Cantona, Giggs, Law, Charlton and Best - all would seem obvious candidates for the accolade of Manchester United's 'penalty king'. But none has come close to the record of the man the FA once admitted was the greatest outside-left England never had - Charlie Mitten. Mitten was an ever-present in the first great post-war side which established the legend that is Manchester United today. His tally of 17 spot-kicks taken, 17 scored, remains unbeaten. A mercurial, raiding left-winger, Mitten first joined the Old Trafford club from Scottish junior football and was looking every bit a star in the making when the Second World War broke out. In 1946 he returned to United to sign for their inspirational new manager, Matt Busby. But Charlie stepped out of line as a trailblazer in the players' contract revolution. Then he walked out on club and country in 1950 to play in South America for a millionaire football baron who was offering riches beyond the wildest dreams of even the brightest soccer stars of Mitten's generation.
During one short season with Bogota Santa Fe, Mitten won a place in South African folklore as orchestrator-in-chief of one of the most sensational upsets in football history - a search Colombian XI's defeat of the newly crowned world champions, Uraguay. Rejecting an offer from Real Madrid, Mitten returned to Britain only to find he was a football outlaw, frozen out by the FA selectors and by Manchester United, who refused to take him back. He joined unfashionable Fulham and, in a brilliant swansong in 1952-56, inspired a glorious young forward line-up. From there he went into management, first at Mansfield and eventually at Newcastle, but his attempts to produce a more skilful approach to the game and his warnings of an impending soccer hurricane from the South American continent were largely ignored. Living in retirement in Stockport until his death in 2002 aged 82, Charlie Mitten remains the only man ever to be capped by three different countries (Scotland, England and Colombia). Bogota Bandit is the absorbing account of his life.
Richard Adamson is a print and TV journalist who has worked for, amongst others, Granada, LWT and Central, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail.