In Part I of ‘Hitting the fan with United’ I revealed that I had been an eye-witness to both of the most serious match-day assaults perpetrated by players on spectators in Manchester United history, jaw-dropping events which happened 35 years apart.
The first and now less-remembered incident happened in April 1960 and involved Harry Gregg, not only one of the greatest goalkeepers ever to play for United but also a genuine hero for his bravery at the time of the Munich Air Crash two years before, when 23 people were killed including 8 ‘Busby Babes’. At the end of a well-deserved 3-2 victory over relegation-threatened Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, a number of supporters pushed onto the field and one kept obstructing Harry as he tried to shake hands with the Luton winger Billy Bingham, an old friend and a Northern Ireland team-mate. Eventually, after unsuccessfully trying to side-step the man, and fearing he was himself about to be attacked, Harry lashed out, punching him in the face. Even from long distance on the terraces at the far end of the ground I could see the man had taken a mighty whack as he toppled over backwards. Everyone was hastily hustled off the pitch and the injured spectator was taken to hospital with severe facial bruises.
In the end it was accepted that Harry was acting in self-defence after great provocation and no action was taken by the police or the FA. That was in stark contrast to the reaction of the authorities towards Eric Cantona after his legendary kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace 35 years later in January 1995, when I had an even closer view of what happened…
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