The day Alan met the Busby Babes

Alan Bushnell pictured at the Hartlepool United memorial wall.
Alan Bushnell pictured at the Hartlepool United memorial wall.

A RARE football programme signed by members of one of Britain’s greatest football teams 55 years ago belonged to a lifelong Pools fan – and he remembers the very day he got it.

Alan Bushnell was a 12-year-old programme seller when the famous Manchester United Busby Babes rolled into town for an FA cup tie with Hartlepools United, as they were known at the time.

But for Alan the real excitement started at full time, when, thanks to his dad, he got the chance to visit the Manchester United dressing room and had his programme signed by members of the famous squad.

Some of the players he met would go on to tragically die in the Munich air disaster just one year later.

Alan’s dad, Billy Bushnell, was a Hartlepool United fanatic who started up the supporters club and was close friends with Ned Westgarth, the son of former manager Fred Westgarth.

And the family links to the club don’t stop there. His mum, Evelyn, 98, a resident at Gardner House Residential Care home in the town, used to do the club’s laundry.

Billy, who died in 1999, aged 89, went on to take Alan to matches throughout the country, from Pools home and away games to international games at Wembley Stadium.

And the more games Alan went too, the more programmes he assembled.

He says he will be forever grateful to his dad for taking him to the matches. Alan and Billy now both have signed bricks on the club’s Centenary Wall at Victoria Park.

The signed Manchester United programme featured in the Mail earlier this month as it is now set to go under the hammer at an auction in Middlesbrough in November.

Alan got in touch with the Mail and revealed why, after all these years, he decided to hand over his impressive collection of rare memorabilia.

The 68-year-old retired accountant and dad-of-two, who lives in the town’s Wooler Road with wife, Annette, 65, said: “I had read an article in the Hartlepool Mail where a guy was appealing for programmes and football memorabilia.

“My programmes had been in the loft for a number of years and my two sons weren’t particularly interested.

“So rather than them being in a box all that time I decided to move them on.”

Alan, who is dad to Paul, 40, and Adam, 38, and who has three grandchildren, still remembers the day the Busby Babes came to town, and he ended up in the same dressing room.

“I just remember people milling around,” he said. “I remember going in and looking around and being quite awe-struck by it all.”

Alan recalls Pools’ goals in the 4-3 defeat, but can’t remember the United goals.

And one thing he remembers more than any other is a scare before the game even kicked off as the 17,264 fans, still a record attendance to this day, packed into Victoria Park.

“I was at the Town End and one thing that sticks in my mind is the gates being opened and people flooding in,” he added.

“I was jammed against the wall and police had to pick me up.”

The programme and various other memorabilia will go under the hammer at The Marton Hotel and Country Club, in Middlesbrough, on Thursday, November 1, at 1pm.

Viewings will take place from 9.30am-12.30pm.