“People are easily forgotten. Statues are there forever.” In the case of Jimmy Murphy, the phrase could not be more apt. Seventy five years to the day after Jimmy Murphy led Manchester United out at Wembley for the 1958 FA Cup Final, a memorial was being unveiled at the stadium.
A part of the training facilities at the outpost of Carrington had been named after Jimmy Murphy but this wasn’t the level of respect this great man deserved. Most United supporters felt that a fitting tribute must be accessible to all the match day supporters. It has been too long in coming.
Due mainly to a collaboration between the various supporters organisations, initiated by Pat Burns, along with collaborations with the ex-players of Manchester United, this long overdue tribute was finally constructed and unveiled at Old Trafford on the 3rd May 2023.
A crowd of over 700 supporters, old and young, turned up at Old Trafford to pay their respect to a much loved and sometimes undervalued and underappreciated member of the club and its history.
There was a banner at the celebration that asked the question “Who will carry the flag?” alluding to the tragic disaster at Munich. It continued ‘Jimmy Murphy said “I will” with a tear in his eye’
In bright Manchester sunlight on a gorgeous afternoon, those present were treated initially to a rendition by Pete Martin of the song that has been fine tuned over the years as a tribute to Jimmy Murphy.
Sculptor Alan Herriot then explained the detail to attention that had to be undertaken so that the structure could be created.
With Jimmy now deceased, Alan had to work with a multitude of photographs taken from different angles, supplemented with details remembered by family members.
This included the ripped collar, replicated in the statue, along with Murphy’s clenched fist of defiance. Often forgotten is the fact that Murphy was a much in demand coach in his own right. Coaching the youth team to five successive trophies, led to approaches from Juventus and even Brazil, approaches that were eventually rebuffed by someone who wanted to stay where he was and continue the love affair at United .
Whilst there was the well known triumvirate of Best, Charlton and Law that led United towards the European Cup victory in 1968, the equally effective trio of Sir Matt Busby, Jimmy Murphy and Walter Crickmer were just as potent in building teams over many years in order to get to Wembley in 68.
Some of the most electrifying commentary came from Jimmy Murphy Jr. who recited the time of a household having one phone. Youngsters with a mobile handset glued to their hand 24/7 will find that hard to contemplate. It constantly rang with support from other teams as Jimmy tried to find and field 11 players at a time when a squad was a fraction of those in the Premier League nowadays.
At the time, some people wanted United to take a season off in order to regroup and re-build, Jimmy was having none of that.
Jimmy Jnr. outlined how his mother, Winifred, was the rock of the family, unseen and happy to keep in the background. Yet she was the glue that kept Jimmy Murphy and their six offspring’s together, along with the millions who supported Manchester United.
The event was closed with a poem from Tony Walsh, aka Longfellow. In order to create his work, he sat with the family, listening to details in order to create a 10 minute long memorial that had the person next to me wiping the tears away.
As everybody disappeared away from the stadium with the sunlight on their back, we all reflected how wonderful and warm the occasion it was and how I was honoured to be in attendance.
Words and Images – Ged Noonan (Gedcamera)
Tony Walsh aka “Longfella” @ The Jimmy Murphy Statue Unveiling Old Trafford 3-5-23 https://www.facebook.com/ged.camera/videos/651242220348187/
Pete Martin playing @ The Jimmy Murphy Statue Unveiling Old Trafford 3-5-23 https://www.facebook.com/850695610/videos/162925359776848/
Jimmy Murphy Jnr. @ The Jimmy Murphy Snr. Statue Unveiling Old Trafford 3-5-23 https://www.facebook.com/850695610/videos/953692278970475/
Sir Alex Ferguson recording @ The Jimmy Murphy Statue Unveiling Old Trafford 3-5-23 https://www.facebook.com/850695610/videos/732204465353782/