Eddie Colman was just 21 when he died in the Munich Air Disaster. He was born on the 1 November 1936 on Archie Street in Ordsall, Salford, Lancashire – the only child of plate player Richard Colman and his wife Elizabeth Colman. It was the summer of 1952 when he signed for Manchester United, after leaving school. He played in the various youth teams until making his full debut during the 1955/56 season.
Colman made his first team debut in a 3-1 defeat to Bolton Wanderers away from home, seemingly ousting Jeff Whitefoot to play alongside Duncan Edwards. He finished his debut season with a Football League Division One medal, adding to that the following season, also helping United reach the European Cup semi-finals also playing in an FA Cup final, although United lost 2-1 to Aston Villa.
“I saw his debut in November 1955. He played all games as a number four, who would be expected to cover penalty area to penalty area.
“He did not score enough goals but was a complete part of the side and knew where [Duncan] Edwards was, so they covered each other perfectly having been in the youths from the age of fifteen.”
Colman made a total of 108 appearances for United during his first team career, which lasted from the 1955/56 season, until his death in Munich during the 1957/58 season. He had scored a total of two goals for the club. His final appearance for the club came against Red Star Belgrade the night before United’s darkest day. A day which saw eight footballers come to lose their lives, three members of club staff and plus 12 other people.
Colman scored his first goal against Tottenham Hotspur, a 2-2 draw on the 24 November 1956, scoring his second and final goal in the reverse fixture against Red Star, a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on the 14 January 1958. He was nicknames ‘Snakehips’ because of his famous body swerve, something that would have mesmerised his opposition, let alone the supporters of the day. He man-marked Alfredo Di Stefano against Real Madrid with Jimmy Murphy proclaiming that ‘there was no better tackler in the game’.
“His role in Madrid showed he could create, mark and play all aspects of the right half role.
“He was a very lively character around the side, loved by all who ever knew him.
“Bobby Charlton was virtually brought up by Eddie’s family, him and Eddie were always together.”
Colman was laid to rest in West Cemetery in Salford and a statue was erected at his graveside, but was badly damaged by vandals then moved to the home of his father, who later died in 1976. Colman is buried with his mother, who died in 1971, and father. Colman was much-loved in the United squad, famously so that 21 workers from a Manchester box making firm were dismissed after attending the funeral of Colman – they were reinstated soon after.
A broken plane, a broken dream, a broken heart, a broken team, no word said, a silent vow, we loved you then, we love you now. We’ll never die.
Written by John Walker