The Busby Babe who became an Imp – one winger you won’t have seen

As regular readers know, we’ve been counting down the very best players you’ve seen in Lincoln City shirts, putting together our own Stacey West XI recently.

One name that has popped up as one of our best ever wingers is that of Albert Scanlon, to many just a name they fail to recognise. However, Scanlon was far more than just a winger who plied his trade at Sincil Bank. He was one of the ‘Busby Babes’, and a survivor of the Munich Air Disaster of 1958.

Born in Greater Manchester, young Albert broke into the first team at Old Trafford as a teenager in the 1954-55 season, but it took him a little longer to break into the side on a permanent basis. He was often inconsistent, attributed to his talent not quite being matched by confidence in his own ability. He had been in and out of the side up until the crash, although a superb display against Arsenal in the league match prior to the disaster suggested he might be finding his form. There was even talk of an England call up.

He played against Red Star Belgrade just before that fateful crash robbed English football of some of it’s most promising players. On United’s left wing he had been in effervescent form, possessing both skill and speed to which defenders had no match. Second Division Lincoln City would have been reading about his exploits in the papers, never believing one day he might grace the Sincil Bank pitch.

That awful crash  claimed the lives of three England internationals, Duncan Edwards, Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor. Scanlon survived, making him one of the lucky ones, but he was badly traumatised. He was relatively fortunate to escape with ‘just’ a fractured skull, a broken leg and kidney damage. Another player who lost their life was David Pegg, also a left winger who until recently had kept Scanlon out of the United side.

He recovered from his terrible injuries and, unlike many of the players involved, managed to play again at the highest level. In 1959, he scored 16 goals and was widely believed to not just have recovered, but also have found his maturity on the field However, in 1960-61, Bobby Charlton was moved to the left wing back by Matt Busby and Scanlon’s days were numbered.

He was sold to Newcastle United, having played 127 league and cup matches for Manchester United, scoring 35 goals. He never settled at St James Park though and in 1961, he became a Lincoln City player.

He had cost Newcastle £17,500, but City paid just £2000 for his services. At the time, we were a Division Three side, now League One, but were well on our way to a successive relegation. Bill Anderson had defied all the odds to keep us in the Second Division for a decade, but financial hardship meant the 1960’s were a tough time to be a Lincoln fan. Scanlon appeared as the demise began and left a season later with us heading for the bottom half of Division Four.

His debut brought a 2-1 defeat, but from there City went four games unbeaten, not bad as we’d only won one in eleven prior to his arrival. He scored as we beat Torquay 4-3, following that up with another goal as we drew 2-2 with Swindon. We were still relegated, just one more goal from him all season, in a 2-2 draw with Notts County, saw us finish third from bottom.

The next season he scored a few goals but was clearly not the same player as had graced the Old Trafford turf. He did bag a brace against Exeter City in a 4-1 win, which hopefully might be an omen!

Those who did watch Scanlon in those matches saw a quick player, still full of skill of tricks but perhaps in decline. He can’t have fallen that far from grace though, after all he’s been nominated for the best winger the older fans have ever seen. There’s a thought that with a few better players around him, he could well have helped push City up the division, but the Imps were in turmoil, standing on the edge of a precipice when he joined and at the bottom of the ravine when he left. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, one Busby Babe couldn’t save City.

After two crushing defeats in 1963, 6-2 at home against Mansfield and 4-2 against York, he was on the move to the former. He found himself finishing the season in the top four with the Stags as City finished in the bottom three. The following season, with Scanlon as a driving force, they almost secured promotion to Division Two. However, they didn’t and he retired not long after. On retiring from the game, Scanlon worked as a dock labourer and then as a factory nightwatchman. He passed away on December 23rd, 2009.

2 Comments

  1. We never saw his true potential as he was playing in some of the worst City teams ever in the early sixties. Those were dire teams and we were very fortunate to keep being re-elected. If there was relegation from the football league in those days I don’t think the club would have survived.

  2. Albert went to Saint Wilfred school in Hulme manchester we used to play football on the barracks which was a stone pitch full of shale he was brilliant on that to a lovely man

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