Bolton Win FA Cup

by | May 9, 2018 | 1950s, Football |

It’s 60 years ago this week that Bolton Wanderers beat a makeshift Manchester United in what became known as the Munich Cup Final. Nostalgia recalls an emotional day

The most enduring memory of Wembley stadium on May 3rd 1958 wasn’t skipper Nat Lofthouse lifting the FA Cup for Bolton Wanderers.

Nat Lofthouse and the victorious Bolton Wanderers team with the 1958 FA Cup

Nat Lofthouse and the victorious Bolton Wanderers team with the 1958 FA Cup

Neither was it Lofthouse barging the ball and Manchester United goalie Harry Gregg over the line for his second goal in Bolton’s 2-0 victory.

Bolton centre-forward Nat Lofthouse and wife Alma with the FA Cup, May 1958

Bolton centre-forward Nat Lofthouse and wife Alma with the FA Cup, May 1958

The most poignant moment came when manager Matt Busby, still injured from the Munich air disaster, took his seat.

Cheers and applause thundered round the stadium from both sets of fans.

Few could fail to be moved by the man’s spirit and dignity.

Just 86 days earlier, on the afternoon of February 6th 1958, his ‘Busby Babes’ had been decimated in the plane crash that claimed the lives of eight players.

Club legends like Duncan Edwards, Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor lost their lives. Busby himself was read the last rites twice while he was still in hospital.

It was a miracle that his rebuilt team even reached the final, let alone contested it so proudly and so well.

Busby, still walking with a stick, personified the team spirit that kept United going.

He’d spent months in hospital recovering and thought of giving up football altogether.

But his wife Jean lifted him out of depression by telling him: ‘You know Matt, the lads would have wanted you to carry on.’

So he made his way back to England by land and made sure he was with his team as assistant manager Jimmy Murphy led them out on the Wembley turf.

It was the second year running that United had appeared in the final. They lost 2-1 to Aston Villa in 1957 with their solitary goal coming from Munich victim Tommy Taylor.

The 1958 final was a disjointed, patchy game. The Munich air disaster had profoundly affected the Bolton players too.

Action from the 1958 FA Cup Final in front of one of Wembley’s Twin Towers

Action from the 1958 FA Cup Final in front of one of Wembley’s Twin Towers

Several were crying on the short coach trip from the team base at Hendon Hall to Wembley as they remembered their lost comrades.

United had captured the affection a nation.

An injured Matt Busby returns to Wembley after the Munich air disaster, May 1958

An injured Matt Busby returns to Wembley after the Munich air disaster, May 1958

Like most football teams of the time, Bolton were in awe of the Busby Babes. A fortnight before Munich they lost 7-2 to United in a league match at Old Trafford.

Dennis Viollet is beaten to the ball by Bolton ‘keeper Eddie Hopkinson, May 1958

Dennis Viollet is beaten to the ball by Bolton ‘keeper Eddie Hopkinson, May 1958

Defender Roy Hartle described United as being on another waveband. ‘Most sides have three or four talented players,’ he said. ‘They had many more.’

United kicked off at Wembley with the sun behind them, playing into the wind.

Three minutes later, Bolton opened the scoring when England centre-forward Lofthouse ran through the United defence to latch on to a Bryan Edwards’ pass.

United battled on and Ernie Taylor forced a fine save from Bolton ‘keeper Eddie Hopkinson.

Lofthouse scored his controversial second in the 55th minute when goalkeeper Gregg was shoulder-charged into the net. United players protested but referee Jack Sherlock was unmoved.

Goalkeeper Harry Gregg gets attention after colliding with Nat Lofthouse, May 1958

Goalkeeper Harry Gregg gets attention after colliding with Nat Lofthouse, May 1958

Bobby Charlton saw a shot bounce off the upright as United mounted a string of raids on the Bolton goal.

But it was individual efforts from a makeshift side against the organised teamwork of Bolton.

The game had been scrappy, but Bolton had dominated. They played gritty, tough football – and were determined not to lose.

Tense moments on the Bolton bench at the 1958 FA Cup Final

Tense moments on the Bolton bench at the 1958 FA Cup Final

None of Bolton’s 11 players had cost a transfer fee – and only Lofthouse and Doug Holden had played in the Stanley Matthews Final five years earlier, dramatically losing 4-3 to Blackpool.

United had simply run out of steam after such a traumatic season.

Celebrations were understandably muted for the Bolton players. Roy Hartle and fellow defender Tommy Banks were ready to leave the pitch when trainer Bert Sproston told them to do the customary lap of honour with the cup.

‘Lads – this is the trip of a lifetime’ he said.

He was right. Despite reaching the semi-finals in 2000 and 2011, Bolton have not played in an FA Cup final since.

Prince Philip presents the 1958 FA Cup to Nat Lofthouse with Sir Stanley Rous in the background

Prince Philip presents the 1958 FA Cup to Nat Lofthouse with Sir Stanley Rous in the background

It was no surprise that his United team returned to a heroes’ reception in Manchester as their open-topped bus toured the city.

United get a heroes’ reception back in Manchester after losing the 1958 FA Cup Final

United get a heroes’ reception back in Manchester after losing the 1958 FA Cup Final

Leading the way down London Road was mascot Jack Irons, resplendent in his red and white suit and top hat.

Thousands lined the streets to pay tribute to their team’s courage and endurance.

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