Amateurs Help Save the Day after Disaster; A North Amateur Football Club's Role in Helping Manchester United Is Remembered on the 50th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster Today

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay reports.

THESE days Manchester United play before crowds of 70,000 plus at Old Trafford, while Bishop Auckland Football Club doesn't even have its own ground.

But a friendship forged between the two clubs following the Munich air crash on February 6 1958, remains strong to this day.

The main bond is Derek Lewin, now a 77-year-old retired company director living just outside Chorley in Lancashire.

During the mid 1950s, Mr Lewin was a talented wing-half - a midfielder in today's terminology - with Bishop Auckland.

A true amateur, he worked during the day for his father's bacon importing firm in Manchester, and made a 200-mile round trip to County Durham to turn out for Bishop Auckland, with whom he won three FA Amateur Cup medals.

"There were no decent amateur teams in the North-West, they were based either in the North-East or London, which is why I chose Bishop Auckland," he explained.

But as an England amateur international, Mr Lewin became friendly with some of the Busby Babes who lost their lives in the air crash.

"I'd been in the Great Britain Olympic squad in Melbourne in 1956 and we were all told to present ourselves to the nearest league clubs for training. Manchester United was nearest to me.

"A number of the players became close friends. Perhaps my closest was Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne's understudy, who lost his life in the air crash."

Knowing some of the Munich victims so well, including Tom Curry, the South Shields-born trainer, it was natural that the then 27-year-old Mr Lewin would wish to pay his respects when the coffins began arriving home.

"The Old Trafford gymnasium was being used as a chapel of rest. I went along there and was quite overcome. …