It’s something of a badge of honour in today’s trophy laden era to have been alive to support Manchester United in the early 70’s and have witnessed the culture of the end of the Busby era, the relegation and the return to the big time. Of the names synonymous with the club in that era, two are instantly recognisable – brothers Brian and Jimmy Greenhoff. Jimmy of course was the striker who claimed the goal that put paid to Liverpool’s domestic treble bid, while Brian was a long serving centre half who played throughout most of the 70s.
Paul Greenhoff, son of Brian, was kind enough to spend some time answering questions about something even more unique than living through that era; being part of a family that are so embedded in the history of the club at that time. There’s no doubt that with the 70s being such an iconic era, when the era of footballers becoming celebrities was beginning to take off, that it began to take on extra importance. As one of the first children to be exposed to that kind of environment, albeit in it’s infancy, it’s no surprise that Paul looks back fondly at that time and what it means now. “It’s always seems strange when people say my dad is a United legend et cetera as he is just my dad, and a great one at that“, says Paul. “Yeah, every time I’ve been to Old Trafford with him I realise just what he achieved as all sorts of people ask for his autograph, tell him how great he was and so on… or if I see footage of him on the telly…I remember I was watching the FA Cup Final against Newcastle in the pub with my mates and the commentator mentioned that the Neville’s were the first brothers since the Greenhoff brothers to play in a Cup Final together… I went as red as my United shirt, but was bursting with pride inside!”
At this point I dared to venture into the territory of the infamous falling out between the brothers; Paul, understandably, declined to include anything he wanted to put into comment. So about the here and now? Well, throughout my friendship with Paul I’ve constantly tried to score an interview with Brian, unashamedly I might add! At times I’ve been on the cusp of it, but Brian is a busy man. He ended up moving out to Spain; a path that Paul eventually followed. “As I’m sure most lads did growing up, I wanted to play football. I played when I was younger for Boundary Park Juniors,then after I thought I was going to get a contract at Tranmere Rovers.”
Paul is blunt about why that is.
“It never happened,I just wasn’t good enough… and I ended up playing for various semi professional clubs. I ended up living in Spain because while visiting my Mum & Dad who moved to Menorca, I met a lovely Spanish girl. Things developed so I decided to give it a shot in Spain. Six years on we have a villa, are now married and I run my own pool maintenance business, the only down side is two years ago my parents moved back to Manchester as they couldn’t settle.”
About that era then. How much of it does Paul remember? My conversations with him are always more about relaying accounts of others who are keen to share them with him when they discover who he is, and today it’s the same, only with a slight difference. Knowing we’re running the chat on the website, Paul offers me a little insight into Brian’s thoughts of being at the club in that time. “The more people I speak too who watched regularly in the 70’s often describe United as a religion, with the Doc at the helm… Those were without question the happiest times for my Dad and later when his brother signed for United… that was the icing on the cake, he always has that twinkle in his eye when he talks of the Docs years. You only have to look at United fans such as Pete Boyle, even after all the success under Sir Alex… the 70’s are his favourite years, yes, we got relegated but we played some great football and came back up like a steam train!!!”
It’s difficult to find the right kind of question to finish off an interview like this. You pop off the generic ones and feel for some hard hitting ones, but I feel like putting a question to Paul that I haven’t done yet. The number of people who can claim to have been a “Busby Babe” is relatively small, yet Brian can. How does it feel to have such an incredible connection to the club? “Yeah, for sure that fills me with pride that he was a Busby Babe, anything mentioned in the same breath as the great man Sir Matt makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I never got to meet the great man Sir Matt, but obviously I’ve heard lots of stories.”
I thank Paul for his time but he adds one final footnote about just how proud he is at the Busby Babe connection. “To be honest – I’m so proud of my dad,what he achieved… but that’s the cherry on the top for me.”
Manchester United – more than just a club.
Thanks to Paul for his time.