A minute silence was observed by 76,000 fans at Old Trafford before the start of the Manchester derby to honour those killed on Flight 609. It went of without incident, as traveling City fans once feared as spoilers, paid their respects without fuss. They had come to pay homage to one of their own heroes.
Frank Swift, a News of the World reporter was also Man City’s goalkeeper from 1933 to 1949 making 376 appearances, winning a FA Cup title in 1934 and a league championship in 1937. He is considered as one of England’s finest goalkeepers alongside legends Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton, and David Seaman. He made 19 appearances for England, twice as captain and was the sentinel in a great pre-war team that boasted luminaries like Stanley Matthews, Joe Mercer, Tommy Lawton, Raich Carter, and Jimmy Hagan. His exploits in goal earned him a spot in the 100 League Legends list along with fellow City players Bert Trautmann, Billy Meredith, and Colin Bell.
James Mossop in his tribute to Frank Swift writes:
“Frank Swift was a huge, athletic goalkeeper with a dry, clown’s outlook on life, gloveless hands that spread as wide as a tennis racket and who, history tells us, was the best in the world at his job. The huge mitts became custodians of a deft pen as he turned to journalism before dying with seven other writers who had become friends and rivals.”
The gentle giant stood 6′ tall, weighing 200 lbs, and with a 12” handspan he easily enveloped the ball with one hand. His looming presence and quick reflexes made life difficult for opposing strikers to score goals.
It was Swift who became the innovator of the long throw out to start an attack rather than the more conventional hoof up the pitch that most keepers of the day used. A technique that dramatically improved possession and jump started quick counter attacks. We now see goalies use it all the time but it was first put to use more than 60 years ago by a Man City legend.
Update: Man Utd lost to City, 1-2.
Well done City fans! They did the right thing by holding their peace and honouring the twenty three, including one of their legends. Maybe Joe Hart imbibed Swift’s spirit because he made some great saves. City walked off deserving victors as an enervated and dispirited Utd team left their charge a bit too late, 1-2.