When Best, Law and Charlton came to Perth
IT'S 50 years since the WA State team was whipped 7-0 by Manchester United in front of a record crowd of 20,600 on June 27, 1967, at the WACA Ground.
The part-time locals were, not surprisingly, outclassed, outpaced and outmanouvered by their superstar opponents - but, on reflection, the final result wasn't as embarrassing as it might have seemed on the night.
For, nine months later, United were being hailed as one of the best club teams in the world after beating Benfica 4-1 in the final of the European Cup at Wembley.
United achieved the feat of becoming the first English club to triumph in Europe with what was basically the same side that had put WA to the sword.
Bobby Charlton (2), George Best and Brian Kidd were the goalscorers at Wembley - and a few months earlier at the WACA it was Best (3), Kidd (2), Charlton and Denis Law who found the net.
The United line-up in Perth was: Alex Stepney, Shay Brennan, Tony Dunne, David Sadler, Bill Foulkes, Nobby Stiles, George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd, John Aston. Reserves: Jimmy Rimmer, Jimmy Ryan, Noel Cantwell.
Law was injured and missed the European Cup final of 1968. United's team on that historic occasion was: Stepney, Brennan, Dunne, Crerand, Foulkes, Stiles, Best, Kidd, Charlton, Sadler, Aston.
The unused reserves at Wembley included Scottish international full-back Francis Burns, who now lives in Perth.
The WA team in 1967 was: Peter Mitchell, Theo Paap, Ron Smith, Wally Musial, Ziggy Pieda, Graham Oughton, Gerry Pettit, Alex Napier, Paul Sobek, Jim McIntosh, George Ramm. Subs: Alistair Norwood, Christian Ducasse, Bobby Varlow.
Pieda was the player-coach, Bob Brown was the team manager and Bob McShane was the trainer.
Julius Re, the president of the Soccer Federation of WA, said at the time: "It was the greatest year in our short history and the visit of Manchester United brought to Perth the biggest line-up of high-priced talented players to visit Australia in one team.
"It was with great joy and pleasure that I met and accompanied around Australia the officials whose determination and devotion have made Manchester United the club it is. The patience, understanding and unselfish sacrifices of men such as Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy provide a lesson from which we could all learn."
And learn the WA officials and players undoubtedly did, for they went on to make history a few weeks later when they became the first Australian team to compete in Asia when taking part in the Merdeka Cup international tournament in Malaysia. A couple of narrow losses prevented WA from making a stunning impression, but the team still emerged with heads high.
Regarding the earlier Man United visit, the report in the SFWA Yearbook said in part:
"The crowd was more than 4,000 higher than the previous State record for WA's match against Everton in 1964.
"The match was notable for the scintillating performances of winger George Best, whose jet-propelled wizardry notched him three goals, and the elegant artistry of centre-forward Bobby Charlton.
"The match was also notable for the sensational incident involving Scottish genius Denis Law, who was ordered off the field in the 33rd minute for having used foul language to referee Roy Stedman.
"A special disciplinary tribunal convened by the Australian Soccer Federation met at Manchester United's South Perth motel the following day. After hearing evidence from Law and referee Stedman, the tribunal fined Law $50.
"WA's defence held out gallantly for the first 20 minutes but when Peter Mitchell managed only to parry a blistering shot from Best, the ubiquitous Law was lurking in the six yard box to ram the ball home.
"In the 24th minute Law calmly set up United's second goal, scored by Best - and three minutes later Best side-stepped, feinted and swerved through a wall of defenders to make it 3-0.
"The dismissal of Law reduced United to 10 men and obviously took a lot of sting out of probably the most powerful line in world soccer today.
"Nevertheless, United even at half-pace kept WA under constant pressure and more goals flowed from Best, Charlton and Kidd, who is surely a champion in the making. In years to come Australians will follow Kidd's progress with the knowledge that it took an Australian tour to show Matt Busby that this Kid was ready to become a Babe."
*In 2008, Man Utd unveiled a statue of their "Holy Trinity" Best, Law and Charlton outside Old Trafford. Between them, the trio scored 665 goals for the Red Devils.
PIC ONE: The WA side that faced Man United. PIC TWO: The Man United squad that won the 1968 European Cup. PIC THREE: The statue of Best, Law and Charlton.