A FORMER Wrexham FC goalkeeper is to be guest of honour at one of English football’s most prestigious occasions.
At the age of just 16, Dave Gaskell was the surprise star of the 1956 clash between Manchester United and Manchester City in the Charity Shield.
Now, at the age of 70, he will be guest of honour at the Community Shield match between City and United at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, August 7.
Dave and his wife Barbara, who live in the Rhosnesni area, have been invited by the FA to sit at the top table at the pre-match lunch.
Millions of TV viewers will see the couple meet players from both sides on the pitch before the kick-off and they will then watch the match from the Royal box.
Dave reflected how very different all this will be to the day 55 years ago when fate carved him a place in footballing history.
Born in Orrell, near Wigan, in 1940, the talented goalkeeper became an England schoolboy international and was signed by Manchester United.
In those days the match was played at the ground of the League champions but as Old Trafford had yet to install floodlights it was played at former City ground Maine Road.
On the day of the 1956 game Dave decided to go along as a spectator at the last minute. Shortly after kick-off United appeared to be in big trouble when their regular keeper Ray Wood was injured.
Dave was spotted in the crowd and was asked by team officials if he would step into the vacant goal. He agreed and, after borrowing some kit, took to the pitch, pulled off some memorable saves which helped United to a 1-0 victory over their arch-rivals.
Dave recalled: “On the day of the final I had been at work at Old Trafford doing all sorts of jobs such as cleaning the players’ boots. I went home to my digs in Stretford, which I was sharing with the two of the lads from the team who were later killed in the Munich air disaster, Duncan Edwards and Billy Whelan.
“They had gone out to prepare for the game but I didn’t feel like going because I was a bit tired after work. In the end I did go and had to take two buses to get to Maine Road.
“After Ray Wood was injured they saw me in the crowd and asked me to play. Hardly anyone realised I had gone on in his place.
“In fact, Kenneth Wolstenholme, who was doing the television commentary, said that Ray Wood was ‘playing out of his skin’ when all the time it was actually me in goal.”
Dave added: “After the match I received a medal for playing, which I gave to Ray Wood.
“I then just slipped away and stood waiting for the bus home. People in the queue were talking about the match but I was too embarrassed to say I had just played in it. One of the team officials then spotted me and they gave me a lift home on the team bus.
“When I got back the landlord said how well Ray Wood had played but I didn’t tell him it was me. I went to bed but when Duncan and Billy got back they got me up again and we had a talk about the match. I think they had a drink or two but I was only 16 so I didn’t join them and eventually went back to bed.”
The amazing performance meant Dave, at the age of just 16 years and 19 days, was and still is the youngest ever player to take the field for Manchester United.
He added: “Being invited to be guest of honour at the game, the first time since 1956 the two teams have met in this fixture, is very nice but I welcome it mostly for my wife. She had a heart attack out of the blue only five weeks ago and needed something to cheer her up.
“This has come at the right time because it will be a great fillip for her. In fact, she’s out now buying all kinds of new clothes for the big day."
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