TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to Bob Murphy, Mossley Football Club’s greatest-ever manager, who has died at the age of 83.
Murphy was the man who proudly led the Lilywhites out at Wembley in 1980 in the final of the FA Trophy when they lost 2-1 to Dagenham.
And in the days before the creation of the National League, Mossley were one of the finest teams in non-league football.
In four successive years, Mossley never finished outside the top two in the Northern Premier League, a division that included the likes of Altrincham, Boston United, Macclesfield Town and Scarborough.
Former Oldham Athletic chief executive Alan Hardy, who lives in Delph, was Mossley secretary/commercial manager during Murphy’s reign.
He said: “Bob was the most successful manager Mossley have ever had and, the way non-league football has gone, never again will the club achieve what they did under him.
“He was responsible for getting us to Wembley and on the day the town was deserted as 10,000 fans made the journey to London.
“For a club of Mossley’s size, it was incredible what they achieved when Bob was manager. He was a one-off and somebody who was devoted to football. It was his life.”
Though Murphy also managed Stalybridge Celtic, Northwich Victoria, Southport, Barrow and Buxton, Mossley always remained his club and in 2003 he was elected club president in recognition of his service to the club. And until his health deteriorated in the last couple of years, he was a regular visitor to Seel Park.
Derek Rigby, who covered Mossley for the Ashton Reporter Group during Murphy’s reign, said: “Bob was very shrewd and had great attention to detail.
“When Mossley were playing away to a team like Woking, he would ask me to ring their local paper to find out who their best players were.”
Independent sports editor Tony Bugby also wrote about Mossley for the Ashton Reporter during Murphy’s second spell as manager, remembering him as a visionary and somebody well ahead of his times.
He said: “Sports science is a major part of football today, but 35 years ago it had never been dreamt of. Bob had a pair of scales and weighed the players before and after games to determine their workrate during games.
“Mossley beat Football League club Crewe Alexandra in the FA Cup when Mike Summerbee, the former Manchester City and England winger, was lured out of retirement to play for them as a one-off.
“They also played other FA Cup ties against League clubs Mansfield Town, Huddersfield Town and Darlington in that golden era.”
Former player Kevan Keelan tweeted: “There will never be another Bob Murphy. Thanks for building a team that gave me the chance to play at Wembley.”
And former Mossley manager Ally Pickering described him as the Alex Ferguson of non-league football.
Murphy’s playing career was modest as he appeared for Stadt Verden while stationed in Germany during his army days and later for Mather & Platt and St Dunston’s Parish Church in the Manchester Amateur League.
His association with Mossley began when he recommended a player to them and was invited to become chief scout and later became assistant manager and manager in January 1974.
Murphy was sacked in November 1976 and had short stints at Stalybridge Celtic and Northwich Victoria, before returning for a second spell in January 1978..
What followed was the greatest spell in Mossley’s history as they won the NPL title in 1978/79 scoring an amazing 117 league goals and retaining it the next season after going on a 31-match unbeaten run in league and cup as they also reached the final of the FA Trophy at Wembley.
Mossley were runners-up in each of the next two seasons but, with the club’s finances in dire straits, he left again in December 1983 later managing Southport, Barrow and Buxton where he stayed for seven years.
Murphy came out of retirement in December 1992 to try and save Mossley from relegation to the North West Counties League but, despite his best efforts, the team went down.
He later helped rookie Mossley managers Steve Taylor and Roy Soule and turned to scouting with spells at Leeds United and Oldham Athletic.
When Mossley again found themselves without a manager in 2001/02 season, Murphy again stepped into the breach and acted as caretaker manager for two games prior to the appointment of Pickering.
But one of his proudest moments came in 2003 when he was invited to become Mossley president, a role he held for more than 12 years until his death.
The funeral of former Mossley Football Club manager Bob Murphy takes place on Thursday, March 10.
Mass is at St Mary’s Church, Failsworth, at 10am followed by committal at Hollinwood Crematorium at 11am.
There will be a wake afterwards at Mossley AFC social club, at which all who knew Bob are welcome to attend.