There’s been a few stories going around in the media regarding Manchester City fans chanting about the death of Manchester United’s former hero Sir Bobby Charlton. Earlier this week, it was revealed that two fans had been banned from attending future football matches with the blues, and yesterday, Greater Manchester Police announced that a 17-year-old male has been charged with a public order offence in relation to Sir Bobby’s death.
These two individuals do not represent our club and if you’re going to the derby on Sunday and planning to chant about it, please don’t - it’s not funny and you’re not welcome at our club and anyone who decides to make jokes, chant or post remarks on social media do not represent me, you do not speak for me. So don’t pretend you do.
Sir Bobby had an incredible career at United and is rightly considered a legend at the club. His honours speak for themselves and his commitment to football, particularly United, is exemplary. This is the man who beat the great Eusebio to the Ballon d’Or in 1966 and helped England win the World Cup.
He was a member of the famous ‘Busby Babes’ and survived the Munich air disaster in 1958 when teammates Tommy Taylor and David Pegg swapped places with Charlton and Dennis Violett. That decision by the former two ultimately saved the lives of Charlton and Violett as both Taylor and Pegg sadly perished in the crash.
Charlton recovered and went on to make over 750 appearances for United, scoring 249 goals in the process and also earned 106 caps for England, scoring 49 goals.
Sir Bobby deserves our respect and respect he will get from the genuine supporters of our wonderful club.
There was a time when we chanted about the Munich air disaster. I heard it myself, standing on the terraces as a young lad and we thought it was fun. I look back on those days and fully regret taking part in the chanting, week in, week out. I was 14 and in my first season standing on the Kippax. I thought it was the ‘done thing,’ to fit in with the crowd, do as the other supporters were doing. It’s only a bit of fun.
Only it wasn’t. I soon grew up, realised how wrong it was and stopped. The turning point for me was being berated by a teacher, who had taken us to Old Trafford as part of an art project. I thought it would be funny to ask ‘Where’s the plane?’ What followed can only be described as the biggest dressing down of my life. I’d never seen someone so placid get angry so quickly and afterwards, I felt thoroughly embarrassed - and rightly so. People had died in a cruel and horrible way and here I was, making out like it was no big deal.
A few years later, I started hanging around with some other City fans and we were a good bunch - we steered away from those who chanted about Munich, but every now and then, another lad would join us. He often referred to United as ‘Munich’ and the rest of us were visibly uncomfortable around him. He was the local hard nut though, so no one said a word to him.
On one occasion, he couldn’t go to a match and offered me his season ticket for the day. Ironically, we were due to play United in the next home game and somehow, completely by accident (honest), I removed the derby ticket from the booklet and he had to miss the match. He was pissed at me the next time he saw me and I honestly feared for my life, but it was worth it. He needed to grow up too.
And that’s the reason why genuine City fans no longer chant about Munich. We grew up and realised just how pathetic we sounded, singing about the deaths of United players. It was sick, it was vile and it has absolutely no place in today’s game. We can’t change what we used to sing about, but we can certainly learn from it.
This was evident in 2008 when 3,000 City fans stood with United to remember the victims of the Munich air crash. There were concerns before, but the fans inside the ground were impeccable, as United said.
This is why I have faith that City fans will do ourselves proud once again on Sunday. We know the media have been trying to make something of the chants that were made last weekend in the build-up to the derby. Sadly, that’s what they do and they’ll be there in their droves, watching, waiting, listening for the slightest sound from the blue camp. But we won’t give them the satisfaction. I’m certain of it.
Sir Bobby may have been a red (no one is perfect) but he was an amazing footballer and an even better human being, and if you believe in heaven, then you’ll say that Bobby will be having a laugh or two with Franny Lee on the great football pitch in the sky.
Sir Bobby Charlton - 1937-2023. Rest in Peace sir, you’ve earned it.