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Old 14th November 2007, 10:54   #1
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Default Death of Busby Babe Doherty

Death of Busby Babe Doherty
Stuart Mathieson
MEN 14/11/2007

BUSBY Babe and popular chairman of United's Former Players Association John Doherty has died aged 72.

Doherty passed away on Tuesday following a courageous battle with lung cancer.

The Mancunian appeared destined for greatness in Matt Busby's Reds team as he was a hugely successful youth team player.

With a superb footballing brain, elegant touch and a powerful shot Doherty, the former Manchester and Lancashire schoolboy inside forward, arrived at Old Trafford as an amateur in 1950.

He made his debut in the 1952-53 season aged 17 and everything in the garden looked rosy for him when he scored twice in his third match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.


He did his National Service with the RAF but they discharged him eventually, classified as medically unfit.

But John wouldn't give in and returned to become a League Championship winner in 1956 with United when he played 16 times in that title campaign.

But Doherty's problematic knees became his biggest opponent and with the Babes growing in stature it became a struggle.

Munich victim Billy Whelan had been brought to England initially as a replacement for John in an FA Youth Cup final but as Doherty's dodgy knees got worse Whelan's form got better and better.

Despite his huge skill his injury troubles wrecked his Old Trafford dream and as a 22-year-old he was sold to Leicester City for £6,500. A player with such huge potential had ended with just 26 United appearances and seven goals.

Only eight months after joining Leicester he was given a free. He underwent further knee surgery on the day of the Munich air tragedy and that operation signalled the end of his top class career. But his love for United saw him eventually become a fantastic Chairman of the Old Boys Association and his `colourful' speeches at reunion dinners were a hilarious highlight of the evenings.


Doherty was a one-off character and his persuasive tongue has helped the Old Boys Association raise over £550,000 for charity down the years.

United chief executive David Gill told M.E.N. Sport: "John was a tireless leader of the Association of Former Players and a much loved and popular figure around Old Trafford. His work with them saw the group go from strength to strength.

"His quick wit and easy manner will be greatly missed. It was a special moment for him to be able to bring on the Premier League trophy at the end of last season with his other friends from the Busby Babes' first title winning team in 1956 for presentation to the team; a role he performed with great pride and dignity. Our thoughts are with his family."

Doherty published `The Insider's Guide to Manchester United' in 2005 where his incredible memory enabled him to pen candid profiles on over 300 United players.

In the book John said of his own career and bad knees: "It's better to be a has-been than a never-was, and I enjoyed every minute of my career. I have to remember, too, that if it hadn't been for my dodgy knees I might well have been on the plane that crashed at Munich.

"On such little details do our lives depend, and from that viewpoint I can consider myself extraordinarily lucky. After all I went on to have a happy life, with a wonderful wife and family, while lots of my mates were dead."

John is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter Tracy and two sons Mark and Paul.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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