Workington raise funds reliving day they stunned Manchester United | Jamie Jackson | Football

A Friday night in early January 1958 in Cumbria and Keith Burkinshaw of Workington Reds is meeting Duncan Edwards of Manchester United. Burkinshaw, who was in the army with Edwards in Wales, enjoys a catch-up with one of United’s greatest footballers before tomorrow’s FA Cup third-round tie, when he will play for fourth-tier Workington against Matt Busby’s English champions of the past two seasons.

The game takes place in front of a record home crowd of 21,500 at Borough Park and they see Workington stun a first-choice United XI featuring Harry Gregg, Roger Byrne, Bill Foulkes, Mark Jones, Eddie Colman, Edwards, Kenny Morgans, Albert Scanlon, Bobby Charlton, Dennis Viollet and Tommy Taylor, via a six-minute Clive Colbridge goal that gives them a deserved half-time lead. It was a moment to remember even if United did go on to win 3-1.

The match is being relived on Saturday in a webcast that features a script written by John Walsh, who attended as an 11-year-old fan, plus a “pitch-side reporter” giving in-game updates, as well as player interviews. Organised by the chairman, Les Byers, to try to raise funds to ease Workington’s financial problems caused by the coronavirus crisis, the hope is that fans of each club will pay a £2 fee to watch the event. Burkinshaw, who after a 15-year playing career became Tottenham’s second-most successful manager, has also contributed with his memories of a contest staged in freezing conditions.

Of his meeting with Edwards, one of an 18-man United party who travelled by second-class rail, he tells the Guardian: “Me and Duncan got together on the night ahead and went out and had a coffee and a piece of toast together. We’d been in the army team in Wales, the Western Command.”

Saturday dawned particularly cold. “The weather wasn’t the best,” Burkinshaw remembers. “There had been some ice and if I remember rightly players were trying to keep their feet. It levelled things up a little bit.”

Walsh, who is now Radio Cumbria’s Workington correspondent, says: “I had watched the Reds since 1953. The crowd was massive. I’d never been in one that big – 21,500 on that ground, which was absolutely fantastic. United had about 5,000 and we made up the rest. When Workington came out the crescendo was overwhelming and then we scored – it was almost like deadly silence and then all of a sudden it changed. The shock had been scoring after six minutes against the champions of England.

“We had only signed Clive Colbridge in September from York City – he was a left-winger, tricky, quick. For his goal, Harry Gregg came out and a Billy Robson shot was blocked by Gregg’s leg, the ball went to Colbridge on the edge of the area and he hurled it into a vacant net. Of course he became a hero after that.”

The matchday programme from an FA Cup tie that, at one stage, appeared set to become one of the greatest shocks in the competition’s history

The matchday programme from an FA Cup tie that, at one stage, appeared set to become one of the greatest shocks in the competition’s history. Photograph: Leslie Millman collection

Colbridge had been signed by Joe Harvey, though some players remained from an 85-match Bill Shankly tenure three years before. “Norman Mitchell, the right-winger, Bobby Brown, a right-back, Alex Rollo, and Matthew Newlands, the goalkeeper, were his,” Walsh says of Shankly, who sent best wishes to Workington on the tie’s eve.

Harvey’s full XI was a 2-3-5 that read: Newlands; Brown, Rollo; Jack Bertolini, George Aitken, Burkinshaw; Mitchell, Robson, Ted Purdon, Ken Chisholm, Colbridge. “The first half, Workington were the better side,” Walsh remembers. “I think Bobby Charlton has said as much in subsequent interviews. We were unlucky not to be at least two goals ahead.”

Burkinshaw was a wing-half, then a wide-midfield position. “I was playing against Charlton,” he says. “United were a very big [successful] side in those days, and, of course, it was an FA Cup game. It didn’t worry me at all. I was 22 and at that age you’re not worried about anybody, really. You’ve always got that belief in yourself and in the team.”

Workington had shocked United in the first half and the opposition manager was not best pleased. “I didn’t know it at the time but was told that Busby was absolutely raging at half-time,” says Walsh. “He left the director’s box to speak to his team.”

Busby’s talk worked, though following the interval Workington walked out confident. “We were winning 1-0 and we thought we were in with a chance,” Burkinshaw says. “Joe Harvey wasn’t afraid that we could have pulled off a shock because he’d been captain of Newcastle when they were winning things. But in the second half they came back into it, and Dennis Viollet got three goals, didn’t he?”

He indeed did: on 54, 56, and 62 minutes. The dream was over but the occasion had lived up to its fevered anticipation. “Once the draw was made and you’re playing against Man United there’s only one topic of conversation,” Walsh says. “I was at grammar school and although it was rugby playing we had a crew of us who were football fanatics and there was plenty of conversation about the match. It was tremendous.”

Afterwards Burkinshaw travelled to Liverpool alongside Jimmy Murphy, Busby’s assistant. “I’d got a girlfriend who became my wife and I was going back to Liverpool to see her. Jimmy was on the train and we went back down together,” he says.

That FA Cup tie lives on in Workington folklore and is given poignancy by the fact the Munich air tragedy occur only a month later, claiming 23 lives, including those of Edwards, Byrne, Taylor and Colman.

For more information on the webcast on Saturday, including how to purchase tickets, click here.

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