Post by hatter_in_macc on Sept 17, 2023 13:55:18 GMT
Here's a programme-piece (Boston United issue) I wrote about him five years ago, for any Hatters on here who would like to read it...
HATTERS’ GAFFERS: COLIN MURPHY
Hatter in Macc takes the column into relatively more recent times to recall a County ‘Messiah’.
Boston fans may not thank me for evoking memories of a Hatters’ Gaffer who was also, in equal measure, a managerial hero and a cult figure at their near-footballing-neighbours Lincoln City - even bearing in mind that ‘near’, in this instance, amounts to around 35 miles!
But it is time the tale were told of Colin Murphy - without whose miracle-working over 30 years ago, County might never have made it as a going concern into the 1990s, let alone enjoyed the sweet successes of that decade under Danny Bergara and then Dave Jones.
Murphy had three spells at Edgeley Park - beginning with a two-month stint as Manager from August to October 1985, and culminating in his return during November 2001, for just under a year, as Director of Football to accompany Carlton Palmer’s first appointment in management.
Neither of those tenures on Murphy’s part saw magic deeds done. But it was for the one in between, when he came back a year after leaving County for Saudi Arabia to coach Jeddah-based side Al-Ittihad, that he deserves the Freedom of Stockport for saving our town’s club.
That was in 1986/87 - the season heralding the introduction of automatic promotion and relegation between the Football League and non-league’s top-tier Conference. And by October 1986, the Hatters, under Jimmy Melia, were already so far adrift, with a paltry six points from 14 games, that they seemed odds-on to be the first FL outfit to be demoted in this way.
Over the seven months that followed Melia’s sacking and Murphy’s re-engagement, County picked up 45 points - and, as the campaign reached its conclusion, could watch the relegation drama play out from a position of safety. The season’s records show the Hatters finished in an unsensational-looking 19th place, as well as having been humiliatingly knocked out of the FA Cup at Northern Premier League Caernarfon Town. But off paper, they had escaped spectacularly.
This Houdini act cannot go unmentioned among Murphy’s more obvious successes as a boss and a coach elsewhere. But he was not only worthy of acclaim for footballing reasons - as any Hatter who ever read his programme notes will testify…
1. ‘To extemporise or not to extemporise, that is the issue we face today.’
In penning his idiosyncratic messages - like the one above that, in 1989, ‘earned’ him a Plain English Campaign ‘Golden Bull’ gobbledegook award - Murphy simultaneously enthralled and mystified the programme-buying masses with his inventive use of the English language and surrealist imagery. Our own award-winning publication’s ancestor-issues from 1986/87 are notably sought after, and rather more so than those of other Fourth Division contemporaries, for his unique musings.
2. By Jove, where did you get that hat?!
‘If you want to get ahead, get a hat’, as an old advertising slogan implored when Murphy - born in 1944 - was a lad. He took the advice during adult life - and, not untypically for him, did so in a rather distinctive way by making a deerstalker his headwear of choice. This sartorial Sherlock Holmes tribute on occasions went further, when he also sported a cape and checked trousers.
“Excellent!” his adoring Hatters cried. “Elementary”, said he.
3. He managed at every level in the Football League… and far, far beyond.
Murphy, who never played professionally, got his first managerial break in the top flight - taking over from Dave Mackay at Derby County for 1976/77. He occupied the hot-seat at Southend United - where he bought, nurtured and sold on, at a then-whopping £2.5 million profit, young striker (and latter-day outspoken pundit), Stan Collymore - in the second tier during 1992/93. And later that same decade, he added Notts County to Lincoln - more of whom anon - and the Hatters as clubs for whom he was a gaffer in the lower divisions. Across the Irish Sea, Murphy also worked wonders for Shelbourne, whose team, within six months during 2004/05, he took from the edge of the League of Ireland’s relegation zone to just a few points short of the title, as well as to the FAI Cup Final. And, even further afield, he served as national coach to both Burma and Vietnam - guiding the latter to a Bronze Medal at the Southeast Asian Games in 1997.
4. Murphy and the curious case of the Lincs links.
Fans of Lincoln City, like we Hatters, had cause to worship ‘Merlin’ Murphy - as he first became known for guiding the ‘Imps’ to promotion from Division Four in 1980/81. Following a seven-year stint at Lincoln that ended with his first EP appointment in 1985, Murphy’s next notable act of wizardry - namely, the Hatters’ great escape from the basement position during his second County spell - was not quite so enthusiastically lauded at Sincil Bank, as the Imps ended up in that dreaded 24th place on the final day of 1986/87 to suffer the inaugural automatic drop into the Conference.
Whether out of sympathy, guilt, attachment from the early ‘80s, or a combination of all three, Murphy’s next career move was to go down a level into the world of non-league and return to Lincoln - taking with him a posse of five County players in the process. One of them, centre-half Trevor Matthewson, was duly made captain of the Imps, who proceeded to bounce straight back into the FL as Conference champions at the first time of asking. And with that, his God-like standing in the cathedral city was restored. Lincoln supporters, in 1989, even named a fanzine - ‘Deranged Ferret’ - after another of his classic programme-note phrases.
But did he still hold a place in his heart for County afterwards? Best, perhaps, to leave this one to the man himself - writing about the Hatters, as only he could, after rescuing us and then moving on:
‘...Reminiscent of the eerie old haunted house that had been empty for years and was begging for life. No different to the dodo. How joyful for them not to have acrimoniated in the non-league. How delightful for them to be making a success of defeating extinction. Let us hope we are all able to be pulmonic!’
Well, quite. And Amen to that!
5. Colin Murphy (b. 21 January 1944) - County management record in the Football League, 1985 and 1986-87 (two spells):
I think the comment about Jimmy Melia was a little unprofessional (it actually was disastrous, but they shouldn't be saying that on the official website), plus there's the odd typo, but on the whole it's a decent enough tribute.