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Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Busby Babe remembers

Kenny Morgans (third from right)
Morgans says the Busby Babes would have been world beaters

Former Manchester United player Kenny Morgans was just 18 when the plane carrying him and his fellow 'Busby Babes' home from a European Cup tie crashed in Munich.

Fifty years on, the Welshman has given the BBC's "Sport Wales" programme a moving account of how he survived the disaster, which claimed the lives of eight team-mates as well as 15 other passengers on 6 February, 1958.

United were on their way back from a match against Red Star Belgrade - where Matt Busby's young team had secured a place in the semi-finals of the European Cup with a 3-3 draw - when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take-off after stopping in Munich to refuel.

Mr Morgans, from Swansea, describes how the tragedy tore apart potentially "the best team in the world".

Friends and colleagues such as Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor and Roger Byrne were killed in the crash, while star player Duncan Edwards died from his injuries two weeks after the disaster.

"The memories are are always with me. I've got a picture of the last line-up in my lounge at home. I see that every day so I see the boys every day," said Mr Morgans, now 68.

"We would've been world beaters. If that team hadn't been through the crash, we would've been the best team in the world. We had another 14, 15 years in front of us."

Mr Morgans joined Busby's youth revolution at Old Trafford on leaving school in the summer of 1955 after being spotted playing for the Welsh Schoolboys side.

I don't know how any of us got out alive

Kenny Morgans

He worked his way up through the ranks at United and established himself in the first team in the months leading up to the Munich disaster.

"I went there straight from school," he said. "I never went on holiday, so I'd hardly been out of Swansea. Manchester was my first big city.

"In the three months before the crash, I played 13 or 15 games without losing. I'd been lucky enough to take the place of Johnny Berry, who was one of the best wingers in the country at the time.

"We were in the European Cup and after we drew in Belgrade, we were through to the semi-finals."

Recalling how the disaster unfolded, Mr Morgans said: "We came back from Belgrade into Munich to refuel. The weather was bad, it was snowing.

"Three times we tried to take off. The first and second times, we didn't get airborne so the plane started swerving and sliding.

"The third time, we were going along the runway and we were accelerating. I looked out of the window to see us going up the runway and we hit a fence. That was the last time I knew anything about it.

"I must've gone underneath the plane and ended up with all the cases. That's where I was found by two German reporters who had gone back to look for the film [of the game in Belgrade].

"This was hours after the official search had been called off. It was hours after everyone was either in hospital or somewhere else.

"I was unconscious for three days. I lost some blood and had a few cuts and bruises. The crash was on the Thursday and I woke up on the Sunday in hospital.

"I was in a big room. There were five of us there. I looked round and I could see Bobby Charlton, Dennis Violet, Ray Wood and Albert Scanlon. I thought all the other boys must have been in the other rooms.

"After a while, a professor in the hospital came round, sat beside me and told me that people had died.

"I couldn't believe it until days after. It was so quiet. I used to speak to my fiancé from Swansea on the phone and that used to get me away from football. If it hadn't been for her, don't know what would've happened.

"I've since looked at pictures of the crash and I don't know how any of us got out alive. The photos were terrible."

I would've loved to have played for Wales in the 1958 World Cup

Kenny Morgans

Mr Morgans made a full recovery from his injuries after spending three weeks in hospital but was never able to regain the impressive form he had shown before the crash.

After making 23 first-team appearances for United, he left Old Trafford in 1961 to join hometown club Swansea City and later played for Newport County.

"I came back too soon," said Mr Morgans. "I was back playing about a month after the crash.

"I shouldn't have played until the following year. But there were no players at United. All the wingers were killed.

"I lost that extra yard [of pace], and if a winger loses that extra yard, he can't play well.

"I'd been picked to go to the World Cup in 1958 with the Welsh team. Of course Pele was only 18 at the time. I would've loved to have played for Wales in the World Cup. But I was too bad.

"I stayed on at Manchester United for two years, but that was enough. I then had the chance to join the Swans, which I did.

"Nothing could beat the feeling of playing for a club like United, although I have enjoyed my life and I like talking about the players I played with at Old Trafford. I'll never forget them."

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see also
Sport Wales: The TV programme
26 Feb 08 |  Wales
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Minute's silence for Munich crash
28 Jan 08 |  Football
Man Utd to honour Munich victims
06 Dec 07 |  Man Utd
Man Utd mourn Busby Babe Doherty
14 Nov 07 |  Man Utd
Busby babe passes away
02 Mar 01 |  Wales
Welsh football history
25 Mar 10 |  Welsh

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