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