• Football

Former United player Bill Foulkes dies

ESPN staff
November 25, 2013
Bill Foulkes played for Manchester United for 18 years © PA Photos

Bill Foulkes, the Busby Babe who survived the Munich air disaster and went on to help Manchester United win the European Cup ten years later, has died at the age of 81.

The defender made one appearance for England and played 688 times for United, a total bettered only by his team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton plus Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

Foulkes played for United for 18 years, winning four Division 1 titles and the 1963 FA Cup as well as being part of the first English side to win the European Cup.

Born in St Helens, Foulkes was a miner before he was signed by United and, operating either at right-back or centre-back, he became part of a generation of young players promoted by manager Sir Matt Busby who were christened "the Busby Babes".

In 1958, Foulkes was one of the United side who had faced Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup when their plane, which had stopped in Munich to refuel, crashed on the runway.

Eight of his team-mates, including captain Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor, died, another two never played again and manager Busby was read the last rites in hospital.

However, Foulkes was unhurt, apart from a cut on the head sustained when a gin bottle hit him, and he skippered United in their first match after the disaster, a 3-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday.

He remained a stalwart of Busby's third great team, in the 1960s, after the Scot rebuilt the side around the talents of Charlton, Denis Law and George Best.

United won the league in 1965 and 1967 and succeeded in their long pursuit of the European Cup in 1968, aided by a rare goal from the 36-year-old Foulkes to see off Real Madrid in the semi-final.

They then beat Benfica 4-1 at Wembley with Charlton and Foulkes the only survivors of the Munich air disaster to win the European Cup a decade later.

Foulkes retired as a player in 1970 and served United for a further five years as a youth-team coach before embarking on a managerial career in England, the United States and Japan.

Vice-chairman Ed Woodward told United's official site: "Bill was a giant character in the post-war history of Manchester United. He was a very gentle man, who I was privileged to meet on several occasions, including most memorably with his team-mates at the Champions League final in Moscow, 50 years after his heroics in the Munich air crash.

"Bill's contribution over almost 700 games and nearly 20 years will never be forgotten. The thoughts of everyone at the club - directors, players, staff and fans - are with Bill's family."

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