|Full name||William Anthony Foulkes|
|Date of birth||5 January 1932|
|Place of birth||St Helens, England|
|Height||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Playing position||Centre back|
|1950||Whiston Boys Club|
|1980||San Jose Earthquakes|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
William Anthony Foulkes (born 5 January 1932) is a former English footballer who played for Manchester United in the Busby Babes teams of the 1950s, and also in the 1960s. His favoured position was centre-back. For Manchester United, he played 688 games which places him at number 4 on the all-time list of appearances behind Paul Scholes, Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs. He made 3 appearances as a substitute. He also started in every single United game in the seasons 1957–58, 1959–60, 1963–64 and 1964–65. He scored a total of 9 goals in his 18 seasons at United and helped the club win four First Division titles, one FA Cup and one European Cup. Despite this, he was capped only once for England in 1955.
Foulkes was born in St Helens, Lancashire, in 1932. His grandfather had captained St Helens Rugby League Football Club and was also an England rugby international. His father had also played rugby league for St Helens, and had also played football for New Brighton in the Third Division North. Foulkes himself played for the Whiston Boys Club in his teens, and also worked at the Lea Green Colliery as a miner, a job which he continued into the mid-1950s by which time he was a regular member of the Manchester United first team and had made his solitary appearance for the full England side.
He married Teresa Suffler (born 1936)at St Nicholas Church, Whiston, in spring of 1955. He had five children; William(1957), Geoff (born 1962), Steve(born 1958), Nick(born1964) and Amanda (born 1966). He also has Grandchildren named Lewis(born in 1992), Matthew(born 1993) and Adam (born 1996),William (born1998),Jessica, Edward, Harvey, George, Brooke and Philippa.
Foulkes was discovered by Manchester United while he was playing for the Whiston Boys club in 1950. He joined the club in March 1950, at the age of 18 years old. After coming through the junior ranks of the club, he turned professional in August 1951. He made his professional debut in a First Division match against arch-rivals Liverpool on 13 December 1952, slightly less than a month before turning 20. United won the match 2–1. He also played 2 games for the England Under-23 team. During this time, he continued to work part-time at the coal mine, feeling he was not good enough to play full-time league football.
Foulkes scored his first of only nine goals for the club against Newcastle United in a First Division match on 2 January 1954 at St James' Park. The goal was scored from near the halfway line, an achievement especially for a defender. United finished that season in fifth place.
Foulkes won his first cap for England 22 months after making his United debut, playing at right-back against Northern Ireland on 2 October 1954. However, that was his only international appearance at the senior level throughout his whole career. It was only after he won the cap that he stopped working at the colliery.
In the 1955–56 season, Foulkes won his first Championship with United. Towards the end of that season, Foulkes found himself laden with National Service commitments. Because of that, United manager Matt Busby began to favour Ian Greaves over Foulkes in right-back. Foulkes responded by training harder than usual, determined to be called back to play for the first-team. This attitude worked in his favour, and he returned to playing regularly for the first-team from the next season until the end of the 1960s.
Because United won the Championship in the 1955–56 season, it was eligible to play in the European Cup in the following season of 1956–57. Despite objections from the Football League, United became England's first representatives in the European Cup. In the second match of the Cup, United demolished Anderlecht 10–0, although Foulkes did not score any goals. The result continues to be United's record victory in a European match. In that season, Foulkes helped United to the semi-finals of the European Cup, losing to Real Madrid 5–3 on aggregate after losing 1–3 at the Bernabéu and drawing 2–2 in the return leg at Maine Road. United also reached the finals of the FA Cup in that season, losing 1–2 to Aston Villa in the match at the Wembley Stadium on 4 May 1957. In addition, United successfully defended its Championship title that season.
Munich air disaster
As winners of the Championship in 1956–57, United once again represented England in the European Cup in 1957–58. This was the season of the tragic Munich air disaster. In the second leg of the quarter finals against Red Star Belgrade in Yugoslavia, United drew 3–3, winning 5–4 on aggregate. After the match, the team had a reception, then travelled to the British Embassy where each player was given a bottle of gin.
On the return journey to Manchester on 6 February 1958, the British European Airways aircraft that the team was on stopped at Munich to refuel. Because of boost surging, takeoff was aborted twice. The pilot returned to the terminal, and after a while, it was announced that one more attempt to take off would be made. At that time, Foulkes had been running a card school with Kenny Morgans, David Pegg, Albert Scanlon, Roger Byrne and Liam Whelan in the middle of the plane. When he heard the announcement, he started to worry for his safety. In a 1998 interview with Carling-Net, he said of the announcement, "When they said that you didn't have to be a genius to know that this was going to be a bit dicey."
On the third attempt to take off, the pilots managed to control the surging, but as the plane reached the V1 speed, after which it is dangerous to abort takeoff, airspeed suddenly dropped. The plane left the runway and crashed into a fence and a house. In the 1998 interview, Foulkes recalled,
The plane was bouncing along and obviously not going fast enough and then suddenly there were three tremendous sickening thuds and everything was spinning around. A second later I was sitting in my seat with my feet in the snow.
— Bill Foulkes, 
The plane had broken right under the seat that Foulkes was sitting on. In the crash, the bottle of gin from the British Embassy, which Foulkes had placed on the overhead rack with his overcoat, hit Foulkes on the back of his head. The head injury was the only injury which he sustained in the crash. Immediately after the crash, Foulkes climbed out of his safety belt and ran 50 yards away from the plane. He then turned back and saw the wrecked plane. As Foulkes later said,
The back of the aircraft had just disappeared. I got out as quickly as I could and just ran and ran. Then I turned and realised that the plane wasn't going to explode, and I went back. In the distance I could see the tail part of the aircraft blazing and as I ran back I came across bodies. Roger Byrne still strapped to his seat, Bobby Charlton lying quite still in another seat, and Dennis Viollet. Then Harry Gregg appeared and we tried to see what we could do to help.
— Bill Foulkes, 
The 23 injured people were admitted to hospital, but Foulkes spent the night in a hotel with Gregg. The next morning, Foulkes visited his teammates in the hospital. He visited Duncan Edwards, Johnny Berry, Jackie Blanchflower, Viollet, Scanlon, Charlton and Ray Wood. Then, he recalls, "I was just beginning to think it didn't look too bad when I asked where the rest were. The nurse simply shook her head and said: 'That's it, everybody else has died.'"
It was only then that Foulkes realised the full horror of the tragedy. Seven of his team-mates Mark Jones, David Pegg, Roger Byrne, Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Liam Whelan and Tommy Taylor – had been killed instantly. Duncan Edwards died 15 days later as a result of his injuries. Club secretary Walter Crickmer and coaches Tom Curry and Bert Whalley were also killed. Berry and Blanchflower survived but never played again. Foulkes himself survived, along with Busby, Charlton, Gregg, Morgans, Scanlon, Viollet and Wood.
Over the years since the disaster, Foulkes has felt anger about the fact that the pilots had tried to take off a third time, despite the obvious dangers.
|“||It was obvious that we would struggle to take off and they took the chance. They should never have done that. I don't feel guilty about being a survivor. I was just damned lucky. But I do harbour this feeling that it wasn't necessary, that angers me. It cost the club, it cost the country so much.||”|
Immediately after the crash, Foulkes took over captaincy of the club in place of Byrne, who was killed in the crash. After matches against Sheffield Wednesday, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham, United reached the FA Cup Final, losing 2–0 to Bolton Wanderers. However, the team did not fare so well in the league, winning only 1 match against Sunderland, drawing 5 matches and losing 8, and finished in ninth place. In the semi-finals of the European Cup, United won 2–1 in the first leg against A.C. Milan, but lost 4–0 in the second leg at the San Siro, losing 5–2 on aggregate.
In the next four seasons, United continued to do poorly, finishing the league in 2nd, 7th, 7th, and 15th place respectively. In the FA Cup, the club exited the competition in the 3rd round, 5th round, 4th round and semi-finals respectively. In the 1962–63 season, United did badly in the league, finishing in 19th place, but won the FA Cup after winning the final 3–1 against Leicester City on 25 May 1963. Throughout this time, Foulkes struggled a lot from the crash. He later said, "I lost so much weight, I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, I was losing fitness and form and I'd really had enough."
On 10 October 1960, Busby played Foulkes in centre back for the first time. That was to prove to be Foulkes' favoured position, but he did not start enjoying the game again until 1963. In the 1963–64 season, United finished 2nd in the league, and finally won the Championship in the 1964–65 season, after a run of 13 wins in 15 games. By then, Foulkes and Charlton were the only two Munich survivors in the team. In 1966–67, Foulkes helped United win the Championship again, completing his haul of 4 Championship medals, more than any other United player of his era.
European Cup triumph
By winning the league title in 1966–67, United once again qualified for the European Cup. After beating Hibernians, Sarajevo and Górnik Zabrze, United faced up to Real Madrid in the semi-finals. Foulkes did not play at the first leg at Old Trafford, which United won by a narrow 1–0 victory. However, he did play the second leg at the Bernabéu on 15 May 1968, in which Real was leading 3–1 at half-time. David Sadler scored in the second half to level the scores 3–3 on aggregate. Near the end of the match, George Best sent a cross into the penalty area. Foulkes sidefooted the ball into the net, scoring one of the most important goals of his career and sending United into the final.
The final was held at Wembley Stadium on 29 May 1968. Up against Benfica, Foulkes started the match in central defence. As the match entered extra time, the scoreline was 1–1, with the United goal coming from Charlton. Then, Best, Brian Kidd and Charlton scored a goal each, and United triumphed 4–1, becoming the first English team to win the European Cup. 10 years after the Munich air disaster, Foulkes had finally won a European Cup winners medal at the age of 36. Foulkes later said that winning the Cup helped him to "get over the crash".
After winning the European Cup, Foulkes felt he had achieved all he could and wished to retire. However, Busby managed to convince him to stay for 2 more years. The next season, United finished 11th in the league. In the 1969–70 season, Wilf McGuinness (who had played alongside Foulkes in the late 1950s) replaced the retiring Busby as manager of United. Foulkes played only 3 games under McGuinness, the last coming in a 1–4 loss against Southampton at Old Trafford on 16 August 1969. By this stage, he was the oldest player in the team at the age of 37. He officially retired from playing on 1 June 1970.
By the end of his lengthy career, Foules had made 683 appearances. He had previously held the club's appearance record until Charlton (759 appearances) overtook him and recently Ryan Giggs, although he is still in third place for appearances for United. He had also made 3 appearances as a substitute in the 1968–69 season in the First Division. He also started in every single game United had played in the seasons 1957–58, 1959–60, 1963–64 and 1964–65. He served United in the First Division for 18 seasons, most of them as a regular player, and was the longest-serving player at the club at the time of his final game. He scored a total of nine goals for United, the first in a 2-1 league win at Newcastle United on 2 January 1954, and the last on 15 May 1968 in the victorious European Cup semi-final second leg tie in Madrid.
After retirement, he stayed at Old Trafford as a youth-team coach from 1970 to 1975, when he finally left United after 25 years of unbroken service.
Post Manchester United
After his coaching stint at United, Foulkes managed several teams. First, he was manager of English non-League club Witney United F.C., which was then known as Witney Town. In 1975, he went to USA where he managed Chicago Sting (1975–77), Tulsa Roughnecks (1978–79) and San Jose Earthquakes (1980). He then travelled to Norway in 1980 to 1988 where he had two managing stints with Steinkjer FK, and also managed IL Bryn, Lillestrøm SK and Viking FK.
When signed as manager for IL Bryn, a very small country side club between Molde and Kristiansund at the Norwegian West Coast, he thought he had signed for the club Bryne IL near by Stavanger, a club that was doing ok in the eighties. He was not happy about the misunderstanding and left Bryn shortly after to take the position as trainer in Lillestrøm SK.
In October 1992, he auctioned mementoes of his career at Christie's as he needed the money. Twenty items were auctioned, raising almost £35000. All his medals were auctioned, and his European Cup medal raised £11000, while the jersey he wore in the European Cup final raised £1800.
As recently as 2000, he was still coaching for the Manchester FA, and was frequently requested to show Japanese visitors around the stadium, because of his 4-year coaching spell in Japan during which he learnt the Japanese language.
In April 2011, he was portrayed by actor James Callas Ball in the BBC TV drama United, the storyline of which was centred around the Munich air disaster. However, the character of Foulkes had little signifiance in the film and was not listed on the film's credits. Foulkes himself did not take any part in the filming of the drama due to an undisclosed long-term medical condition.
|Season||First Division||FA Cup||League Cup†||Charity Shield||Europe||World Club Cup||Total|
†The League Cup began in 1960–61.
- Manchester United
- "A Who's Who of Manchester United F.C. – Foulkes, William Anthony". Red11. Archived from the original on 31 December 2006. Retrieved 16 November 2006.
- "Manchester United Legends – Bill Foulkes". Manutd Zone. Archived from the original on 22 October 2006. Retrieved 16 November 2006.
- "Bill Foulkes (1952–1970)". RedCafe. Retrieved 16 November 2006.
- "Anger Still Boils After 40 Years". Munich58. Archived from the original on 14 December 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- "The Tragedy of Munich Airport". The Busby Babes. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- Hinson, Paul. "A United Legend". Red11. Archived from the original on 31 December 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2006.
- Short biography on the official Manchester United website
|Manchester United Captain