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Manchester United’s Busby Babe and Nottingham Forest footballer Jeff Whitefoot, who became popular Oakham pub landlord, dies





The football world has joined together in tribute after losing one of its champion players.

Jeff Whitefoot, one of Manchester United’s original Busby Babes and the last surviving member of Nottingham Forest’s last FA Cup-winning side, died on Monday, June 24, aged 90.

After retirement from professional football, Jeff and wife Nell ran the Wheatsheaf pub, in Oakham, for 13 years until 1999, and spent their final years living in the town.

Jeff passed away just 11 months to the day after losing Nell, his wife of 70 years
Jeff passed away just 11 months to the day after losing Nell, his wife of 70 years

A funeral service is to be held at All Saints Church, in Oakham, on Tuesday, July 16, at midday.

Jeff grew up in the Cheshire village of Cheadle and, as a prodigious footballing talent, was persuaded to join Manchester United by Matt Busby - much to chagrin of his Manchester City-supporting father.

He made his first team debut for United aged just 16 years and 105 days, against Portsmouth, and remains the club’s youngest-ever player to start a league match.

Jeff stands next to his Manchester United team-mate Duncan Edwards (back row, right) with the England Under 23 - or B - team in 1954. From left, back - Ron Flowers, Philip Gunter, Alan Ellis, Ray Wood, Bill Dodgin, Duncan Edwards, Jeff Whitefoot; front - Alan Finney, Peter Broadbent, Stuart Leary, John Nicholls, Frank Blunstone. Photo: EMPICS
Jeff stands next to his Manchester United team-mate Duncan Edwards (back row, right) with the England Under 23 - or B - team in 1954. From left, back - Ron Flowers, Philip Gunter, Alan Ellis, Ray Wood, Bill Dodgin, Duncan Edwards, Jeff Whitefoot; front - Alan Finney, Peter Broadbent, Stuart Leary, John Nicholls, Frank Blunstone. Photo: EMPICS

As right-half, Jeff played alongside the iconic Duncan Edwards, becoming part of the first generation of world-famous Busby Babes which swept to the league title in the 1955/56 season.

“There were a lot of really good young lads all starting there - it was a nice time,” he told LincsOnline in a feature interview last year.

“I think generally I was very lucky.”

Jeff poses with a photograph of his younger self celebrating with team-mates after the Busby Babes won their first league title in 1955/56. Photo: Chris Harby
Jeff poses with a photograph of his younger self celebrating with team-mates after the Busby Babes won their first league title in 1955/56. Photo: Chris Harby

Jeff also earned national call-ups and appeared for England at schoolboys and Under-23 levels.

A tribute from Manchester United said Jeff had ‘a special place in club folklore’, describing him as ‘a beautifully balanced athlete’ who played with ‘a cool, seemingly casual grace’ and ‘sharp competitive edge’.

“There were few more perceptive and precise passers of a football in England than Jeff during the mid-1950s,” it said.

Jeff Whitefoot met Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope during his 17 years as a professional footballer. Photo: EMPICS
Jeff Whitefoot met Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope during his 17 years as a professional footballer. Photo: EMPICS

“He read the action intelligently and specialised in shrewd interceptions; he tackled briskly and was exceedingly competitive in the air for a player small in stature.”

Jeff narrowly avoided tragedy when he was sold in November 1957, after 95 appearances for the Red Devils.

The move came just three months before eight players were among 23 to die in the Munich Air Disaster, many of whom were his close friends, as well as team-mates.

Jeff, back row, left, was part of the last Nottingham Forest side to win the FA Cup, in 1959. From left, back - Jeff Whitefoot, Bill Whare, Bobby McKinlay, Chick Thomson, Roy Dwight and Joe MacDonald; front - Billy Walker (manager), Tommy Wilson, John Quigley, Jack Burkitt, Billy Gray, Stewart Imlach and Tommy Graham (Trainer). Photo: PA
Jeff, back row, left, was part of the last Nottingham Forest side to win the FA Cup, in 1959. From left, back - Jeff Whitefoot, Bill Whare, Bobby McKinlay, Chick Thomson, Roy Dwight and Joe MacDonald; front - Billy Walker (manager), Tommy Wilson, John Quigley, Jack Burkitt, Billy Gray, Stewart Imlach and Tommy Graham (Trainer). Photo: PA

“All those who died were my friends - we grew up together at the club. It was horrendous,” he told LincsOnline.

After a brief stint with Grimsby Town, Jeff began the next significant chapter in his football career in 1958 when he signed for Nottingham Forest.

Once again, he joined a team on the rise and the following year was part of the side which beat Luton to lift the FA Cup.

It remains Forest’s last FA Cup triumph and Jeff became the last surviving member of a team that went down in club folklore.

After turning out more than 250 times for Forest, he hung up his boots in 1967, aged 33, and like many former players, went into the pub trade, running a local in East Leake, Leicestershire, before moving to Rutland.

Jeff and Nell became well known in Oakham as popular hosts at the Wheatsheaf, and eventually moved to the town from their home in Burton Lazars, near Melton Mowbray.

In the summer of 2023, Jeff suffered the irreplaceable loss of Nell, his wife of 70 years, and after a period of ill health, died exactly 11 months later to the day.

Jeff leaves a daughter, Judith, and a son, Peter, as well as three grandchildren and three great-granddaughters.

“I have always been very proud of my father’s achievements and I am grateful to have spent the last year with him,” said Judith.

“I already knew he was extremely funny, with a great sense of humour and a very quick wit, but have come to realise just how much joy and happiness he brought to others.

“He was quietly caring, and latterly, was especially concerned for those who were alone or upset. In life generally, as well as in football, I can see that he was genuinely loved.”



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