Eddie Colman 


Salford, Lancashire








League Championship: 55/6, 56/7

Watching Eddie Colman on a fooball pitch was like looking at a precocious school boy scrumping apples from his teacher's garden while playing truant from school. There was the same jaunty swagger spiced with a dash of daring which made him an irresistible figure to the denizens of the Old Trafford terraces, especially the Stretford End. But, by the time the Munich disaster took the life of this irrepressible local lad, he had very much come of age as a football talent.

A tiny bundle of creative energy, Eddie was the wing-half with the wiggle - the press dubbed him `Snakehips' for his mesmeric body swerve - and his prospects appeared to be limitless. He had been a fixture in the team since making his debut, aged 19, in November 1955 against Bolton. In that match he had astonished seasoned campaigners such as Nat Lofthouse with his skill and confidence, and he improved rapidly with expcrience.

Eddie's influencc on the Unitcd sidc that won thc Championship in consecutive seasons, 1955/56 and 1956/57, was enormous. So many of their most effective moves owed plenty to his wickedly incisive passing and devastating dribbling ability. His eye for an opening was unerring and he was particularly adept at curling perfect passes around stranded defenders to set up his forwards.

Sometimes, like George Best in later years, he would madden team-mates by hanging on to the ball too long. But they knew Eddie was a player who needed a free rein. To have shackled him to a rigid team plan would have stifled the inspiration which made him priceless.

In another set-up Eddie Colman might have struggled to express himself, but with thc Busby Babes he was in his element. So much of his success was thanks to the manager's golden gift of creating the right blend. Although tough enough for his size and a plucky tackler, Eddie needed to play alongside a man of dominating physical presence - and who better than Duncan Edwards?

One element missing from the Colman game was goals. He managed only two in his career, though one of those was a crucial effort in the 1957/58 European Cup quarter-final against Red Star Belgrade. Part of the reason for this drought was that he wasn't the strongest striker of the ball, his glorious passes owing more to deftness than power, but that hardly qualifies as a criticism when he did so much to boost his team-mates' tallies.

Eddie Colman will be remembered as a crowd-pleaser supreme whose best days were yet to come. He was only 21 when he died and yet to appear for England. Country, as well as club, was thus deprived of a diamond.

Taken without permission from Hamlyn's `Manchester United Player by Player' by Ivan Ponting.