From time-to-time, a player appearing for a non-league club is poached by one of the top flight teams in true rages-to-riches Cinderella style. Spotted playing non-league for Moor Green, David Busst was signed for Coventry City in the summer of 1992 by then manager Bobby Gould. Never the best defender in the game, what Busst lacked in ability he more than made for in determination and enthusiasm. The Sky Blue faithful took to him almost immediately, as it appeared to be a Coventry tradition to have a player who would give their absolute all every game, but lacked skill and ability. Previous to Busst’s arrival at Highfield Road, City had had on their books Jim Holton, Paul Dyson, Greg Downs – all crowd favourites.
Busst made his debut for the Sky Blues in January 1993 in a FA Cup tie against Norwich, and gradually became a fan’s favourite with his commitment and work ethic. Over the following seasons, Busst slowly began to establish himself in the side, selected by the next two Coventry managers Phil Neal and Ron Atkinson regularly. However, Busst’s career ended at Old Trafford on Easter Monday 1996.
Two minutes into the match, having ventured forward after the Sky Blues had won a corner, Busst collided with United players Denis Irwin and Brian McClair. Busst suddenly collapsed to the pitch in a manner which clearly said something was seriously wrong. The accidental collision with Irwin and McClair resulted in Busst’s right leg suffered immediate and quite gruesome extensive compound fractures to both the tibia and fibula. Photographs taken at the moment of the incident, show the Coventry player’s leg literally folding on itself, Busst crashing to the turf in agony, and immediately reaching out for his club captain, Dion Dublin for help. Both nearby Manchester players (Irwin and McClair) were first to see Busst’s plight, demanding for medical assistance to the stricken Sky Blues defender. The match had to be delayed for nine minutes, Busst needing to be removed from the field obviously on a stretcher, while blood was cleaned off the grass. It is reputed that Manchester United's goalkeeper, Danish International Peter Schmeichel – another witness to the entire incident - vomited on the pitch upon seeing the injury and had to have counselling afterwards, along with a number of the other Coventry and United players. The injury is often cited as one of the worst in the history of football. Busst's injuries were so bad that at one point he ran the risk of having his leg amputated.
While in hospital, Busst contracted MRSA, which caused further damage to the tissue and muscle in the injured part of his leg. Despite having over twenty-six operations, Busst remained a member of the official Sky Blues squad for a further seven months, but never played professionally again. He retired from the game following advice from his doctors in late 1996, aged only twenty-nine. It was however, not the break that ended his career, but the infections he suffered afterwards. A specialist who treated Busst had warned him that had the injury been suffered twenty years earlier, it would probably have required amputation.
Coventry City granted Busst a benefit / testimonial match, played at the end of the 1996-97 campaign, with Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United more than willing to play for the unlucky centre-half. The game played at Highfield Road was a sell-out. England internationals Paul Gascoigne and Les Ferdinand guested for Coventry in the game, which was also notable for being the last game that United captain and France International Eric Cantona, as he announced his retirement as a player two days later. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, with Busst scoring a last minute penalty past Schmeichel after United’s Brian McClair had contrivedly fouled compatriot Gordon Strachan for the third time in quick succession to ensure Busst could come onto the field from the substitute’s bench and take the spot kick. After retirement, Busst remained at Coventry becoming Director of Community Football, before gaining his UEFA coaching badges and managing non-league Solihull Borough, then Evesham Town.