clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Manchester United player who kicked the ball harder than any other

Every Manchester United Player Ever takes a look at one of United's finest goalscorers, David Herd.

Tribute to Sir Matt Busby

As ever, our alphabetical progress yields only to the cold hand of death itself, and so we jump to the letter H. On 1 October 2016, at the age of 82, former United player David 'Hot Shot' Herd shuffled off this mortal coil. And his obituaries, and his career, prompted one thought here at tBB Towers: if you were a professional footballer, and you could do one thing incredibly well, what would you want that thing be?

We don't mean position, here; you can't answer "I would like to midfield well". That's cheating. We're going more granular than that. So you can choose passing, or tackling, or dribbling, or maybe even distribution-with-the-feet-as-a-goalkeeper, if you're feeling a little bit adventurous. But, should you choose any of those, you would of course be lying, to yourself and to tBB. There is only one acceptable answer to this question, and that is: I would like to be able to shoot really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hard.

Fifteen reallys there. It might not be enough.

Though Scottish by birth and international affiliation, Herd was brought up in Manchester; his father, Alex, played alongside Matt Busby for Manchester City, and his son began his career at Stockport. He moved to Arsenal in 1953-54, scored 108 goals in 180 games but didn't win anything, and was then brought back to Manchester to replace the departing Dennis Viollet, who'd had a row with Busby over money.

He never matched Viollet's 32 league goals in a single season — nor has any other United player, before or since — but he scored plentifully and consistently for six seasons between 1961-62 and 1966-67, picking up an FA Cup in 1963 and then the title in 1967. He was still at the club in 1967-68, as the Holy Trinity made their way to European Cup glory, but a broken leg restricted him to just eight appearances and a single goal. And then he was off to Stoke City, having scored a frankly admirable 145 in 265, enough to put him thirteenth on the all-time scorers' list.

Back to those really hard shots, though. Teammate Paddy Crerand recalled that Herd had "the most powerful shot". Now, we don't know if he meant "ever" or just "in the United team at that time". But given that Herd and Crerand were both contemporaries of Bobby Charlton, a man who knew how to put his foot through a football, we're going to suggest that whichever he meant, there isn't too much difference.

Of course, Herd could do plenty more. For much of his United career he was Denis Law's striking partner, and with Law, Charlton and later on Best running around alongside him, he'd never have got anywhere if he hadn't known when to move the ball on. But there's a universality to the screaming shot: other footballing skills wax and wane in importance as the game evolves, but there will always be a place for the ability to kick the ball dead hard past the goalkeeper. And from Hot Shot Herd to Hot Shot Hamish, there's something pure and thrilling about seeing a player catch the ball cleanly and send the thing sliding through the air, untouched and untroubled by such mundane concerns as air resistance and gravity, blithely evading the "laws" of physics.

Look, don't take our word for it. Watch the video below, and keep an eye out around 2:30.