When Manchester United came to Sincil Bank

City, 1954/55 Billy Hails is third in from the left on the front row

There’s few pictures for me to put in this article, nor do I have the programme for illustration. If I did, I would have paid upwards of £100 for it, such is the rarity.

Back in the mid-fifties, Lincoln City were an established second tier side, today’s Championship. For ten years manager Bill Anderson kept us punching above our weight financially, never managing to threaten the top flight but still being competitive, if not successful.

Prestige friendlies have always been a good way to raise funds, the same is still the case today. In March 1955, both Lincoln City and the great Manchester United had a spare weekend. Sir Matt Busby, still plain old Matt Busby back then, brought his babes to the Bank. It promised to be a money spinner, or at least that was the hope.

Both sides were out of the FA Cup on what quarter-final weekend, but their opponents were not. United were due to face Newcastle in Division One, but they had a last eight clash with Huddersfield to overcome. The Imps were set to face Notts County, but they had a date with Third Division side York City. That meant a visit from United, the last time they graced the turf at Sincil Bank.

This was the era of the Busby Babes and Sir Matt brought a full strength side to Sincil Bank, bar one player. He included Albert Scanlon, later to feature for the Imps. Bill Foulkes played, as did forward Colin Webster. Roger Byrne, Billy Whelan, Mark Jones and Tommy Taylor, all set to perish in the tragedy of 1958, played. Duncan Edwards, another who lost his life, did not. He was released from first team duty that day to play in a youth game for United.

City’s side was typical at the time, Harry Troops, Roy Finch and Johnny Garvie all played, as did long-serving midfielder Tony Emery. Those name would have evoked great memories for your granddad and formed the nucleus of a very competent and competitive Imps’ side.

United, 1955/56 Bill Foulkes is second from the left, back row. The middle three on the front row also played against City, Colin Webster, Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor.

Billy Hails opened the scoring for City, he was a reserve team player who only made nine senior appearances, but he beat Foulkes and Byrne before firing the Imps ahead. He might not have a place in the Imps history books for his senior football, but he did open the scoring against Manchester United at the Bank. That’s worth remembering him for alone.

City were more than holding their own against their illustrious opponents, although Mitch Downie in the Imps goal did have saves to make. The crowd, a rather disappointing 7,844, were being treated to a spectacle. Perhaps the 13952 who turned up to watch Liverpool in November of that season thought competitive football was worth paying for, but friendly football not. On that day the Imps drew 3-3, but it looked like they might go one better against the Red Devils.

Jimmy Munro, The Scot who made 161 appearance for the Imps, surged through the middle and rattled off a shot that Foulkes could only divert into his own net. 2-0 to the Mighty Imps against Manchester United.

It was 2-1 by half time, Colin Webster getting Busby’s side back into the game. Webster, who made 65 appearances for United, scoring 26 times, added a second after the break to level the scores.

Just before the hour mark the United comeback was complete. The scorer was Albert Scanlon, later to score 11 goals for City in 47 appearances. His first at Sincil Bank condemned us to a 3-2 defeat that season.

United went on to finish fourth in Division One, before winning back to back titles in 1956 and 1957. The last title win saw them enter the European Cup for the second season in a row, tragically resulting in the Munich crash of 1958.

As for City, we finished the season in 16th, before going on to finish eighth in 1955/56. That represented our best finish in the English game since 1902, a feat we still haven’t repeated.

Danny Cowley, over to you!

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