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Old 25th April 2017, 16:26   #1
tomclare
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Default Willie Satinoff

Willie Satinoff Resting Place

It is rather ironic that the preceding 10 days before the Munich tragedy happened, shaped the future and destiny of Manchester United Football Club. The decision to hire a charter aircraft for the trip to Belgrade and the death of George Whittaker, a United director, on February 1st 1958, had enormous effects on the Club’s future.

On Friday, January 31st 1958, the Manchester United team, officials, and directors had traveled down to London in readiness for the team's fixture against Arsenal which was to be played at Highbury the following afternoon. On Saturday morning, February 1st 1958, one of the Manchester United directors, Mr. George Whittaker, a Manchester business man, was found dead in bed in his hotel room. He had passed away in his sleep during the night. That afternoon, as a mark of respect, players from both teams wore black armbands, and a one minute silence was observed by both teams and the 55,000 fans attending, prior to the match kicking off.

The game itself is widely remembered, even today, because that cold, grey, February afternoon, United triumphed in a feast of football and goals, by 5-4. Sadly, for some United players, it was to be the last game of football that they ever played on their home, British soil.

The party traveled back to Manchester by train immediately after the game, and the players and manager were in a very buoyant mood given their display at Highbury just a few hours earlier. Accompanying the party that day was a supporter; another Manchester business man by the name of Willie Satinoff. Mr. Satinoff had made his money in the cotton trade in and around the Manchester area. Outside of his business interests, his main pass time was following Manchester United Football Club, and he was fanatical in his support for his beloved club.

Willie was close to Matt Busby. So close in fact, that he had traveled with the United team on all of their European exploits since their journey began in the 1956/57 season. So it was that on February 3rd, 1958, he was the only fan traveling with the team out to Belgrade for the forthcoming return European Cup Quarter Final tie against the Red Star Belgrade club. Not one club Director made that fateful trip as George as they were all attending George Whittaker’s funeral on the day of the match against Red Star Belgrade. At that time, it was commonly known within Manchester football circles, that Willie was being tipped to soon become a director at the Club which he was so fanatical about. It is believed that Willie Satinoff made the trip to Belgrade as a representative of Manchester United Football Club, and not just as a fan.

Sadly, his hopes and dreams of attaining his Directorship were shattered by the events of Thursday, February 6th, 1958. Willie paid the ultimate price for following his beloved United when he perished in that terrible accident on a snowy afternoon on the runway of the airport in Munich, Germany. With his death, both Manchester and the Jewish community were robbed of one of its most colourful personalities.

Willie Satinoff loved life. He worked hard and played hard. He possessed unbounded energy and however insignificant the task, he did it with all his heart and soul. In the Manchester world of commerce he was known as a ‘ human dynamo’; as an employer he was well respected by his employees who looked upon him as a friend rather than a boss. He took a great interest in the lives of those who he employed and they knew that any problems which they had could be referred to him, and he would attempt to give them the help and advice which they needed.

In all spheres of life, Willie Satinoff knew no barriers of race or creed. He was certainly a citizen of the world. He gave generously to both Christian and Jewish charities. Literally hundreds of requests for money or clothing reached him daily from orphanages and children’s homes throughout Great Britain, and never was he known to refuse. The full story of his generosity will never come to light because Willie was a man who hated fuss and publicity, and it was only his immediate family and those persons who were close to him knew just to what extent he helped less fortunate human beings and institutions who were doing such charitable work.

Satinoff loved sport and was an active participant becoming an expert skier, a very good tennis player, and was a champion at the game of ‘Fives’, a game similar to Squash except that the ball is hit against the wall with a gloved hand instead of raquet. He was a racehorse owner but his main love was Machester United Football Club. As a follower of the ‘Sport of Kings’ he had some success and was not averse to putting one over on the bookmakers.

One of Satinoff’s close acquaintances was the well known professional gambler, Alex Bird. Bird was an ex-bookmaker, and in the 1950s was the owner of a private aircraft which would take him to the various race meetings around Great Britain. On more than the odd occasion, he would be accompanied by Willie Satinoff. One of Satinoff’s horses was called ‘Red Alligator’ (named after a brand of clothing his firm manufactured but not to be confused with the 1968 Grand National winner of the same name) and on the way to a meeting where the horse was running, Satinoff disclosed to Bird that he wanted to put a bet of some £8000 (a considerable amount back in those days) on the nag and that he wanted Bird to place the bet for him.

Before the race, ‘Red Alligator’ was priced at 7/1. Bird arranged for six different people to put bets on around the course of £2000 each, and just before the race started, Satinoff enquired how much he stood to win. Alex took the six race cards from the people who had put the bets on and handed them over to Satinoff. By this time, ‘Red Alligator’ had become the race’s short priced favourite, and when the sum was added up, it was found to be £24,000 from just £5,800 invested. ‘Red Alligator’ won the race easily, and on the way home, Alex Bird handed Satinoff a cheque for his winnings.

Since the day of the tragic accident, Willie Satinoff has fast become the forgotten man of Munich. Reams of paper have been written about events; radio and tv documentaries have covered the incident in great detail, but apart from Willie Satinoff's name being listed amongst those that perished, he never ever, gets a mention.

But for those sad events of the first week in February 1958, it is more than likely that Louis Edwards would never have been invited to become a director of Manchester United Football Club and that his son, Martin, would never have known any involvement with the club at all during his lifetime.

If the club had not chartered an aircraft specifically for that trip and had used normal commercial schedules, there would have been no accident.

If there had been no accident, Willie Satinoff, the only supporter to travel on that ill fated trip, would have survived.

After the death of George Whittaker, it is almost certain that Willie Satinoff would have been elected onto the Manchester United Board in his place.
Popular opinion would have said that he would have served on the Board for a long, long time, as he was only 48 years old at the time of the tragedy, and it is more than possible that he would have eventually have become Chairman of the club he loved so much.

His resting place is passed by every day without notice, as hundreds of people make their way by various means along one of Manchester's busiest throroughfares. Many I suspect are fervent Manchester United fans, who today, given the length of time that has passed since the accident happened, wouldn't even know who Willie Satinoff was. For those of you that may be interested, he rests in the Jewish section of the Southern Cemetery, Manchester, almost adjacent to the Manchester Crematorium. As you walk down Barlow Moor Road towards Princess Parkway, and pass by the Crematorium, there is a little gate which allows you entrance into the Jewish section of Southern Cemetery. Willie's resting place is just down on the right hand side of the path, after you have passed through the gate. Unpretentious, just a plain black marble stone, sadly highlighting the details of the date, and where, this United fan passed away.
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