Ghosts of Manchester Football

I was disappointed recently when the laptop I use solely for Championship Manager 97/98 declined to work. It meant my Sunday plans of not leaving the house were up in smoke. Fortunately, it gave me the push to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. Within five, ten minutes drive are some landmarks in Manchester’s footballing history. Graves of people, a stadium, places that would come to define the sport in the city.

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Aycliffe Avenue, George Best’s early Manchester home

The first stop was Aycliffe Avenue, in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. What may seem like a non-descript residential street was actually home to a young lad from Belfast called George Best. He lived on this cul-de-sac, at number 9, with landlady Mary upon his arrival in Manchester and would credit the lady with his early successes.

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Typical Manchester cul-de-sac

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Number 9. He’d later make the numbers 7 & 11 famous in time

A short walk from Aycliffe Avenue is Southern Cemetery, the largest in the UK and the second largest in Europe. It opened in 1879 and is now home to the famous, infamous and everyday folk of Manchester. It is also the eternal home of Billy Meredith and Sir Matt Busby.

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Stone at the entrance

Billy Meredith was born in Wales in 1874 but called Manchester his home from 1894 when he signed for Manchester City. He made 367 appearances for City during two spells, sandwiched in between which he pulled on the red shirt of United 303 times. He retired aged 50 and later died in 1958, two months in the Munich Air Disaster. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007. A true legend of Manchester, and British, football.

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The neglected grave stone of Billy Meredith

Sir Matt Busby needs little introduction. The Scot is one of Manchester United’s foremost iconic figures, creating a team out of the Ashes of the Munich Air Disaster that would go on to conquer Europe a decade later. He died in 1994, aged 84.

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A Busby family grave

Just a short drive from the cemetery lay the remains of Manchester City’s old stadium. When they left Maine Road in 2003 for the Commonwealth Games stadium they left behind a classic traditional English stadium, tightly packed into residential terraced streets. Now on the sight stands a brand new housing estate and apart from the road signs, little evidence of what was there before.

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“The Kippax,” one of Maine Road’s more prominent stands

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New housing can be seen in the background

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Maine Road

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The new housing estate on the left stands where Manchester City’s former home stood

Follow Dan on Twitter @winkveron

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