A retired sports journalist has revealed for the first time how he should have been on the Munich Air Disaster plane.
Don Hardisty, 88, says he is the ‘luckiest man alive’ after his editor at the Daily Mail cancelled his plane ticket two weeks before the crash.
Colleague Eric Thompson was sent on the ill-fated journey instead to cover Manchester United’s match against Red Star Belgrade – and died in the crash.
Twenty-three people were killed, including eight Busby Babes, when the plane tried to take off in heavy snow at Munich Airport.
It is 60 years to the day (tues) since the crash as the team attempted to get back from a European Cup tie against the Serbian side after stopping off in Germany
Don, of Handforth, Cheshire, said: “I think I am probably the luckiest man alive.
“I always remember it – it was due to a change of editor that I wasn’t on that flight and Eric was.
“In 1957 a new editor Howard French had come in to Manchester and decided to change the newsroom and start from scratch.
“He even wanted me to change my name to ‘Don Hard’ – but I refused.”
The appointment resulted in Don becoming the Daily Mail’s chief northern sports reporter – replacing the “highly-regarded” Eric Thompson.
However, just a month before the trip, Howard French left the Manchester office for Paris.
The new editor Harry Myers switched Eric and Don back around – so Eric covered the game.
Don said: “I was booked to travel to go to Belgrade with the team, with our photographer Peter Howard and photo technician Ted Ellyard.
“But the new editor Harry Myers switched myself and Eric’s roles back round and the ticket was changed for Eric to fly to Belgrade.
“Eric was killed on that fateful flight, although both Howard and Ted survived because of the seats they had.”
On the day of the accident, Don had nipped across Manchester to Deansgate to buy some tobacco when a copytaker told him to get back to the office.
Speaking of the moment he found out, Don said: “At the time I had no idea what he was talking about but when I got back in it was absolutely frenetic.
“All the sports editors across Manchester were talking to one another to get everybody’s story together and get it into print.
“I remember for a number of days everybody in the newsroom was knocked back emotionally but at the same time everybody was working hard to tell the story.”
Eric was one of eight journalists from Manchester killed, including Alf Clarke, of the Manchester Evening Chronicle, Don Davies of the Manchester Guardian, George Follows of the Daily Herald, Tom Jackson of the Manchester Evening News, Henry Rose of the Daily Express, ex Manchester City goalkeeper turned journalist Frank Swift of the News of the World and Archie Ledbrooke of the Daily Mirror.
Don continued his career and spent 40 years reporting on sport for a variety of national newspapers.