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Old 17th October 2009, 05:21   #1
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Default "50 Years on" - Kenny Morgans

50 Years On – Kenny Morgans – The Likeable Welshman

At the time of the Munich tragedy, Kenny Morgans was the youngest of the “Busby Babes”. He was born in Swansea on March 16th 1939 and joined Manchester united shortly after his 15th birthday in 1954. Like many of the young boys who joined Manchester United at that time, he was initially taken on as a Ground Staff boy, and like many of his predecessors, worked around the stadium painting the stands, helping in the boot room, tending the laundry, and cleaning out the dressing rooms and baths. Far removed from what was perceived to be the life of a budding professional footballer.

Kenny was the quiet, self effacing Welsh boy. But he had an abundance of skill. This did not go unnoticed by the Manchester united Coaching staff. He was a right winger who possessed all the trickery needed to take on some of the tough uncompramising defenders that played in the game at all levels at that time. He had great feet, similar to a certain young Irishman who was to come to the fore a good few years later. Kenny had a great feel for the ball and was able to keep it close to either foot as he ran at full backs. Aligned to that, he had terrific pace and once he had turned them, there was no catching him and he would then deliver quality balls into the penalty box to the delight of the other forwards.

He progressed from the junior team through the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams and was also the star in two FA youth cup winning teams in 1955/56, and 1956/57. He was also playing in the Youth team that began its defence of the trophy in 1957/58. My own memories of him were seeing him initially in the Youth team during the 1955/56 season, particularly against Chesterfield in the Final first leg at Old Trafford. This young Welsh boy, with the frail physique, tormented the bigger Chesterfield defenders throughout the game and he was responsible for laying on two of the three goals that United’s young team scored that evening. I can recall that when the final whistle was blown, and United had won by 3-2, as the players left the pitch hordes of young kids ran on to the pitch and surrounded two players. One was Chesterfield’s young 17 years old goalkeeper who had put in an astonishing performance which kept the score line respectable (it was none other than Gordon Banks) and the other was young Morgans.
Kenny began to develop a reputation and fast became a favourite of those fans who went to watch the Reserve team on a regular basis. Towards the end of that 1955/56 season, he had started to appear as a regular name on the Reserve team sheet. At this time, United were blessed with some top class wingers; David Pegg, Johnny Berry, Albert Scanlon, Johnny Scott, Noel MacFarklane, and even fellow Welshman and international, Colin Webster. So progressing to the first team was going to be a challenge but it was one that he quietly got on with.

The following season, 1956/57, he was again appearing regularly at reserve team level and again starred in the Youth team which retained the FA Youth Cup beating West Ham united 8-2 on aggregate in the Final. His performances at both levels were beginning to make people to take notice. Johnny Berry though had been Mr. Consistency for the previous five seasons, and he was a delight to watch. In today’s modern game, Berry would have had people sitting on the edge of their seats! I think that it would also be truthful to say that Morgans, once he had broken into the first team, would have had the same effect.

I recall a Wednesday evening in November of 1957 when I went to watch the Manchester United Youth team play in a Youth Cup tie at Maine Road against arch rivals Manchester City. Over 25,000 fans turned up that evening to watch Morgans put on a dazzling display of wing play which if my memory is correct, was the biggest factor in United winning comfortably by 4-1. He was mesmeric that evening and the young City defence just could not cope with his dribbling skills and his pace… he simply tore them apart. He was certainly ready for first team football even though he was just 18 years of age.

His big day came on December 21st 1957 when Busby freshened up his team and left Berry out to introduce young Morgans. The match was against Leicester City at Old Trafford and was won by 4-1. He only missed 1 game, and that was against Luton Town on Boxing Day 1957, out of the next 11 which took them to the ill fated journey to Belgrade. He had become a fixture and first choice, and Berry would have a battle on his hands to regain his place. Big Tommy Taylor particularly, took a liking to the service that Morgans wing play provided for him and he told him;

“Dai, you hit those crosses as hard as you like, but remember this…make sure that they’re nine feet high!”
Once around his full back, Kenny would look up and put it exactly where the big Yorkshireman wanted it… on his head.

The horror of Munich could have been even greater because if it hadn’t been for the vigilance of two German journalists. Initially, as the horror of the accident unfolded, amongst all the chaos, Morgans was not on the survivors list, nor was he on the roll of people who had died. The reason for this was that he wasn’t found until five hours after the accident had happened, and it was the two German journalists who had returned to the broken tail section of the aircraft to look for two cans of film that they had put on the aircraft earlier. As they searched around they saw something move and found Morgans underneath one of the aircraft wheels and surrounded by a lot of the luggage. They had found that he was breathing, called for help, and got him to the hospital. In getting him out of the wreckage, they had to cut him out of his new Italian suit. The trip had been his first into Europe with the first team and he’d been fitted out for a suit just like the rest of the other players. It’s a miracle that he hadn’t frozen to death in the five hours that had elapsed since the time of impact until the time that the reporters found him. He was in a coma and did not wake up in the hospital until Sunday, February 9th, 1958.

Kenny suffered head injuries and he woke up in a room that was also occupied by Bobby Charlton, Albert Scanlon, and Ray Wood. Initially, he thought that a lot of players were upstairs on another floor in that hospital, but sadly, after a few days, the full stark reality of what had happened, was there before him. Upon leaving hospital in late march, the physicians advised him not to try and play competitive football again that season, but in his own words;

“I was desperate to get playing again because I wanted to play for Duncan, for Tommy, and all those boys who never came back. They’d played in the Cup Final the year before and lost and I was prepapred to play my heart out in the Final against Bolton.”

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. He’d returned to first team action On easter Saturday 1958, in a home game against Preston North End which ended 0-0. He was then virtually ever present until the end of the season. It was sad that Jimmy Murphy left him out of the Cup Final team in 1958. My own theory on this is that he was left out to accommodate the inclusion of Dennis Viollet. Alex Dawson who was a centre forward, was moved to outside right. According to Kenny, Jimmy’s reasoning for leaving him out was that he had lost weight and thought that the occasion would be too much for him emotionally. United lost that Final by 2-0 but on the following Thursday evening, he was selected for the team that defeated AC Milan 2-1 in the first leg of the European Cup Semi-Final at Old Trafford, and he was man of the match. Jimmy regretted leaving him out of the Final line up at Wembley the previous Saturday and admitted to Kenny the morning after the AC Milan game.

For the next two years he fought to re-establish himself as a top First Division performer but there were so many obstacles. As he recalls;
“I stayed for two more years but I wasn't really interested. I missed the boys so much. Because of what had happened to them, I just didn't seem to care. I tried, but the players were not the same and that upset me. We used to have two dressing rooms, one for the first team, and the other for the reserves.
"When I came back after the crash, all the reserves were in the first-team dressing room. Some of them were never good enough to be there. The Babes were the best team there'd ever been.
"The sadness is there - every time I look at that painting of the last line up. Had they all lived, they would have been the best team in the world. People laugh at me when I say it, but the Babes were so good, they never made mistakes. You know, I never lost a game with the old team."
Kenny left Manchester United for his home town club of Swansea in 1961 and he stayed there for three years making 54 appearances. He then moved on to Newport County where between 1964 and 1967 making 125 appearances before he retired from first class football. Today he lives quietly with his wife Stefanie in Swnasea.

Kenny Morgans made 24 first class appearances for Manchester United.
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