My first working week at The FA as regional director for the South in 1995 was unforgettable.
Theodora, who was the brilliant secretary for the three FA regional directors, welcomed me at the Potters Bar office and we immediately set up some induction meetings.
“I’d like to meet Colin Murphy on Friday morning please, apparently he’s the man with experience to show me the ropes.”
Dora informed me this was a problem – ‘the Murph’ always had a two-hour meeting with himself on Friday mornings.
It wasn’t until I got to know him that I realised how clever this was. Murph’s ‘me time’ was genuine working time, to think and get himself organised.
We managed to arrange a non-Friday morning meeting. I told Colin that I lived in Watford and he suggested we meet halfway, at Stamford, a village on the A1.
The next day I drove for two hours and met him in Stamford, a short 10-minute drive from his home in Grantham. From our first meeting, when he giggled at my poor organisation and naivety to not check the AA road atlas, I felt he took me under his wing and was always on hand to offer help and advice – whether I liked it or not!
A few months into my new job I was assisting Colin on a coaching award at Lilleshall and delivered my first practical demonstration. Within five seconds of it ending, Murph beckoned; “Eh, come here. If you slowed down a bit, the candidates might understand what you’re trying to teach them.”
He winked and chuckled to himself – and another layer of learning was dished out from a true critical friend. Many others will share similar anecdotes.
So, it was a sledgehammer blow when another former colleague, Robin Russel, informed me that Colin E Murphy had passed away.
We're grateful to Robin who provided this brief resume of Colin’s career:
- Born in Hull and went to the same school as another outstanding FA coach, Keith Blunt.
- National Service in Germany as he had German A-Level.
- PE College in Cardiff.
- Taught in London - bizarrely and with much confusion for the pupils - alongside the Colin Murphy who went on to manage the likes of Derby County, Lincoln City and Stockport County.
- Obtained FA coaching awards and played Southern League football.
- Joined Charlton Athletic as a youth coach and then as a reserve coach for several years.
- Joined The FA as regional coach for London in 1973.
- Along with Allen Wade, visited and conducted The FA technical report of the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
- From 1973-2001, Colin must have directed or staffed over 60 'full badge' courses - or what became the UEFA A Licence course - engaging with over 5,000 students.
- In addition, he was the assistant manager to Graham Taylor for the England U18 team in 1982-1983, to Charles Hughes with the England U16 team in 1983-1985 and to Howard Wilkinson for the England U19 team in 1997-1999.
Colin’s final few years were spent specialising in talent ID and he retired from The FA in 2004.
Colin was an imposing figure, his swept-back hair, strong opinions and booming voice masked an extremely caring, big-hearted, sensitive man.
He was an outstanding presenter, who taught football with clarity and wonderful wit - he had a truly brilliant teaching style. He was masterful at coaching the fundamentals whether in the lecture theatre, the more interactive tutorial rooms or on the grass pitches.
By the time he took me under his wing on the coaching courses, his days of demonstrating box to box recovery runs were 20 years behind him. But on day two of any A Licence course, his annual demonstration of the low driven cross was on show and a sight to behold. Slightly more unorthodox than Trent Alexander-Arnold's – but on three occasions I witnessed the ball propelled like a rocket at waist height across the six-yard box.
Colin then asked the candidates if they could replicate a similar type of power and precision, before he squeezed back into his tracksuit bottoms and picked up his red clipboard. The course would be in fits of laughter, but behind the humour, he had found another way to paint simple but vivid pictures that any coach would need as they developed in their club career.
I had a couple of memorable days with Colin long after his retirement. His son Dominic was doing a module on video analysis at college and Colin rang to ask if they could both come down to Spurs and look at what the pro clubs were doing.
In his own inimitable way, Colin took charge, giving his son, the academy coaches and the analysts a very lengthy indoctrination in zonal marking at corners, with a prolonged defence of his passion for the one-man wall, ten yards from the kicker.
The analyst’s laptop remained unopened. Dominic could have got this masterclass at the dining table in Grantham – but if they’d stayed at home, he’d have missed seeing the hugs that his dad got from two Premier League players who had worked under him in the England youth teams. It would have been great to have had a photo of this moment and the mutual pride Dominic and his dad had.
It was a privilege to be invited to his 80th birthday a couple of years ago, see him take a few minutes to warm up, before finding his form and holding court in his unique style.
Each of us who worked with Colin throughout his 31 years at The Football Association will have disagreed with him regularly but will have learned greatly from his knowledge of football, especially his gift for teaching. Some were lucky enough to have benefitted from his compassion, and all will have spent hours upon hours laughing uncontrollably in his company.
Any feeling of indignation in Stamford, 26 years ago, soon turned to gratitude as it gave me access to the depth of Colin’s wisdom and rapport.
‘The Murph’ left his wonderful mark on FA colleagues, English coaching and England players alike.
The thoughts of everyone at The FA are with his family and friends.