MOSSLEY FOOTBALL Club heroes Eamon O’Keefe and Leo Skeete were among the mourners at the funeral of legendary manager Bob Murphy.
And the former strikers paid tribute to Murphy, who died aged 83, after he made the Seel Park side one of the top non-league teams in the country in the late 1970s and early 80s.
And the crowning glory for Murphy was leading Mossley to the 1980 final of the FA Trophy at Wembley where the team’s 31-match unbeaten run came to an end following a 2-1 defeat to Dagenham.
O’Keefe had been playing in Saudi Arabia when he was recruited by Mossley.
He said: “I was having difficulty getting my international clearance to return home and no other club would touch me.
“Bob was determined to sign me and we had some great years, winning back-to-back Northern Premier League titles at a time when our league contained teams like Altrincham, Boston, Runcorn and Scarborough.
“Altrincham were beating Football League clubs in the FA Cup regularly at that time yet our little team beat them to win the league.”
O’Keefe paid tribute to Murphy who, in his second spell with the Lilywhites, succeeded Howard Wilkinson, who went on to manage Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and England.
He explained: “Howard brought in Yorkshire players like David Vaughan and Ian Smith from Yorkshire and Bob gelled them into the team he created.
“He has a hard man and training was tough but enjoyable. He was very professional and disciplined which probably came from being in the Army.
“When I look back, they were great times and I don’t think anybody will ever surpass what he achieved at a little village club.”
Murphy certainly had a major influence on O’Keefe’s career as he went on to sign for Everton for £25,000, a big fee back at that time.
Skeete remembers Murphy as a strict disciplinarian, but also Mossley being the fittest team in their league.
“We would go running around Dovestones reservoir and also doing countless laps of Churchill Playing Fields.
“Bob also had a great desire to win, something he passed on to his players.”
Murphy also had a knack of plucking players from amateur football and developing them into top non-league footballers.
One of them was Harry Pollitt, from Failsworth, who said: “I was aged 22 and playing for Newton Heath Working Men’s Club when Bob signed me for Mossley.
“I had seven great years at Mossley and appearing at Wembley was the best day of my life.”
Mickey Halliday and Billy Hughes were signed from Moss Side Amateurs and both were at the funeral to pay their respects.
Halliday, who owns a music studio and courier business as well as being a personal trainer, said: “I had no father and needed a father figure in my life. Bob taught me discipline, inner strength, to respect myself and to be a winner, qualities that have helped me in my life.
“Bob took me off the street and helped improve my life. He was tough but you could not meet a more honest person.
“I didn’t get the chance to play for Mossley at Wembley but later did so with Witton Albion in the FA Trophy.”
Hughes, another player taken from the streets of inner-city Manchester, said: “Bob made me the man I am today and, without him, I would not have received the MBE from the Queen for working with street kids in Moss Side and Hulme.
“Bob always saw something in you. He was a winner and sometimes was hard to take, but he made me a stronger person. I treasure memories of the great man.”
Murphy’s funeral took place at St Mary’s RC Church, Failsworth, followed by committal at Hollinwood Crematorium and a wake at his beloved Mossley Football Club where he had been president since 2003.
Club official John Cawthorne read a touching eulogy at the funeral focusing on the FA Trophy final campaign in which they overcame Spennymoor, Boston FC, Altrincham, Blyth Spartans and Boston United.
Mossley took 10,000 fans to Wembley – the population of the town at that time was only that number – an indication as to the scale of the achievement.