THE famous Stretford End at the Old Trafford football stadium in Manchester has seen many memorable moments and played its part in many United victories. Bobby Charlton once said: "When we were behind, the fans in the Stretford End seemed to suck the ball into our opponents' net."

On May 24, the Stretford area of Manchester was the scene for another great evening when the Stretford Railway Club hosted the play Bishop United which how Bishop Auckland Football Club helped Manchester United after the 1958 Munich Disaster.

In a packed club, with over a hundred people present, as the play came to an end, United fans leapt to their feet and chanted "United, United" while Bishop chairman Steve Newcomb punched the air. He had co-written the play with Roy Cavanagh, from Manchester Football Club.

George Courtney far left with Manchester United supporters and the cast and backroom people connected with the play Bishop United.  Writers of the play Roy Cavanagh and Stephen Newcomb are sixth and seventh on the left.  Photo taken next to a memorial devoted to those people who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster 

Former FIFA referee George Courtney was the narrator of the story while, from Bishop Auckland, Derek Jago played Matt Busby, Barry Hutchinson played Bishop legend Bob Hardisty, John Bradwell played Bobby Charlton, Chris Walkinson was Duncan Edwards and Barry Trey played United assistant manager Jimmy Murphy. The Bishop players were performed by Lenny Mutton (Derek Lewin), Dennis Ebden (Seamus O'Connell), and Tony German (Warren Bradley). Gillian Campbell looked after the sound while John Rowell was also a technical support.

Chris Walkinshaw wrote two poems. He read the first, Munich 58, at the start of the show and the second, Bishop Auckland Football Club 1886 and Counting, was read at the start of the second half.

To finish the night, John Bradwell sang Flower of Manchester.

The evening could only cement relationships between these two great football clubs and plans are already underway for another visit by the actors to Manchester.

The wreckage of the British European Airways plane which crashed in Munich on February 6, 1958, while bringing home members of the Manchester United football team from a European Cup match.  Of the 43 passengers on board the plane, 23 died 

It was the friendship between Matt Busby and Bob Hardisty which was the catalyst for the events that took place at Old Trafford after the Munich disaster. Hardisty, Derek Lewin and Warren Bradley went over to play for the United reserve team which was desperately short of players after the disaster, in which 23 people died, and their actions it allowed some of the club's promising youngsters to move on and gain vital first team experience.

On the way over to Manchester for the performance, the actors from Bishop Auckland were treated to some football memories from George Courtney, who started with Diego Maradona.

"Diego was only 17 at the time and had just come into the Argentinian side, who were playing against the Republic of Ireland," he said. "The 90 minutes was nearly up so I thought I would get as close to Maradona as I could, so that when I blew the whistle for full time I could ask him for his shirt – even at that young age he was regarded as a genius. But David Langan, the Irish full back, beat me to it and he went off with Diego's shirt.

"I refereed Diego when he was playing for Napoli in the semi-final of a European competition. He was a brilliant player, low centre of gravity and a box of tricks.

"One of the hardest men that I encountered was Jimmy Case of Liverpool who wore a hearing aid. Whenever I had cause to lecture him he would pull that aid out of his ear, so he probably never heard a word I said."

In the Northern League, George recalled Tony Monkhouse and Brian Newton who both played for Evenwood when they won the Northern League title in 1970 and 1971. He said: "Tony was a hard man but always wore a smile, while I thought Brian was a gifted footballer."

The Munich clock at Old Trafford reads 3.04pm, the time that the plane crashed on February 6, 1958 

But the evening was all about the play, and for the journey back to Bishop, Mr Cavanagh had sent a message saying: "I can assure you that those people who watched you perform on May 24 will have the memory of the night with them for a long time. I certainly will."

Ticket for the play Bishop United