t believe it, we didn’t even know he could play.”
After drawing at West Brom the team won a hard fought replay at Old Trafford by 1-0 and moved on to the semi-final where they met Fulham. After a 2-2 draw at Villa Park, United moved on to the Final by winning the replay at Highbury by 5-3. From being a reserve team player just three months before, Ian was now about to appear in an FA Cup Final. His memories of that day are as follows:
"What a great day. I can remember getting up in the morning and playing that daft game, croquet, on the lawn of the team's hotel. We were relaxed and everything was nice. We were Manchester United. We got to the ground on time, no problems, everything was lovely . . .but we never played, did we. Maybe it was all about losing all those players but, when you get so far, you want something from it."
In 1959/60 Ian lost his place to a young Irish boy named Joe Carolan and it was difficult for him to get back into the first team. By the time that season finished, he was already 28 years old and needed regular first team football. He reluctantly left Old Trafford and went to join Lincoln City but only stayed a very short time playing just 11 games before joining his home Town club Oldham Athletic. Sadly a bad knee injury played havoc with him and after making just 22 appearances for the Latics, Ian retired from playing in 1963, just 5 years after Munich.
He quietly went about learning the coaching side of the game and in 1968, he became manager of Huddersfield Town, then languishing in the Second Division. He quietly went about putting a team together and just two years later, his team were champions and returned to the First Division. His team had a fine assortment of players, which included frank Worthington, Trevor Cherry, Roy Ellam, Jimmy Nicholson (ex-United). It wasn’t long before the top clubs came buying and Ian lost a lot of hius players to other clubs, the most notable being Leeds United. It was no wonder they struggled and after just two seasons in the top flight, they returned to the Second Division. It was a struggle from then on and Ian stayed just two more years at Leeds Road.
In 1974 he became assistant manager of Bolton Wanderers working for Jimmy Armfield who was the then manager. However, shortly after his arrival, Armfield left to manage Leeds United and I an was installed as manager at Burnden Park. Again he worked hard to put together a team that would take the Trotters back into the First Division. He took Frank Worthington from Leicester City, and introduced players like Sam Allardyce, Peter Reid, Paul Jones. The team were promoted to Division One st the end of the 1977/78 season but again, it was a short lived stay as two years later they were relegated. Ian left Bolton in 1980 and over the next ten years managed in the lower reaches of the divisions, and he finished his managerial career off at Mansfield Town in 1989.
Ian was a lovely person, always had time for people and never forgot his roots at Old Trafford. He played more than his part in helping to keep United afloat after the disaster, and was a person who earned the respect of everybody within the game of professional football. Another “Babe” has now left us…. Sleep on in peace Ian.