Chapter 2 -The three Kings and tribal beginnings 1965-1970

It is 1965, United are going well, the Beatles have conquered the charts, on the Kop the scousers are singing a song fro¬m a musical, nicked from the immediate post Munich games of 1958, but re-popularised by a Mersey beat combo, and the world seems to of turned from monochrome to full blown technicolour in ten minutes flat.

Something barely heard of ten or fifteen years earlier in the form of youth culture was sweeping Britain and everyone under the age of 25 seemingly wanted to identify with a group of one sort or another.

One of these groups was football fans, who used their passionate support of their team as their badge of honour and identity. Britain was very much a manufacturing economy and whilst the privileged and educated few were leading exciting and carefree lives, for the majority, working life was somewhat more mundane, life was all about the weekend.

Matt Busby was in the midst of his second period of triumph, and many were hoping he could, perhaps, even produce a team to rival the legendary Babes of a decade earlier.

Two thirds of a beautiful jig saw had already found their correct place at the centre of this new and incredibly exciting attack minded team. Bobby Charlton, powerful survivor from Munich and Denis Law the gifted and crafty Scotsman, and now a slight shy young lad from Belfast was already making tongues wag salaciously around Manchester, both male and female. George Best was adding glamour and showmanship to the new footballing world.
In the mid 1960,s the opportunity had started to arise for fans all over Britain to not only get along to their local ground to follow home games, which hundreds of thousands were doing every Saturday, but coaches and trains were increasingly being used to get to away matches as well.

Initially the novelty of fans from Newcastle or Birmingham turning up on a match day at a pub near your local ground was well received and many older fans talked about having many a good drink and laugh with opposing fans. But as the decade wore on the novelty factor wore off, and tribal instincts gradually crept in.

From its roots and heritage the game had been most ardently and vociferously supported by the working class, although to say that the support base was entirely of this nature would be wrong. Most of Britain perhaps with the exception of the genuine middle and upper class had fallen in love with the game, certainly Rugby, both league and union had their hotbeds and for some nothing could rival a summer’s day watching cricket, but football had crossed geographical and social divides like no other sport, eventually it was to go on to conquer the world.

Then as now football means different things to different people and they choose to experience it in a manner that suits them best. For some a comfortable seat, with a good view ideally with half time refreshments was what was required.

But for many it was the noise, the singing, the movement of the crowd, the sarcasm and humour which made the game, more than a game.

There was at the time one significant difference between the United support base and that of the overwhelming majority of other clubs, and that was the Munich factor.

As mentioned in the introduction, the tragedy had catapulted a medium to large Mancunian institution into the national consciousness and perhaps nowhere else was this more noticeable than amongst a group of London and South East based reds who as the 60’s ended and 1970’s began, became to be known simply as, the Cockney Reds.

Before we can explore further the establishment of what was to become, affectionately or otherwise, known as the “Red Army” with recruits from near and far, Salford to London and way beyond it is important that we understand the significant changes that had occurred at Board level between the nightmare of Munich and the zenith of joy and achievement that balmy spring evening at Wembley in May 1968.

The arrival of King Louis

An insight into how a butcher from Salford came to be the owner of one of football’s greatest club can be much better understood by taking the story back ten years.

It is rather ironical really, that but for the sad events of the first week in February 1958, it is more than likely that Louis Edwards would never have been invited to become a director of Manchester United Football Club and that his son Martin, would never have known any involvement with the club at all.

On Friday, January 31st 1958, the Manchester United team, officials, and directors, travelled down to London in readiness for the team’s fixture against Arsenal which was to be played at Highbury the following afternoon.
On Saturday morning, February 1st 1958, one of the Manchester United directors, Mr. George Whittaker, a Manchester business man, was found dead in bed in his hotel room. He had passed away in his sleep during the night. That afternoon, as a mark of respect, players from both teams wore black armbands, and a minutes silence was observed by teams, and the 55,000 fans attending, prior to the match kicking off.

The game itself is widely remembered, even today, by those present because that cold, grey, February afternoon, United triumphed in a feast of football and goals, by 5-4.

Sadly, for some United players, it was to be the last game of football that they ever played on their home soil.
The party travelled back to Manchester by train immediately after the game, and the players and manager were in a buoyant mood given their display at Highbury just a few hours earlier.

Accompanying the party that day was a supporter, a Manchester businessman by the name of Willie Satinoff.
Mr. Satinoff had made his money in the cotton trade in and around the Manchester area. Outside of his business interests, his main pass time was following Manchester United Football Club, and he was fanatical in his support for his beloved club.

Willie was close to Matt Busby.

So close in fact, that he had travelled with the United team on all of their European exploits since their journey began in the 1956/57 season. So it was that on February 3rd, 1958, he was the only fan traveling with the team out to Belgrade for the forthcoming return European Cup Quarter Final tie against Red Star Belgrade. At that time, it was commonly known within Manchester football circles, that Willie was being tipped to soon become a director at the Club which he was so fanatical about.

Sadly, his hopes and dreams of attaining this position were shattered by the events of Thursday, February 6th, 1958. Willie paid the ultimate price for following his beloved United when he perished in that terrible accident on a snowy afternoon on the runway of the airport in Munich, Germany.

Since that date, Willie Satinoff has become the forgotten man of Munich.

Reams of paper have been written about events; radio and TV Documentaries have covered the incident in great detail, but apart from Willie Satinoff’s name being listed amongst those that perished, he never, ever, gets a mention.
His resting place is passed by every day without notice, as hundreds of people make their way by various means along one of Manchester’s busiest thoroughfares. Many I suspect are fervent Manchester United fans, who today, given the length of time that has passed since the accident happened, wouldn’t even know who Willie Satinoff was.
For those of you that may be interested, he rests in the Jewish section of the Southern Cemetery, Manchester, almost adjacent to the Manchester Crematorium. As you walk down Barlow Moor Road towards Princess Parkway, and pass by the Crematorium, there is a little gate which allows you entrance into the Jewish section of Southern Cemetery. Willie’s resting place is just down on the right hand side of the path, after you have passed through the gate. Unpretentious, just a plain black marble stone, sadly highlighting the details of the date, and where, this United fan passed away.

That Willie has never ever been recognized in any way, by the Club, or anybody else for that matter, is highly regrettable. But then again, why ever would he be? He was just a fan!

But, he is an integral part of the Munich story, and one day, it would be good to see some kind of plaque erected to his memory at Old Trafford.

At the time of the disaster, there was another local businessman who was like a butterfly around people and players connected with Manchester United. He was what people would now a day’s term a ‘hanger on.’

That this person was a fan of Manchester United could not be doubted. He had grown up in the 20’s and 30’s in Salford, not far from Old Trafford football ground. His father was a butcher, and at the age of 14, he had entered the family business. He worked long hours and his escape from his dreary, daily working routine was Manchester United. They became his passion, and later, as he grew older, his obsession.

In 1943, his father died, and together with his brother, they took over the running of the family’s butcher business. After the war of 1939-45, rationing was still rife in Britain, and they made their money through expanding the number of shops that they had, and by winning a number of lucrative wholesale meat contracts. The business gained considerable strength and he began to get a little bit of a reputation especially in social circles, He coveted being associated with Manchester United and everything that brought with it.

In pursuit of this goal, he began to court anyone, and everybody connected with the club. He liked to be seen with players, especially the young men who were to become so famously known as the ‘Busby Babes.’

Through a mutual friend, much to his delight he was introduced to Matt Busby, and he was even more delighted when every now and again, Busby would invite him and his wife to watch a game from the director’s box at Old Trafford. It whetted his appetite, and his butterfly approach to anything and anybody connected to Manchester United earned him a hangers-on touch of fame, and the nickname, ‘Champagne Louis.’ With his business looking exceptionally strong, he had his sights set on gaining a place on the Manchester United Board, the local butcher with his eye on the throne was of course, Louis Edwards

But for all of Edward’s ambition, he was never really a candidate whilst Willie Satinoff was around.

Sadly, tragically in more ways than one, Munich happened. Within a day of the tragedy, with not only the board and the Club shocked and grief stricken, but the whole of Manchester and Britain as well, Louis Edwards was appointed as a director of Manchester United Football Club, and his first ambition had been fulfilled. In fairness it may well have been that he wanted to add some stability to a very rocky ship.

In the initial period after his appointment, Edwards was happy with his role at the Club. His total shareholding at that time was just 17 shares out of a total of 4,132.

In the early 1960’s, his company, Louis Edwards and Son, was floated on the Stock Exchange. Edwards made an enormous amount of money from this, and it was from this point onwards that he began to set his sights even higher, and wanted nothing less than total control of Manchester United Football Club.

Surreptitiously, and with the help of a Conservative Manchester City Councillor, yes there was such a thing at the time, Frank Farrington, he began to acquire more shares in Manchester United Football Club.
Nobody at the Club realised what he was up to.

By 1963, just five years after his elevation to the United Boardroom, Edwards was the club’s largest shareholder. Unfortunately for him, the other two large shareholders at that time, Harold Hardman (the Chairman) and Alan Gibson, the son of James W Gibson who had transformed the club 20 years earlier and who was also a Director, woke up as to what was going on.

They forbade any share dealing by either three of them in order to preserve some kind of democracy, and tried to prevent Manchester United coming under the control of any one person who could then do as he liked with the club.
Undaunted, Edwards carried on amassing shares by any means possible. With the help of his brother, and also his brother-in-law, a certain Denzil Haroun (who was later to become a director at Manchester United) they continued to acquire through various means, Manchester United shares.

In late 1963, even Alan Gibson gave in and sold some of his shares to Edwards, being paid 25 pounds for each of 500 shares. By the early part of 1964 ‘Champagne Louis’ had amassed a total of 2,223 shares and owned over 50% of the club over which, he now had personal control.

In total, the whole exercise had cost Edwards between £30-40,000!

In 1965, Harold Hardman died, and this left little or no opposition to Louis Edwards appointment as Chairman of Manchester United Football Club. His lifelong ambition and dream had been at last, fulfilled.
Initially, Edwards’ heart and soul were in Manchester United Football Club. He loved the prestige, the trappings and the power of the position that he held.

Football was in his blood, and he was Chairman during the second glorious part of United’s history.
United were Champions in 1965 and 1967 and finally, the ultimate accolade, European Cup Winner’s for the first time in 1968. Life for Edwards and his family was good. He’d seen Old Trafford redeveloped with the building of the famous ‘cantilever stand’ complete with ‘executive boxes’ which was built in readiness to coincide with the opening of the 1966 World Cup

It was implied by the club that the new executive boxes along with the dining facilities which were relatively basic would help subsidise other ticket prices around the ground, the rich helping out the not so well off as it were, within three decades of course the tail would start to wag the dog. The prestige customers would be the only fans the club or business really cared about. But in the spring sunshine of the late 60’s those thoughts were a million miles away.

Unfortunately for Edwards, after 1968 things began to slowly go wrong, especially in his business life. The family business started losing money, and there were scandals surrounding it.
Many of Edwards’s shops were in poorer areas of Manchester and at the Manchester Abattoir and wholesalers he had a reputation for buying the leftovers, once all the prime meat had been bought by other more selective butchers. This was partially understandable as his customers had limited budgets, however as this reputation became known by many of his larger customers, goodwill gradually disappeared; the business was in downward spiral.

King Louis was in trouble.

However the fan on the terrace lived in blissful ignorance of any boardroom shenanigans, United were flying high, the terraces were bulging at the seams and support from near and far was ever more colourful, ever more passionate.
The good natured rivalry which had typified games in the first half of the 1960’s was slowly changing, and not for the better.

200 miles and a universe of life experience away in May 1968, two cockney lads made their way up Wembley Way.
Their route to the momentous May evening had been similar in some ways although the reasons why Steve Prentice and Mickey O’Farrell were reds at all were quite different.

Mickey explains “I Came to support Man United for a totally obscure and trivial reason, I was brought up in a football family particularly on my mother’s side, who was one of 10 children in Camden, North London, and her family were all Arsenal, she used to go to Arsenal, her Grandad, everybody in the family .

I didn’t get into sport at an early age, I wasn’t into football, then I started playing and found I was ok with it, and started to develop a bit of love for the game, and I knew I had to support a team. I read the Victor comic in 1961/62 and they used to do an article about the lives of famous footballers, and I read one on Bobby Charlton and I liked the name, thought it was a really cool name! So I asked my mother who does Bobby Charlton play for and she said Manchester United, so I said that’s it then, I support Man United.

For Steve Prentice it was a different journey, although like Mickey, to develop and maintain his passion for a team from Manchester whilst living in Steve’s case in South London surrounded by Chelsea and other London teams fans was no mean feat, as he put it himself with a little understatement “I took my lumps”

“It was 1954 and I was born in Salford Infirmary, my mum was from Scotland and was heading down to London to live, but she was in labour and couldn’t make the whole trip to London, where we moved to 2 weeks after I was born, I had an Italian Father but my parents separated for various reasons.

My mum married for a second time in London to an Arsenal fan and he dragged me along to go and see them, it just so happened that they played United, and we lost 4-2-Dennis Law played and I was astonished at the United support, my mouth was open.

There were thousands there, Law scored one I think, but it was everything else, it was packed, that was 1964.”
To put their early experiences into perspective it is worth detailing the away fan involvement in the early 1960’s.

Mickey explains “London is a big place, people come from all over the country to live there and as a result there were London based supporters branches for several clubs, Newcastle, Wolves and a few more, not as many as there was for United, and one of the reasons was the culture, that really got me totally engrossed in it, embroiled in it, I mean, I would say I was a United fan since the Leicester City Cup final but that was just talk really.

I lived on an overspill estate 20 miles north of London and part of our rights of passage as a kid was going into London to watch games, you would all go together, between six and ten of us, and we would have only been between about 8 and 12 years of age!

I was 9 or 10 at the time and tagging along, I went to a Tottenham/Nottingham Forrest game, a Chelsea/ Northampton game, a couple of games at Highbury all before I had been to United.

At the Spurs /Forrest game I didn’t see a single Nottingham Forrest fan all day, there was a small group of Northampton fans down at Chelsea, but literally a coach full, there was a group of Leicester fans at Highbury who were in the schoolboy enclosure, basically it wasn’t very common to have large numbers of away fans at games.
I went to my first United game at Highbury in 1965, it was mind blowing, it was sensory overload, it seemed like thousands of United were there, this had a huge impact on me.

An overwhelming impact.

Up until then it had been a case of, “yeah I’m a Manchester United fan, who do you support”, but after that trip to Highbury, then it was wow, there is something going on here!

At the game, I was in the schoolboy section, at the front, down the side of the pitch, United were all in the North Bank as usual in London and because in those days every fan without exception wore colours and even though both teams were red and white it was clear there wasn’t a coach full, there were thousands of United fans, it seemed every ground in those days, we took over.”

But as alluded to earlier it wasn’t simply the numbers of United fans following the team that so impressed Mickey and Steve but the sub culture which had developed since the start of the 60’s alongside the music revolution that had taken place.

No longer as Mickey put it, in the 1940’s and 50’s, did a fourteen year old lad leave school, take over his dad’s flat cap and gabardine coat and go to work in a factory or pit, something changed drastically, teenagers were born.
Mickey maintains that in terms of a rapidly developing sub culture United was some way ahead of most, if not all other clubs

“It wasn’t just the number of supporters, which was huge, it was the colour, the dress code was Combat jackets, a bit like punk rockers wore years later, you would see quite a few bikers there as well, greasers, it was all post teddy boy fashions, there would be slogans all over the back of the combat jackets, some guys would have Denis Law with the chess emblem of a king above it, this was all pre-butchers coats of course, that was years later, with the combat jacket another part of the dress code was wearing, dangling from their arms, all the opponent scarves they had stolen, worn like an apache might wear the scalps of the defeated!

One guy I got to know very well in later years, he had about a dozen opponents scarves on him”

It was obvious that rivalry was already moving from friendly to confrontational.

The numbing austerity and poverty of the previous two decades was gradually subsiding and young people who still had relatively little money in their pocket wanted a bit more out of life than their parents had experienced, and a bit more fun and excitement than the establishment was prepared to offer.
Rebelliousness and resentment was in the air and one of the means to express this was going to football with your mates and having a good time, by whatever means was available to you.

A game that is mentioned more than most from the mid to late 1960’s was the visit to Upton Park in the East End by United.

Mickey remembers it well “I remember West Ham in 1967-I was 13 I got there dead early. It seemed there was thousands of United but it was only because every single United fan wore their colours. The previous years United fans had lost 3-1 and chucked bottles down on the West Ham fans below!

So the following year I was there at 11am and in the ground before midday which wasn’t uncommon at the time.
United went 4-0 up by Half time so it was obvious everyone was going on the pitch, so I got down to the front, the West Ham fans had vacated before the final whistle, so I got on the pitch, Busby came out and gave a speech, the crowd were singing back “For he’s a jolly good fellow”

But it was far from a peaceful day, it was also one of Steve’s first games without adult supervision and as he puts it after seeing the red army as it was becoming known in full effect “I was bit by the bug”
Violence at football in the 60’s was rare but not unknown, there are stories about Everton going in the Stretford End, but in truth for the vast majority going to the match was an inexpensive, exciting and passionate day out with little if any underlying sense of unease, but as both Mickey and Steve can testify the watershed was United’s greatest triumph to date.

May 29th 1968…Wembley

Just ten years and three months after the team lay decimated in the Munich snow, the near impossible had been achieved, after a slight Irishman with a huge natural ability had run rings round Real Madrid earning him the nickname of “El Beatle” due to his trendy mop of hair in the semi-final tie, United had reached the pinnacle of European Football the final at Wembley no less.

Alongside a huge movement of Mancunians, United fans from the south, east and all points of the compass descended on North London.

Both Steve and Mickey made it to Wembley and this is how Mickey remembers what even now he describes as the greatest ever sporting event on the planet!
“The biggest game I ever went to was the European Cup Final in 1968, there will never be a sporting event like that again, I was 14 years old and because Everton fans had climbed over some fencing to get in to a game a week earlier my Mum had declared that I wouldn’t be going. That was never going to be the case!

The morning of the game there was something in the paper saying Benfica had sent back 2,000 tickets. They were to go on sale at the Wembley Arena, I rushed downstairs to my pot of money that I had saved up from caddying on the local golf course, I had about a Fiver in there and my mum insisted I didn’t take it all so I took £4 and went dashing out the front door, got my Combat jacket on, got down to London then worried that the Bakerloo line wasn’t going to stop at Wembley.

I remember seeing the twin towers so I knew I was on the right tube.

When I got off I went bounding down the road to the Wembley Pool, it turned out it was all bullshit, and there were no tickets on sale!

I walked off and found a spiv selling tickets, they were 50p-Ten shillings face value, and he was selling them for £3, so I had one straight away. It sounds cheap but bear in mind that my first game at Old Trafford, a few weeks earlier I had paid 1’6-or 7.5pence or 3 shillings for an adult, so that gives you some kind of an idea.

Walking round all day after that there was loads of young Manchester lads running up and down Wembley way, after a bit of mither some Hot Dog sellers stall got turned over, so I grabbed some bread rolls, put them in a bag cos I heard if there was a draw that night the replay would be at Highbury, tickets would go on sale the next morning, so if that happened I was going straight over there and at least with my bread rolls I had something to eat!

6 O’clock I found my tickets were for the downstairs section once I got in the ground, I thought I’m not having that, so I sneaked into the upstairs section, right at the front above the tunnel where the players come out. I’ve never seen myself on the telly but…I can pin point exactly where I’am, and then I just watched the game, brilliant view I had, I remember the extra time and the drama and the emotion of it, then I remember Charlton going up to get the cup and it was so fucking big, it was huge.

I started crying and the girl next to me was crying as well, then Busby walked back down the tunnel below, for me there will never another sporting occasion like that, with the post Munich thing.
And it all happened at a time when youth culture was emerging, it was an incredible night.”

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My own recollections are a little vague as I was 6 years old at the time, but it does stay in the memory. We watched it on a black and white telly, I had no idea until years later that United wore dark blue that night, but my Dad was there and my rather strict Mum had allowed me to stay up, so I did, and I loved it.

At 3 or 4am the next morning me, my elder brother, sister and Mum of course were all woken by the sound of scratching outside our front door, it was my Dad, he couldn’t get the key in the lock!

To give a small insight into just how big Best, Law and Charlton had become in the mid 60’s, we were living in rural Lincolnshire in 1967, my father was a Quantity Surveyor working on contracts to build the huge cooling towers, that are now regarded as a blot on the landscape and my Mum was a staff nurse. One day we were all sat down, I was the youngest and it was announced that we were all to move to Manchester as my parents believed there would be more opportunities for us in a large city than in a small rural village.

It was perhaps no coincidence that my mums love for classical music could find a new outlet as Sir John Barbirolli was the much acclaimed conductor at the Halle Orchestra and my dad could go and watch the holy trinity play at Old Trafford.

Both my parents were from relatively humble backgrounds, my Father’s family lived in a terrace house, he was denied going to University as the family simply could not afford it, and my Mum’s father was a master plasterer ( if you ever visit Grantham Town Hall look up, all the decorative plaster work is his!)

They, as with all parents wanted the best for their kids, so in 1967 we moved to the Old Moat area of Fallowfield, Manchester.

It was a neat and tidy but never the less working class area, but Dad got his prized season ticket in the newly built Cantilever Stand at Old Trafford, he was dead proud, dead being a new word that I had not heard before moving to Manchester, meaning very, quite weird to my young yokel ears.

So on the morning of the 30th May 1968 when my Dad did eventually get the key in the keyhole he burst in the house with a grin from ear to ear and at that moment I remember thinking anything that can make my Dad this happy must be something pretty special.

I may have been right, as he suffered with depression once the building slump kicked in the early 70’s, and struggled to find the self fullfilment he craved with dire consequences years later.

The 1968/69 season was one that can best be described as “After the Lord Mayor’s Parade”, a huge burden of achievement had been lifted from the shoulders of not only the soon to be knighted Matt Busby, but with hindsight also from everyone associated with the club from players, staff, even the supporters.

One unforeseen result of the triumph at Wembley was the way in which United was viewed by our opposition. It is perhaps a classic piece of British mentality that many clubs and their supporters are deeply resentful of success. This was certainly true 10 years later as Liverpool came to dominate, our hatred and rivalry grew with their every victory, well in 1968 a lot of grounds that had not been openly hostile to United fans previously, became very much so.

Mickey explains “After the 68 cup final it was noticeable, it was the first year we didn’t go in the shed at Chelsea, or the North Bank at Arsenal, there was a different feeling, football culture was developing and you had to watch your back.
The first time I got a bit of a kicking was at Chelsea in 69, we were just disliked cos we were United fans, but the worst places to go were Merseyside and Tyneside, you had to watch yourself, right up until the 70’s there used to be more Cockney Reds on the Chelsea or West Ham specials to Manchester than there was their own, but times were changing, now it was getting a bit more serious.
In 69 I went to Newcastle, after the Cup final, there was a palpable lull, a sense of achievement both on and off the pitch, right up until the Docherty days, a real lull for about 4 years, we didn’t go on the Leazes that year, we went in the Gallowgate End and still got chased all over the place, it was a rough place”.

Steve remembers this period as the start of what was to be described years later as the “English disease”, violence was increasing and for guys like him, young and passionate it was all about the craic, being “tested” as he would put it.
As other clubs fans found their feet and became more organised things were changing rapidly for what was initially a small percentage of United fans.

“It started in 69 I would say, there was always United support, but we started going as a firm, no colours, the “Bongles” as we called them, the straight fans, would turn right getting on the train, and we would turn left.
We didn’t want to be with them because they attracted the Old Bill, I remember us going to West Brom and taking their end entirely, nobody was a soft touch, but in those days the coppers used to just let us get on with it!”

As the decade that changed Britain into the modern era came to a close, being a United fan meant many different things to many different people, for the vast majority it was all about the football, but for a significant minority it was clear that the coming decade would take the phrase “going to the match” in a whole different direction.
With its general social unrest, genuine poverty, poor housing and limited employment opportunities the next decade would be a challenging one, but there was at least one brilliant thing to look forward every Saturday at 3.00pm, no matter how you chose to experience it, being a Red!

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rick

About rick

Living in Poynton, close to Manchester, Rick is a co-founder of FC United of Manchester. He works at the Main Stand Bar at almost every home game and if you see him in the stand you'll hear him scream as loud as anyone. Rick has also been involved in greeting international visitors and hosting several pub crawls and dinners for FC United-fans from all over the world, making a lots of friends in the process.

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