'The Busby Babes' (Urbane Publications, 2016)
This book is a tale of spirit, courage and the eternal bonds of friendship. It is about a group of men whose passion for football led them to unparalleled success and unprecedented glory. But it also cost many of them their lives. Matt Busby, the patriarchal Manager of Manchester United, revolutionised English football by bending the rules and pushing his players to the limits. At Manchester United, he created a team of ‘boy wonders’, the ‘Busby Babes’, a group of players who became the game’s first superstars, heroes to millions of people. But, just as they were on the verge of world acclaim, disaster struck.
Few today would recognise the names of Tommy Taylor, Roger Byrne or Eddie Colman but, in their day, they were as famous and glamorous as film stars. More than half a century has passed since their premature death and it is time to tell the story of their astonishing achievements to a new generation of adoring football fans. Researched extensively and exhaustively, the book reconstructs in detail the drama of their journey from schoolboys to junior team players, from becoming League Champions to their glorious efforts in Europe. Supported by Harry Gregg and Albert Scanlon’s moving testimony, which breathes life into the memory of those so long dead, the book gives a fuller, more complete picture of the Busby Babes than ever before. This is their definitive story.
'More than merely an account of a tragedy, it is a portrait of an era and a tribute to a group of young men - working class heroes all - whose talent, endeavour and camaraderie transcends football. This is the team that made the English game beautiful, and to rediscover this golden generation is to revisit the foundation, the death, and the rebirth of something magical. Essential reading for fans and non-fans alike.' Stephen Kelman, author of Pigeon English
'It's still hard to separate the events of February 6th, 1958 at Munich-Riem airport with the rise of one of British football's most thrilling sides, but Skinner does a good job of outlining how Matt Busby bent the rules to bring the kids together before the tragic crash. Informative stuff.' FourFourTwo magazine
'Only a novelist of Skinner's calibre could have told this well-known (to football fans) story with this much verve. This engrossed me from start to finish, and the combination of Skinner's deft blend of the player's own stories with his own character sketches made for compelling reading. Highly recommended, and possibly the best thing he's ever done.' James W Wood, author of The Anvil's Prayer (Read the ✭✭✭✭✭ Amazon review here)
'Looked forward to this, and it was everything I hoped for and more. What were those young men like as people? Which was the wisecracker, the womaniser, the gentle giant and the misfit? And what typified them as footballers? Who was quick, tricksy, rash, cultured, brawny, cantankerous or impish? As the '57/ '58 season unfolds, and the fateful Feb 6 dateline looms, the final on-field endeavors of these protégés of Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy are recounted at a length which befits their historical place. There's grave dignity in the recording of the events at the hospital in the aftermath of the tragedy, but the account of the crash itself has to be read to be believed: an unbroken recollection from Harry Gregg replete with sparks, blackness, snow and blood, summoned up from the memory with all the irregularities, absurdities, circumlocutions and insights that the subconscious can yield. As a reading experience, the book is not unlike being immersed in a literate account of the Kennedy assassination as a teenager, albeit without the daft conspiracy-mongering, in the sense that you know something era-definingly terrible is about to happen and are held in thrall by the significance of detail. I haven't read all the available books on the Busby Babes, but I've read one or two, and this one seems to have much that is new to offer, and dispenses its insights very elegantly indeed.' Danny Moran, writer & journalist
'The Busby Babes by Richard Skinner, the story of the Manchester United superteam of working class heroes, and the Munich tragedy where 23 lost their lives, dropped through my door three days ago. I haven't been able to put it down. It's bloody fantastic - whatever your sporting affiliations, or lack of, this book is a must-read: a wonderful tribute to Busby and his team. Intelligent, moving, packed with facts, human stories, and showcasing what a fabulous team Matt Busby created, and the legacy they left. The match descriptions and character portraits are really well done too - Skinner turns them into exciting accounts. He really brings the whole spirit of the team alive. This book is about achievement against all the odds - and one inspirational man.' Keith Hutson, poet
'A proper football book. Highly recommended.' Steve Ely, poet
'It was deeply moving to go through the team player by player to start with and to see their lives outside football. No great wads of cash but so much camaraderie. Thanks to Skinner's book one remembers them not only as footballers. The climax of the book is the verbatim Harry Gregg account which is quite electric. It was an excellent decision not to tidy up his language. Its nakedness brings the earlier biographical parts even more alive. It is how they spoke not how they were reported speaking.' George Szirtes, poet
'Your book definitely gets my seal of approval. It was a great read. My grandad never spoke to any of us about the crash. Far too difficult for him. Anyway, I'm so very proud of my grandad and his legacy and it's great whenever something such as your book is written about him and his babes. Thanks again.' Amanda Busby
You can order a copy of The Busby Babes at Amazon or the Urbane website.