There is that famous scene in Lord of the rings. Gandolph the grey now fully ‘fully blinged out` has become to Gandolph the white. He rides on rampaging steed into the fray to free the all but fallen City. . In 1987-88 Colin Murphy was Lincoln City’s Gandolph, and he rode in on a white Wembley thoroughbred to lead us back into the League. John Reames (RIP) reasoned, as only he could, that as Colin had lead Stockport to safety at our expense, a sympathy/ guilt close could get him back at the Imps. It worked and Colin kept up a unique record over the last 124 seasons that has seen us bounce back first time, 4 times.
Colin will be entwined in Lincoln history as much as the Cathedral and glancing just as fondly upon us today over the Humber, if his columns in the Echo are anything to go by. A rather direct, black humour exponent he is a one off. Quite how he is allowed near a pen after his infamous program notes is another matter. For Colin has perhaps bastardised the English language almost as badly as text messaging. “To extemporise or not to extemporise that is the issue we face today”, was one that got the attention of the Plain English Campaign Committee. Though eccentricity was clearly the mother of invention, they gave him ‘The Golden Bull` award in 1989. I wont labour this one as stones and greenhouses come to mind.
Murphy is very much like Arsene Wenger, finding management to be his forte far more than the playing side. After a non-league playing career based in and around London, Colin ‘Merlin` Murphy took up coaching with Derby. Sportingly, they then made him the sacrificial lamb November 1976. Even all smile no substance Tony Blaire wouldn`t be able to blag this job. Fill your boots son, a bit of a poisoned Challis, but why not follow up Cloughie`s act by leading us to even greater things? Surprisingly 10 months on he hadn`t quite got the Grail and got the push.
In 1978 Lincoln came calling. This bargain basement style challenge he could handle. With plenty of muck and no brass he was to transform the club from top to bottom. After GT`s departure, George Kerr and Willie Bell had lasted a season apiece, squandered the legacy and got us relegated. Bet they were popular with the local bookies. The playing staff was full of overpaid under talented journeyman using up the clubs money on bench warming contracts. Any talent was just going through the motions or kept in the youth team under a regime that reasoned ‘if we have to pay ’em we have to play ’em. So Murphy and his scouts went to Pennywise, shopping for either Non leaguers or reserves. We would pinch them, make them and then sell them, reasoned the wily ‘Murph`. Top talent such as Trevor Peake, John Fashanu, Gordon Hobson and Steve Thompson went on to become Imp legends before moving up the ladder in exchange for a huge return on investment. .
In 1981 the Murphy fair trade blend took us up as Runners up. The following season went right to the wire. The City emptied as everyone went to Fulham. Alas a 1-1 draw saw the Lilywhite Elves pip the Mighty Imps by a point. Not a quitter Merlin Murphy and the Imp hordes trudged back to fight another day. The 82-83 season saw us storm the league for four months. Lineker`s Leicester fell to the Imps in the League CUP, fact not folklore. Now believe it or not Boston do not have the sole rights to Lincolnshire football soap operas. With games in hand the players went on strike. They had a point as strife in the boardroom and financial problems meant the wages hadn`t been paid.
Steff would have to have a pretty bad year to beat good old Gilbert Blades. Fans favourite Trevor Peak was sold despite us being runaway leaders! Murphy asked for some of the cash to replace him. He was told no. The natives were getting restless as death threats came from Imps. By March we had the coup d’état or Directors resignation (DR) day when the entire board resigned. We still managed 6th a result, given the fallout. Colin still stayed. on until 1985 helping us through the fateful Bradford Fire, which gave rise to the Stacey West Stand. I bet if he met Mother Theresa, she`d give him her Nobel Peace Prize, uttering ‘for thou art equally worthy`. Doubtless Colin would coin a wondrous phrase.
Two years later George Kerr had lost our league place for us. Ok Peter Daniel officially took us down, but in two months even an Abramovich stool pigeon would suffer. Sods law, guess who was manager of the team who pipped us? yep Murphy`s wand spared Stockport. Well they were dancing all day at the Stonebow as Merlin Murphy Magician, Druid, Football Rescues R Us and good all round egg was appointed to take us back. And he did, henceforth to be known as Murphy the Messiah then? Well not quite as two tenth place finishes and lack of ambition at board level saw a straight bat, Gentlemanly ‘by mutual consent` parting of the ways. (Games 412 Wins 160 Draws 114 Losses 138 Pts 594).
Colin then went on to manage Shelbourne in Ireland, Southend and Notts County for a season apiece before giving up on full time management in 1996, realising coaching was more his bag. Working with players is much easier than the politics that a manager must endure. Mind you he had a spell as Vietnam`s manager. League 2 football must have helped his nerves there. Incoming! Colin was instrumental behind the scenes at Leicester in a general football and development role. Since joining Hull in 2002 he has continued as a director of football. Unlike half day Deehan, he relishes responsible for all scouting and youth development as well as day to day coaching. The mud of the training ground, just like the Imps is clearly in the blood.
Despite a recent stroke he mustered the strength to attend the Bash at the Bentley to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of our return to the League and Conference Crown. We could see, despite illness that he and John Reames (RIP) will always love our club. It was Johns first and last outing for months. Murph uttered but a sentence or two himself, yet they would sign every autograph. If you take the Imp out of Murphy you take part of his heart and passion it seems. Nights like that make you realise what a fantastic phenominan Lincoln City is. In our 125th season we should spare a thought for the selfless individuals that have given so much for Lincoln folk to enjoy League Football.
And fortunately we have a new champion now to carry us. Peter Jackson is the new chosen one, The Lord of the Imps.