Roger Byrne

Roger William Byrne (8 September 1929[1] – 6 February 1958) was an English footballer and captain of Manchester United. He died at the age of 28 in the Munich air disaster. He was one of the eight Manchester United players who lost their lives in the disaster on 6 February 1958. He made 33 appearances for the England national team.

Roger Byrne
Roger Byrne.jpg
Byrne in May 1957
Personal information
Full name Roger William Byrne
Date of birth (1929-09-08)8 September 1929
Place of birth Gorton, Manchester,
Lancashire, England
Date of death 6 February 1958(1958-02-06) (aged 28)
Place of death Munich, West Germany
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Playing position(s) Full-back
Youth career
Ryder Brow Boys Club
1949–1951 Manchester United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1951–1958 Manchester United 245 (17)
National team
1954–1957 England 33 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only


Byrne was born on 8 September 1929[1] in the Gorton district of Manchester, the only child of William Henry Byrne (1894–1972) and Jessie Byrne (1899–1986). Byrne undertook two years of National Service in the Royal Air Force, where he was not considered good enough to play football and played rugby instead. While playing for Ryder Brow, Byrne came to the attention of United scout Joe Armstrong and was offered amateur terms at the club, turning professional soon after, becoming the first of what would come to be known as the Busby Babes.[2]

Byrne was captain of Manchester United from the 1955–56 season onwards. He captained the side through the legendary Busby Babes era, playing as a left-sided full-back of the traditional style. He had previously been fielded at wing half and outside left and it was a testament to his versatility that, despite being naturally right sided, he should have been a success in a variety of positions.

Byrne was never considered the most gifted of footballers. His tackling could be suspect and his aerial ability was described as no better than average, but his incredible work ethic and footballing intelligence allowed him to position himself and react to danger swiftly. Innovatively, he was also adept at making forward runs and joining attacks at a time when full-backs were expected only to stand back and defend. Perhaps his best asset was his ability to inspire players with his charismatic leadership. Even more than 60 years after his death, he is still regarded as one of Manchester United's greatest captains. He earned league-winner's medals in 1952, 1956 and 1957, and was an FA Cup runner-up to Aston Villa in 1957. He also helped United reach the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1957, when they were the English Football League's first entrants into the competition.

Byrne was also a regular member of Walter Winterbottom's England team during the 1950s and was considered a possible captain of the national team after the retirement of the incumbent captain, Billy Wright, whose career continued until 1959. His total of 33 England caps were all won in consecutive fixtures. He appeared in every England international from his debut against Scotland in April 1954 to his last match against France in November 1957. This remains a record. Byrne didn't score for England, and took two penalties during his England career, but both were missed against Brazil and Yugoslavia respectively in 1956.[3]

He died in the Munich air disaster at the age of 28, Byrne was the oldest of the eight players who perished at Munich. On arriving home he would have received the news that his wife Joy was expecting their first child. They had only married the previous year. He was also survived by both of his parents at that time. Byrne's funeral service was held at Flixton parish church and his body was cremated.

He was in the side which ousted Red Star Belgrade in the quarter-finals of the European Cup.[4]

Eight months after Byrne's death (7 October 1958), Roger Jr. was born. During the late 1960s and early 1970s he was a ball boy at Old Trafford. Roger Jr. died of cancer in December 2011 at age 53. He was living in Swindon, Wiltshire, and had been working in a senior role for the local council. He was survived by his mother, Joy, who by this stage was well into her seventies.[5]

Some years after his death, a street on a new housing development near Manchester city centre was named after him – Roger Byrne Close. Other roads and paths on the estate include Tommy Taylor Close, Eddie Colman Close, Mark Jones Walk, Billy Whelan Walk and David Pegg Walk, as well as a housing complex called Duncan Edwards Court, all of which are named after other players who died at Munich.[6]

A biography, Roger Byrne, Captain of the Busby Babes, written by Iain McCartney, was published on 2 December 2000.[7] The 2011 television drama United centred on the successes of the Busby Babes and the decimation of the team in the Munich air disaster, wrongly named Mark Jones as the captain of the team, while Byrne was not mentioned as a member of the team.[8]

Career statisticsEdit

Club Season League FA Cup European Cup Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Manchester United[9] 1951–52 24 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 25 7
1952–53 40 2 4 1 0 0 1 1 45 4
1953–54 41 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 42 3
1954–55 39 2 3 0 0 0 0 0 42 2
1955–56 39 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 40 3
1956–57 36 0 6 1 8 0 1 0 51 1
1957–58 26 0 2 0 6 0 1 0 35 0
Total 245 15 18 2 14 0 3 0 280 20

International statisticsEdit

National team Year Apps Goals
England[10] 1954 9 0
1955 8 0
1956 9 0
1957 7 0
Career total 33 0


Manchester United[11]


  1. ^ a b Roger Byrne, England Football Online. Retrieved 6 June 2020. QUOTE: "Believed to have been born on 8 February, but this is an error. Various sources state September, which is confirmed by his birth registration."
  2. ^ Morrin, Stephen The Munich Air Disaster – The True Story behind the Fatal 1958 Crash, Gill Books, 2007, ISBN 978-07171-4110-4
  3. ^ "Penalties for England Missed". Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  4. ^ Roger Byrne Archived 30 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Tributes pour in for 'true gent' son of Busby Babe". Swindon Advertiser. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  6. ^ Conn, David (21 April 2010). "FC United homage to history as they prepare for future at Newton Heath". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  7. ^ Roger Byrne Captain of the Busby Babes A Biography by Iain McCartney
  8. ^ Wollaston, Sam (24 April 2011). "TV review: Doctor Who; United". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  9. ^ "Roger Byrne". Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Roger William Byrne". Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Roger Byrne".

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Allenby Chilton
Manchester United captain
Succeeded by
Bill Foulkes