A RARE Pennant that was presented to the WA State team by Manchester United during the English club’s Australian tour 50 years ago has been discovered.
The Red Devils beat WA 7-0 in an international challenge game in front of a then record crowd of 20,600 at the WACA Ground on June 27, 1967.
Bob Brown, who was the State team manager at the time, has been the proud custodian of the Pennant, which could be the only one of its kind in Australia.
“United played eight games on their month-long tour and presented their opponents with a Pennant each time,” said Brown.
“I don’t know if the other Pennants still exist, but I made sure that this one remained in safe hands. I wrapped it in plastic and put it away in a safe place. It might well be the only one left in Australia.
“It is a wonderful memento of what is one of the most historic occasions in the history of the WA State team.
“With superstar players like George Best, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Brian Kidd and Nobby Stiles in their team, it was no surprise that United had such a big win over our part-timers.
“But the margin of defeat was no disgrace for the WA players, for Manchester United went on to win the European Cup for the first time nine months later with what was virtually the same team that had played at the WACA Ground. I think they made only one change from that side for the final against Benfica at Wembley. Denis Law was injured and missed out.”
The 50th Anniversary of the WACA Ground game will be celebrated with a special function which is being staged by the Committee of the Football Hall of Fame WA at Dorrien Gardens on December 12.
“It’s important that we celebrate these milestone moments,” said Football Hall of Fame WA chairman Louis Prospero.
“This was a significant occasion in the history of the sport in WA and was really the launching pad for many fine performances that followed by the State team later in 1967, including being the first Australian representative team to compete in an Asian competition (the Merdeka Cup).
“We will invite the survivors from the 1967 team that faced United – and the one that took part in the Asian tournament – to be our guests on what should be a memorable reunion on December 12.”
The WA team in 1967 was: Peter Mitchell, Theo Paap, Ron Smith, Wally Musial, Ziggy Pieda, Graham Oughton, Gerry Pettit, Alex Napier, Paul Sobek, Jim McIntosh, George Ramm. Subs: Alistair Norwood, Christian Ducasse, Bobby Varlow.
The United line-up in Perth was: Alex Stepney, Shay Brennan, Tony Dunne, David Sadler, Bill Foulkes, Nobby Stiles, George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd, John Aston. Reserves: Jimmy Rimmer, Jimmy Ryan, Noel Cantwell.
Brown will be one of the special guests at the 50th Anniversary, as will former Soccer Federation of WA president Julius Re.
Re was one of Australia’s youngest – and most visionary – State football presidents at the time. He also doubled up as the Australian Tour Liaison Officer for United for their eight-match stint Down Under.
It was his job to make sure that things went smoothly off the field for the Red Devils when they played in Brisbane, Sydney (twice), Melbourne (twice), Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth.
“Fortunately there were no real probems. They were a fantastic bunch of guys, although they played a few tricks on me at times,” he recalled. “I like to take my shoes off when I’m on a plane and when we were flying to Newcastle I was sitting beside George Best and Alex Stepney. Best kicked my shoes away under some seats, so I ended up arriving in Newcastle in my stocking feet.
“It was a very exhausting tour with eight games in a short space of time and a few player did whinge a bit about the demands on them. But their manager Matt Busby was having none of it.
“He said that they had a resonsibility to their fans in Australia to turn out their strongest possible team.
“I know that Charlton and Law wanted to miss out playing in Perth, but we were banking on them playing at the WACA Ground and Busby told them under no circumstance were they going to be allowed to let me down in my home state. And they didn’t.
“Of course, it was such a strong and impressive line-up in Perth that I wasn’t surprised when virtually the same team went on to win the European Cup for the first time nine months later.”
Julius added: “Bobby Charlton was a real gentleman. And still is. Whenever I go to England – and I haven’t been for about four years now – I always ring him up and have a chat.
“He makes sure there is always a ticket available for me to attend games at Old Trafford. United are always very accommodating when I go there.”
Law got the first goal in the 7-0 win at the WACA Ground and was sent off in the 33rd minute after swearing at referee Roy Stedman. By that stage United were 3-0 up after further goals from Best and Charlton. Best got two more goals while Kidd scored twice.
Both Julius Re and Bob Brown have been tireless workers over the years to preserve the history of WA football in general and were members of the inaugural Football Hall of Fame WA Committee in 1996.
Both have since been saluted for their commitment by being inducted into the Hall of Recognition.
PICTURED: Bob Brown (left) and Julius Re with the Pennant