The Hartlepool heroes who scared the living daylights out of Man Utd

Pools hero Ken Johnson scoring in front of 17,264 fans against Manchester United.
Pools hero Ken Johnson scoring in front of 17,264 fans against Manchester United.

Sixty years on, it remains one of Hartlepoool United’s most famous days.

A team of local lads took on the might of Manchester United and gave them the fright of their lives in the FA Cup third round.

Manager Fred Westgarth.

Manager Fred Westgarth.

In a two-part special, we look back on THAT day in 1957.

Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby later described it, in his autobiography, as “the most exciting match I’ve ever watched.”

His team had been in a real game of football and they knew it.

Hartlepool had gone FA Cup crazy ever since Pools had drawn the Red Devils at home. On the big day itself, 17,264 watched the biggest game in the club’s history.

Up against them was a team of all the talents. A team which would only be together for another year before many would perish in the Munich Air Disaster.

United’s line-up was Ray Wood in goal, Bill Foulkes, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, Duncan Edwards, Johnny Berry, Billy Whelan, Tommy Taylor, Dennis Viollet and David Pegg.

They would win the league title that year, and go all the way to the FA Cup Final.

The following February, seven of that starting 11 against Pools - Byrne, Jones, Edwards, Taylor, Colman, Whelan and Pegg - died in the air disaster.

Pools lined up with a starting 11 of Guthrie, Cameron, Thompson, Newton, Moore, Anderson, Robinson, McGuigan, Johnson, Stamper and Luke.

Manager Fred Westgarth was sick in hospital. He had the score telephoned to him every quarter of an hour. The early exchanges weren’t encouraging.

The Busby Babes raced in front and were 3-0 up in no time. Billy Whelan opened the scoring on 9 minutes. Johnny Berry doubled the visitors lead 60 seconds later.

Tommy Taylor made it 3-0 on 30 minutes and all seemed lost.

But Frankie Stamper pulled a goal back on 39 minutes ... a glimmer of a chance.

In the second 45, Kenny Johnson, who played the whole half with an injury, put Pools right back in it on 53 minutes and Jackie Newton set the match up at a finely poised 3-3 with a 65th minute strike.

The crowd went crazy and roared Pools on like they had never done before, said one report.

With a replay beckoning, Whelan hit the winner on 79 minutes. But the heroes of the day were the Pools eleven.

Next week - the proud daughter of a Pools legend remembers her dad.