|19th January 2012, 18:27||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Houston Texas
The Day that the‘Teddy Boy' Jibe Angered Jimmy Murphy
Any mention of the name Pearson to most Manchester United fans today, and there is no doubt that they would tell you that you were referring to either Stan Pearson, who played for United from 1937 – 1954, or Stuart ‘Pancho’ Pearson, who played during the period 1974-1978. Both were England international players. Ask the question ‘how did Stuart Pearson accrue the nickname Pancho?’ and it is my guess that without referring to Google or Wikipedia, that perhaps 1 person in 1000 today would come up with the correct answer.
You see, sandwiched between Stan and Stuart’s careers at Old Trafford, there was another Pearson playing for the club, and that was a young man named Mark Pearson. Mark was born in the Derbyshire village of Ridgeway which lies just south of the South Yorkshire border and is only 5 miles from Sheffield city centre. Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, it was just a little rural village in what was then Sheffield’s green belt area. It was certainly not the sort of place that you would expect to unearth a star schoolboy football player.
However, the wily Joe Armstrong and his team of scouts had spotted the young Mark playing in local schools football, and had then followed his progress into the North East Derbyshire Schools representative team. He had also appeared in the full England Schools trials of 1954. Pearson was an inside forward, small in stature but huge in ability, and he was marked by the Old Trafford staff as ‘one for the future’.
Upon leaving school in 1955 he joined Manchester United at the same time as Welshman Kenny Morgans, and goalkeeper David Gaskell. Mark had an impish personality and was a practical joker and was popular with his young team mates from the first day that he arrived in Manchester. His progress as a player took the same route as all the other youngsters who had signed for United in the previous years. He first played in the Junior team in the Altrincham and District League under the watchful eye of Arthur Powell, but then progressed into the ‘B’ team.
During his first season at Old Trafford, he quickly established himself as a member of the Youth Cup winning team. In April 1956, he played in both legs of the Final against Chesterfield (who had Gordon Banks playing in goal), Amongst his team mates were Joe Carolan, Wilf McGuinness, Kenny Morgans, Alex Dawson and Bobby Charlton. The following season he was again in the victorious youth team which beat West Ham United in the Final when United lifted the trophy for the fifth successive year, and was joined by David Gaskell, and Nobby Lawton. Just 7 years later, Lawton was to play in another final against West Ham, this time when he skippered Preston North End at Wembley in the 1964 FA Cup Final.
Mark Pearson was a very tricky inside left – a schemer. Two good feet, a good passer of the ball, he had an eye for making an opening. Although small, he wasn’t intimidated and was not frightened of the physical aspect of the game. By the end of the 1957 season he had progressed into the United ‘A’ team, but the way ahead for him was looking to be full of challenges. Established as inside forwards in the first team were Billy Whelan and Dennis Viollet. In the reserve team were the likes of Colin Webster, John Doherty, and Bobby Charlton. At just 17 years of age, young Mark was going to have to be patient even to get into the reserve team.
The Easter weekend in 1957 was a red letter weekend for Manchester United. On Good Friday they beat Burnley at Turf Moor by 3-1. The following day, at Old Trafford, they defeated Sunderland by 4-0; a result which clinched the First Division championship for the second successive season. On Easter Monday, they were to play Burnley at Old Trafford, but more importantly, the following Thursday, had to play the most important game in the club’s 79 years history – the second leg of the European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid at Old Trafford.
Having clinched the First Division title and with the importance of the game against Madrid first and foremost in his mind, it was not unpredictable that Matt Busby would make several changes for the home game against Burnley. What could not be envisaged was just how many changes that he would make; the furore that those changes would cause; and the fall-out that would be felt some 11 months later. Busby did make 9 changes for the Burnley game. Of those 9 changes, Dennis Viollet was returning after injury, 7 others all had first team experience behind them, and only 1 (17 years old Alex Dawson) was making his league debut.
Burnley is a little market town nestled into the East Lancashire countryside. It enjoyed its boom years during the period of the Industrial Revolution when it had thriving cotton, wool, mining, and engineering industries. By the turn of the 20th century, Burnley was at the height of its prosperity and the town was inhabited by over 110,000 people. However from 1910 onwards, there began to be a steady downturn in the town’s fortunes. The First World War brought on the early decline of the cotton industry, followed not long after by the great depression and because of this, there began a big decline in population.
Burnley Football Club was founded in 1882 from Burnley Rovers Rugby Union Club. In 1883 they moved to a ground at Turf Moor and are still there today. It is interesting to note that only Preston North End have occupied a football ground for a longer period. It was in 1888 that they became one of the 12 founder members of the Football League. It was not until 1913 that they were to win their first major trophy and this was when they won the FA Cup in the last ever final played at Crystal Palace by beating Liverpool 1-0. This was also the very time first that a reigning monarch (King George V) presented the FA Cup to the winners at an FA Cup final. Their first League Division One title win came in 1920-21, but after that followed 26 years of mediocrity most spent in the Second Division after relegation in 1930.
They were to bounce back immediately after World War II when in 1946/47 they won promotion back to the First Division, and also reached the FA Cup Final where they were beaten 1-0 by Charlton after extra time. In a lot of ways, Burnley were a nondescript type of club who lived in the shadow of their Lancashire neighbours, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End, and Blackpool. However, in 1951 a certain Mr. Bob Lord was elected to the Burnley Board and over the next 30 years, would have more impact upon the club than anybody else in its history, including players!
Bob Lord was 43 years old when he was elected onto the Burnley Board. He was a local business man who owned a string of butchers shops throughout East Lancashire. He was an avid supporter of the football club and in 1955, achieved his ambition when he became the club’s chairman. Lord was an autocrat, very much a bully, full of bluster and self importance. He became known as “The Burnley Butcher”. There was only one way of doing things, and that was his. He ran the club in such a belligerent manner that he became arguably the first ever club owner to have a truly national profile. If people argue today about Sir Alex Ferguson’s relationship with the national press and media, then they should go back and look at Bob Lord’s record when dealing with these entities. During the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, at one time or another, he banned reporters, commentators’, television companies, supporters clubs, in fact anybody who dared to criticize Burnley Football Club.
When Matt Busby made it known that he was making several changes for that game against Burnley on Easter Monday 1957, Bob Lord erupted in anger and started making several accusations against Busby, and Manchester United Football Club. Notwithstanding the fact that on the previous Good Friday, United’s almost full strength first team had won a comfortable game at Turf Moor by 3-1 with Liam Whelan scoring a hat-trick, Lord accused United of being disrespectful to his club by not fielding a full strength team. When it became known that there would be 9 changes, Lord’s anger was fueled even more and he threatened to take the matter to the Football League and ask for a points deduction to be imposed.
It is strange to understand why he should have reacted like this. Burnley were on the verge of creating a great team themselves and had some fine international players in their team. Colin McDonald, Jimmy Adamson, Tommy Cummings, Brian Miller, Jimmy McIlroy, Jock Winton, Brian Pilkington, Albert Cheeseborough, and Les Shannon – all experienced wizened First Division players. Surely, it would be to Burnley’s advantage to meet a “weakened” Manchester United team rather than a full strength one?
I was stood behind the scoreboard end goal at Old Trafford that afternoon. When the team changes were announced, I can recall that there was some merriment among the United fans. People quickly looked for their pens and pencils to annotate those changes into their programme team sheet. The thing was, United fans knew that the second team could probably hold its own with most other teams in the First Division. That reserve team had a strong following and scored goals galore in their Central League. As it turned out, Burnley were no match for them that sunny afternoon and they were beaten by 2-0, with young Alex Dawson scoring on his debut, and Colin Webster netting the second. If Bob Lord was angry with United before the game, he was even livid after it, and that defeat at Old Trafford that day was something he was never to forget.
We all know what happened on 6th February 1958. However, as the passage of time has rolled by during these past 53 years, much of what happened and was said in the 13 days immediately afterwards, has been lost and forgotten. What should never be forgotten is the outrageous and uncalled for vitriolic statements made by Bob Lord in an interview with the newspaper the ‘News Chronicle’ on February 17th 1958. This was just two days before Manchester United was to play its first game since the tragedy had occurred. It’s my belief that Bob Lord never forgot the embarrassment of what happened over the Easter period the previous year. His exact words were;
“Manchester United have to fight their way out of trouble and Brian Pilkington (there was never any bid for Pilkington from United, it was just press rumour, and United were linked to everybody and anybody in the days after the tragedy – including Finney, Mathews and Puskas!) will not be joining them. If United want to pick up other club’s best players so that they can win the League, Cup, European Cup, Central League Cup, and FA Youth Cup, then they had better think again.
I am just sick and tired of the whole business. When clubs offered to help it was with players sufficient to keep them ticking over until they could rebuild. Not to supply them with the cream of this country’s best footballers.
If they think that they are coming to Burnley to take any stars, they had better have second thoughts."
Lord went on to say that Blackburn’s then manager, Johnny Carey (who of course had captained United) would not be sending his skipper Ronnie Clayton or his England international winger Bryan Douglas to Old Trafford, but compounded everything with the following gratuitous, callous statement:
"Of course, Carey can’t afford to do that. Football is a business, a competitive one. While one can have sympathy for United, one cannot be guided by emotions.
United went into this with their eyes wide open. I am very sorry for them. They have come unstuck, but they’ll just have to fight their way out of it. If they had been elected to the European Cup by the other clubs in the League to represent them, then it would have been another matter. But they went into it of their own accord."
It was as much like saying that after a colliery disaster which had killed a number of underground workers, that nobody had ever asked them to become miners.
For Mark Pearson he was propelled from the club’s third team and into the hurly burly of first team football in the FA Cup, First Division, and European Cup. On February 19th 1958, 18 years old Mark was included in the first team for his debut in that never to be forgotten FA Cup 5th Round tie against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford. His was name that was penciled into the tenth place for United in the programme’s team sheet which had been left blank as even up to a few hours before the game was due to begin, Jimmy Murphy still could not say what his team would be.
Young Mark acquitted himself well against the Wednesday that night in an atmosphere that was tense and so full of emotion. He had a hand in two of the three goals scored by United. After that he was ever present in the team including the day when he stepped out at Turf Moor on March 15th 1958 which was his sixth consecutive appearance. Mark was only small, but was combative and could be feisty. He wore long sideburns which had prompted one of the sports journalists to nickname him “Pancho” because he said that he looked like a Mexican bandit. Those sideburns were to have a lot of influence on what was to be said after the game had finished.
The games had come thick and fast for United after they had gotten back to playing and the Burnley game would be their sixth in 24 days. Not taxing by today’s standards - maybe. However, when you take into account the tide of grief and emotion that was felt at this time, and that this team that was sprinkled with a lot of young kids who were trying to uphold the traditions and standards of players who just six weeks before had been their team mates and idols, it’s not surprising that they were affected. They were not used to the regular pressures and hurly-burly of the First Division and the tremendous expectations placed upon their shoulders to help keep the club afloat and in the top echelon.
It is interesting to look at the team that took to the field at Turf Moor that day. It was; Gregg; Foulkes, Greaves; Goodwin, Cope, Crowther; Webster, Harrop, Dawson, Pearson, and Charlton.
Given the comments made by Bob Lord just a few weeks before, it is understandable that there would be more than a little edge to this game. It is also reasonable to believe that Jimmy Murphy would have used some of those words to motivate his young team in his pre-match team talk. He was so good at winding up the players for the task that lay ahead.
There was a lot of ‘niggle’ in the game and tackles were flying in from the start. Harry Gregg made a wonderful save but lost his hold on the ball and was immediately challenged in a robust way by Alan Shackleton the Burnley forward. Harry recovered but went after Shackleton with fists raised. Shackleton went down and Harry tumbled on top of him and it caused a bit of melee before the referee and other players calmed the situation down. The tackles were still tasty and it was no surprise when Newlands of Burnley and Crowther of United had their names taken.
Young Mark Pearson had been on the periphery of it all until the 31st minute when he tackled Les Shannon from behind and brought him down. Shannon leaped up from the ground with fists raised and bundled into Pearson. Amazingly, when the referee got between them, it was Mark Pearson who was ordered off the field. United down to 10 men struggled. The feistiness continued in the second half with Shannon the main provocateur and his main intention seemed to be to take Bobby Charlton out of the game. Despite the number of fouls which he committed, Referee Arthur Oxley deemed his play as not worthy of taking his name.
At one point, the ball ran out of play and into the United dug-out area. As Shannon went to collect the ball it seemed as though it was withheld from him. There was a heated exchange of words between him, Jimmy Murphy, Jack Crompton, Ernie Taylor (who was out injured) and young Pearson. Oxley sprinted over to defuse the situation and warned the United bench. The game finished with Burnley winning by 3-0.
After the game Bob Lord gave an interview to a local reporter. During that interview his anger could not be controlled and he accused Manchester United of being ‘a bunch of bad losers’ and of ‘playing and behaving like a bunch of Teddy Boys.’ Today, that jibe may not sound like much, but back then it was a disgraceful slur to make.
The Teddyboy emerged in the 1950s as Britain was coming to the end of post-war austerity and represented the first face of British youth culture. Working class teenagers could for the first time afford good clothes, a bicycle or motorcycle and entertainment. The clothing that the Teddyboys wore was designed to shock their parents' generation. It consisted of an Edwardian style drape jacket, much too 'camp' for a working class man, suede Gibson shoes with thick crepe soles, narrow 'drainpipe' trousers, a smart shirt and a loud tie - usually of the 'Slim Jim' or bootlace type. The trademark drape jacket was not as impractical as it seems. Not only did it act as a badge of recognition but, as it was made of woollen cloth with lots of pockets, it kept its owner warm as he hung around in the street and was also good at concealing weapons and alcohol. The boys tried a number of experimental hairstyles, the most favourite being the overblown quiff with a DA (ducks arse) at the back.
They formed gangs who sometimes had a common uniform like a particular colour of jacket or socks. For the most part, violence and vandalism was not too serious by modern standards, and exaggerated by the media, but there were instances of serious gang warfare with razors and knives. Some Teddyboys had fascist tendencies and were involved with gangs of youths that attacked the West Indians that emigrated to Britain in the mid Fifties.
So you can see why Bob Lord’s words had upset and were taken seriously by everybody at United. There was a total condemnation of them in the press but Lord when pressed, would not retract a single word. Jimmy Murphy was to say;
"It was a shameful thing to say. I take the strongest exception to these comments. I must defend my boys against such unwarranted and unworthy comments. This was a hard match. There was a spell of 10 minutes when it looked really bad. But I have seen much worse.
The players certainly had no grudges. Our goalkeeper Harry Gregg, and Burnley’s Alan Shackleton, who had a bit of a rough tussle, came off arm in arm. When I heard it was suggested that we became mad because we didn’t like being beaten, I just ignored the talk. Believe me, when I took over at the club I did not expect to win a single game let alone get into a Cup semi-final.
Anyway after the game at Burnley I was concentrating on the Cup game with Fulham. So were the players. I am sure that the match would have been forgotten by both teams had it not been for the unnecessary comments from the Burnley Chairman. After all, we got licked 4-0 by West Bromwich the previous Saturday and I went straight into the West Brom dressing room to shake hands with their players and thank them for three great games.”
Desmond Hackett who was the chief sports writer for the Daily Express at the time wrote in the Monday morning edition;
“Mr. Lord has stated that if Manchester United are allowed to go on as they are doing, it will be the end of organized football, should examine the style of his own team. They are strong, forthright, unyielding performers. But nobody has complained about their dour, direct method.
Remember when Jimmy Murphy took over he had only one plea to make; “let us carry on in the best way we can.”
Do that small thing Mr. Lord. Do not attack kids who are doing a man’s job so magnificently. Do not join those shallow-hearted types who shamefully abuse Manchester United of trading on sympathy.
Attend to the affairs of Burnley Mr. Lord. Attend to them closely, because you have done your players a grave disservice. I am sure that not one of them would support your comments.”
Since that date, the feelings of Manchester United fans towards Burnley Football Club have always been more than a little sour. The story of that Easter Monday match left a sour taste for years afterwards and was handed down to later generations. There is something about Burnley that has never ever sat quite right with United fans ever since.
For Mark Pearson he was to serve a two game suspension for the sending off which he did not deserve. He played in the first game of the semi-final against Fulham the following week after the Burnley game but was suspended for the replay at Highbury. When Dennis Viollet resumed playing again in April 1958, Mark lost his place and unfortunately did not appear in the 1958 FA Cup Final team. However, he did play in the two legs of the European Cup semi-final against AC Milan.
Sadly, although young Mark went on to make some 80 appearances for United and scored 14 goals, he was never able to fulfill his early promise at United. Like so many contemporaries of his time, the effect of those immediate post-Munich years did take their toll on him. Ernie Taylor, Stan Crowther, and Colin Webster left United in the autumn of 1958; Bobby Harrop in 1959; Freddie Goodwin and Ian Greaves in 1960; Ronnie Cope and Alex Dawson in 1961; and finally Mark himself when he was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday in 1963. Only Gregg, Foulkes and Charlton stayed at the club from the team that played at Turf Moor on Easter Monday 1958.
For Mark Pearson, who now lives in retirement in his native Derbyshire, he can always say; “I WAS the original ‘Pancho’ Pearson!”