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Footballer Joe, 90, reflects on lucky escape

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By Lisa Barbour
Annan and Eskdale
Footballer Joe, 90, reflects on lucky escape

A GRETNA pensioner is forever grateful that he didn’t quite make it as one of the ‘Busby Babes’.

FOOTBALL MEMORIES . . . Joe Brown with the letter, signed by Louis Rocca on behalf of Matt Busby, inviting him to a trial at Manchester United

Following a visit to Old Trafford to celebrate his 90th birthday, Joe Brown has recounted his attempt to make the legendary Manchester United squad created by Sir Matt Busby.
And the former footballer, of Central Avenue, can only thank his lucky stars that in failing to make the team he escaped the fatal 1958 Munich air disaster – in which eight players and three club officials died.
He said: “Had I been good enough I would probably have been on that plane so I am grateful and thankful that I didn’t make the grade.
“I knew all the lads well and trained with them and when I think back it makes me upset because they were wonderful lads and tremendous footballers.”
Joe’s football career started back in the 1930s when he was a small boy playing in the streets of Cleland, Lanarkshire.
At the age of 18, he joined the RAF and played for most of the station teams where he served.
And while stationed at Wig Bay, near Stranraer, the former president of Annan Probus Club and the Otters at Powfoot Golf Club, played in the South of Scotland League against local teams such as Annan Athletic, Queen of the South and Stranraer.
But it was during his time in Manchester, while working at Ringway Airport, that he was invited for trials with Manchester United while playing for the amateur St John’s of Wythenshawe team.
Recalling the call-up, he added: “I had not been in Manchester for five minutes when I got a letter signed on behalf of Matt Busby by Louis Rocca, who was the head scout, inviting me for a trial.
“So I started training at The Cliff training ground and did some trial matches and Matt Busby really looked after me.
“But after a few weeks [footballer] Jim Delaney came to see me and said he didn’t think I would make the grade and I should continue my studies at Manchester College and get good qualifications as there was not much future in playing football. So I did exactly as I was told and that was the end of my Old Trafford adventure.”

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