Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Duncan Edwards (8)

Goal.com are counting down England's greatest players of all time and at number eight is the legend whose career and life were tragically cut short...
No.50 - John Terry

No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn
No.42 - Roger Hunt
No.41 - Rio Ferdinand
No.40 - Wilf Mannion

No.39 - Frank Lampard
No.38 - John Barnes
No.37 - Nat Lofthouse
No.36 - Eddie Hapgood
No.35 - Chris Waddle
No.34 - David Platt
No.33 - Phil Neal
No.32 - Johnny Haynes
No.31 - Peter Beardsley
No.30 - Ray Clemence
No.29 - Ted Drake
No.28 - Michael Owen
No.27 - Raich Carter
No.26 - Colin Bell
No.25 – Frank Swift
No.24 - Paul Scholes
No.23 - Tony Adams
No.22 - Martin Peters
No.21 - Billy Wright
No.20 - Geoff Hurst
No.19 - Cliff Bastin

No.18 - Steven Gerrard

No.17 - Glenn Hoddle

No.16 - Bryan Robson
No.15 - Alan Shearer
No.14 - Paul Gascoigne
No.13 - David Beckham
No.12 - Dixie Dean
No.11 - Alan Ball
No.10 - Peter Shilton
No.9  - Gary Lineker

Duncan EDWARDS


Born        1/10/1936, Dudley

England     18 caps, 5 goals

Clubs    Manchester United

Had the Munich air crash not tragically claimed the life of Duncan Edwards, many would argue that the Manchester United man may well have topped this list.

After all, this is a player that Sir Bobby Charlton has admitted made him feel inferior and has also been moved to describe as “simply the greatest footballer of all time”.

Yet Charlton is not the only man who was in awe of Edwards and perhaps the best way to describe him is to use the words of those who knew him best.

Manchester United manager Matt Busby, who handed him his debut as a 16-year-old, called him the most “complete footballer in Britain – possibly the world”.

Yet assistant Jimmy Murphy went one further, agreeing with Charlton that Edwards was simply the greatest.

“When I used to hear Muhammad Ali proclaim to the world that he was the greatest, I would always smile,” he has explained.

“The greatest of them all was a footballer named Duncan Edwards.”

Becoming A Babe

Able to play in almost any position on the park, and he frequently did, Edwards possessed phenomenal strength, sublime distribution and a wicked shot which ensured he was a fearsome opponent.


His talent had long been spotted as a schoolboy, and despite interest from local sides Wolverhampton Wanderers (who were the team to beat at the time), Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion, Edwards was persuaded by Busby to sign for Manchester United.

He was still only 16 when he made his debut for the Red Devils yet it wasn’t long before he was a regular in the team, despite his tender years.

As part of the famous ‘Busby Babes’ side his talent was quickly recognised by England and Edwards became the youngest man to represent his country when he made his debut aged just 18 years and 183 days.

Incredibly, that record was to last 40 years before being beaten by a mere 124 days by a certain striker called Michael Owen in February 1998.

Edwards For England

Indeed one of Edwards’ most memorable performances came in the shirt of the Three Lions in an international against Germany in Berlin.

With the game goalless, Edwards scored a truly outstanding goal, gaining possession on the edge of his own area before sprinting upfield and lashing the ball home to inspire England to a 3-1 victory.

After the game skipper Billy Wright admitted that the United man’s display had been one to savour.

"The name of Duncan Edwards was on the lips of everyone who saw this match; he was phenomenal,” said the England captain.

“There have been few individual performances to match what he produced that day. Duncan tackled like a lion, attacked at every opportunity and topped it off with that cracker of a goal. He was still only 19, but was already a world-class player.”

Of course, success was never too far away from the talented teen, who had secured two league championships and 18 England caps by the time he was only 21.

Munich Tragedy

More glory was sure to follow for Edwards, but after helping United beat Red Star Belgrade to qualify for the semi-finals of the European Cup, tragedy was to strike.

After stopping to refuel in Munich, United’s plane crashed on take-off, killing 23 of the 44 passengers on board.

Remarkably, Edwards survived the crash but 15 days later he succumbed to his injuries, he was just 21.

Tragically the world never got to see how good he could have become and just what he could have achieved in the game.

Indeed, many have speculated as to whether Edwards could have brought success to England sooner than 1966 and also whether it might have been he, rather than Bobby Moore, who lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley. Sadly, we will never know.

Team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton had more than an idea of what Edwards was capable of, and speaking about his team-mate, he outlined exactly how much English football had lost on that fateful Munich night.

“He was incomparable, I feel terrible trying to explain to people just how good he was,” explained Sir Bobby.

“His death was the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football.”

HONOURS
First Division: 1955-56, 1956-57
 
DID YOU KNOW ... Edwards was one of the first players to endorse products and appeared in an advert for Dextrosol energy tablets with the tagline, “Extra energy makes the difference!”

Gill Clark, Goal.com