GERRY MURPHY could hardly have expected his testimonial season to end like this!
Twelve months after completing what he thought would be his only experience of Football League management, the popular Irishman starts a second caretaker spell at the Town helm.
He lost just once in six matches last time, and he’ll be aiming to avoid defeat between now and whenever Andy Ritchie’s successor is appointed.
Murphy, now 64, will be drawing on his experience last season and taking advantage of an even closer knowledge of first-team affairs since he became Town’s director of football development last summer.
Previously in charge of the academy, over which he still has a major influence, Murphy will start his second spell in charge the same way as his first – with a big Galpharm derby.
And he’ll be delighted if the 2-0 scoreline against Bradford is repeated when promotion-chasing Doncaster come to town for a key League I game on Saturday.
A week after that, it’s a trip to struggling Port Vale, where Town’s second team were in Pontin’s League action this afternoon.
Then, on Tuesday April 15, it’s the big one – the home showdown with Leeds.
“I don’t know if I’ll still be in charge at that stage, but if I am – fine,” said Murphy, who took his first steps into football management with District League Rawthorpe in 1969-70, the season Ian Greaves became the last manager to lead Town into the top flight.
“All you can do is concentrate on the next match and I’ll carry on doing that as long as I need to.”
Murphy started planning for Doncaster’s visit yesterday, leading training after the news of Ritchie’s departure had been broken to the players.
“It’s never nice when a manager leaves, whatever the circumstances, and because Andy was such a fantastic bloke, it makes it even more difficult to deal with,” added Murphy.
“We obviously had concerns at our position in the league, but we were working hard at rectifying matters.
“It’s never a normal situation, even though the departure of a manager is becoming an all too familiar scenario in football.
“Andy was as popular with the players as he was with the people behind the scenes at the club, and they will all have been shocked by the news.
“But my job between now and Saturday is to make life as normal as possible for the players and do as much as I can to help them focus on the job at hand, which is beating Doncaster Rovers.
“Like last time, I’ll put my own stamp on things, but my aim will be to do it in a subtle way.
“I was new to top-level management previously, but while the experience was short, I believe it will be of benefit now.”
Murphy’s other matches at the helm last season (away to Carlisle and Brighton, at home to Port Vale and then at Oldham, where Town were drubbed 4-1 on Saturday in Ritchie’s last game) all ended in draws.
But a three-point boost for the fans is firmly in the sights of the man who first joined Town 20 years ago as part-time back-up for then youth coach George Mulhall.
Instrumental in Town gaining much-prized academy status in 1999, he holds the academy directors’ licence and the UEFA ‘A’ advanced coaching badge, the highest qualifications in youth football.
Not bad for a man whose early experience of the game was limited to street football in his native Dublin because the school he attended only played Gaelic football.
A ball boy at his beloved Shelbourne, he moved to Huddersfield in 1956, when his father took a job in the chemical industry.
Murphy played junior football for YMCA, Birkby CYC and Milnsbridge YMCA before joining Britannia Works in the semi-pro West Yorkshire League in 1964, by which time he was right-half.
He played for Newsome WMC in the District League before success as player-coach of Rawthorpe, then as manager of now-defunct Bradley Rangers, who reached the Northern Counties East League under his guidance.
Married to Irene, he has a son Simon, a daughter Tracy and three grandsons.