Ray Baartz on his time at Manchester United and the club's Australia tour in 1967

English soccer giant Manchester United came to Newcastle in 1967.

They played a match against a Northern NSW representative side at No.1 Sportsground.

Plenty of [older] football fanatics will remember that day fondly. There’s even a couple of videos on YouTube that captured the occasion.

Topics came across the videos, so we asked Newcastle soccer legend Ray Baartz about the match. It was his era.

Baartz told Topics he didn’t play for Northern NSW that day because he was playing in Sydney at the time.

But he did play for NSW against United on that tour.

It could have been different. If fate took a different turn, Baartz could have been playing for United. 

You see, Baartz played for United from 1964 to 1966. He played in the club’s second team when he was only 17 to 18 years old.

He was in United’s first team squad, training with the likes of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law – players who became legends of the game.

After a few months at United, he signed a professional contract.

“Originally I went for three months, but I ended up staying for two years,” Baartz said. 

Baartz seemed destined to play for United’s first team, but was battling homesickness.

“I went to [United’s then manager] Matt Busby and said, ‘I’m really homesick, I want to go home’,” he said.

Busby’s reply: “But son, nobody leaves Manchester United. I want you to think about it for a month before I let you go”.

At the end of the month, Baartz went back to see Busby.

Busby: “You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”

Baartz: “No, I haven’t.”

Busby: “I wish you well, then.”

When United played Down Under a year after he left the club, Baartz was happy to play against his old team – as well as catching up with the players he trained day in, day out with in England.

After the match in Sydney, Busby told the press: “You saw how Ray Baartz played and now you know why we wanted to keep him”.

Busby asked Baartz if he wanted to return to play for Manchester United.

“I said no, I was very happy [in Australia],” Baartz said.

“You’ve got to remember, I was getting 12 pound a week at United.

“There wasn’t the money in the game that there is now.”

His time in England was a great experience, but a tough lifestyle.

“Manchester wasn’t the best place in the world. It still had the after-effects of the war and the weather was miserable.”

Baartz’s dad died when he was only 13.

“My mum was home by herself. Our only communication in those days was by letter. She didn’t have a phone at home,” he said.

When he lived in England, Baartz was mates with George Best – one of the greatest players in soccer history. 

“I used to knock around a bit with George Best before he became famous. We used to hang out at the bowling alley before he drank,” he said.

Sadly, alcoholism destroyed Best’s life. He died at age 59.

“I was surprised he ended up the way he did and very disappointed because he was a terrific talent,” Baartz said.

The Big Dry

It’s so dry … you’re encouraged to pee in the pool.

It’s so dry … the Pacific garbage patch is now a landfill.

It’s so dry … couples shower together to save water. Seriously. 

It’s so dry … they’re selling organic water. (Oh wait … they did that before the drought.)

A Murder Most Foul

How did Murdering Gully get its name?

Jeffrey Neave posed this question on social media recently. 

For those who don’t know, the gully is between Glenrock Lagoon and Merewether, in the Burwood beach area. 

Herald history writer Mike Scanlon wrote a few years ago that the area was initially named Burwood Gully.

“It later became Murdering Gully for reasons unknown,” he wrote.

The question that comes to mind is, of course, who was murdered there? 

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