The players knew that Matt Busby would not ask them to do something which he himself would not do.
What kind of a man was Matt Busby: a Scot from the hell-hole of the mining town of Bellshill? At the age of 9 after his Father’s death, he went to work in the coal mines. As a player he had played 219 league games and 31 cup games before he became the Manager. Busby, to the public, was calm, composed and dignity personified. He was a quiet man but was articulate and hung his passion on his sleeve. His intensity and passion were legendary around football circles. It intimidated many. Some even saw in him a strong authoritarian streak. Even in his early days people thought twice before they locked horns with him. His intensity, passion and meticulousness demolished any argument. He rarely yelled or screamed or had to use threats or abuses to make his point.
He had a way with people. He had time for his players and his staff. He knew everybody associated with the club. He knew their parents and girlfriends. He knew what they liked and disliked, who were their friends, where they gave their laundry, which movie they liked. Such was his attention to personal details. Anyone could approach him. He believed that his job did not end with football. He knew that he was a professional yet he became a father figure to his players, especially the young boys at the youth academy. He visited them at their homes and spoke to their parents and girlfriends and implored them to keep his boys happy at home.
He was a stern disciplinarian. He wanted footballers to be well groomed and respectable. He had mandated that every player and official should turn up for training or the match in the team blazer and a tie, before they changed into match gear. When a player was late for the team bus Busby told him, “You should be a very important person. You kept the club’s Director waiting, you kept me waiting, you kept the press waiting and you kept the team waiting. It should be so wonderful to be as important as you are.” Legend has it that no one was late ever.
It now mattered to the players that they earned the respect of Busby. They all knew that Busby himself was a precocious talent and an achiever. They knew that he would not ask them to do something which he himself would not do. Sure they were sometimes singed by his temper, yet they all yearned to be treated as an achiever by Busby.
They were worried about things and behaviour that Busby did not approve off whether inside or outside the field. A mere raise of his eyebrows was good enough for even the superstars at the club to know that “The Boss” was not happy.
He had a way of dealing with under achievers. He walked with the under performer from the touch line through the tunnel and into the dressing room. Sometimes it was a silent arm around the shoulder and reassuring pat on the back, other times he would quietly ask “How do you think you played today” and let the player do the talking. Sometimes he told the player “I think you are jaded and I have to keep you for a few games on the bench” and at other times it was a quiet word in his office telling the player that he should now move on from the club. He had the gumption to bench his stars, if he felt that was the way to wake them up. Charlton recalls “He never carried an issue or emotion beyond the dressing room.” Everyone knew that Matt was clean.
© 2014, K. Ramkumar. Used by permission. Originally published at http://theotherview.in