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PersonalFullname: Robert Murdoch
aka: Bobby Murdoch, Murdy, Sam, Chopper
Born: 17 August 1944
Birthplace: Bothwell, Scotland
Died: 15 May 2001, aged 56
Signed: 23 October 1959
Left: 17 September 1973 (to Middlesbrough)
Position: Midfielder, Right-half
Debut: Hearts home 3-1 League cup 11 August 1962
Last game: Arbroath away 3-1 League cup 29 August 1973
First goal: Hearts home 3-1 League cup 11 August 1962
Last goal: Partick Thistle home 1-1 league 10 February 1973
International Caps: 12 Caps
International Goals: 6 goals
| "Bobby Murdoch is my complete footballer."|
Herrera (Inter Milan Manager) in the aftermath of Lisbon 1967
Bobby Murdoch was born on 17 August 1944 in Bothwell. Brought up in Rutherglen, he lived there for most of his life and attended St. Columbkillle's Primary school in Rutherglen, before moving to Our Lady's High Secondary in Motherwell where although only fourteen he played in the same school football 1st XI as Billy McNeill (his future Celtic & Lisbon Lions captain).
Murdoch signed for Celtic in August 1959 as a £3-a-week part-timer while working as a sheet metal worker. He gained experience playing for junior side Cambuslang Rangers before joining the Parkhead club permanently in 1961, and made his First Team debut against Hearts on 11th August 1962. It was Celtic's first competitive fixture of that season and the 17-year-old Murdoch was chosen when it was discovered that John Divers had forgotten his boots! We won 3-1.
Those early years were not easy for anyone, especially not for aspiring young players like Murdoch, and like certain of the other youngsters around him who were to later make their name with the club, his career was much in the balance. He was almost off to Australia at one point!
Jock Stein's arrival changed everything, and soon after Jock Stein had taken over as manager, he made the inspired decision to move Murdoch from his originally favoured 'inside-right' to 'right-half', where he became the midfield brain of the side throughout the 1960s. He wasn't mobile enough for a striker even though he possessed all the other attributes needed plus more.
Soon enough he became a central plank of the side where he built with Bertie Auld the engine for the side. This enabled Murdoch to play at his best, and his ability was so great that it belied his podgy build. His passing was said to be so perfect that one of his colleagues remarked with no real exaggeration that "he could land the ball on a thrupenny bit". Jim Craig highlighted the importance of Murdoch's playing ethos in that no matter how hard a time he was having in a match, he'd always be there for a pass or to help out. He was more than just a player in the Lisbon Lions.
Must add that when you first see him, it's hard to believe that he could be so skilful. He had a large frame and compared to modern footballers would seem unfit. However, he was anything but and the big teddy bear appearance just endeared him more to the fans. One story is said that Stein sent him to a health farm to lose weight only to come back heavier than before. The experiment was never repeated.
Most importantly, Murdoch played a vital part in the Lisbon Lions team who won the European Cup in 1967, and it was from Murdoch's shot that Stevie Chalmers deflected in the winner. Despite an ankle knock, he had been inspirational in that game. It may have been Chalmers' goal on paper, but likely Murdoch and the boys privately knew who was the real scorer behind it.
During his time at Celtic, he went on to win eight Scottish League titles, five Scottish Cups and five League Cups, as well as the European Cup medal, a magnificent haul for any man. He also played in the 1970 European Cup Final, when Celtic lost 2-1 to Feyenoord, where they were outplayed by the magnificent Dutch. Nevertheless, he never let this get him down and he plugged away.
One of the most notable games for Murdoch was the 1972 Scottish Cup final against Hibernian, where he gave a virtuoso performance in a mind-defying 6-1 victory ranked as one of our finest ever, and remains a Scottish Cup record to this day. His power and precision in his passing was the bulwark to this victory.
He was voted Scottish Player of the Year in 1969 and was a key player in the success throughout the 1960's and early 1970's for Celtic FC. Jock Stein once said that Bobby Murdoch was the best player he ever managed, and remarked to esteemed journalist Hugh McIlvaney that Murdoch was the most comprehensively gifted player in the side (an amazing compliment when you take in that this side included Jimmy Johnstone). Jim Craig's quote "When Murdoch plays,Celtic play!" is an indication of how important Bobby was to the team.
The Lisbon Lions players themselves (including Jimmy Johnstone who was voted "The Greatest Ever Celtic Player") generally held the opinion that Bobby Murdoch was the best footballer of the Lisbon Lions.
Despite the incredible skill, he wasn't afraid to stick up for himself either or for his team-mates if need be. His size gave him a visual advantage before he'd even approached the opposition player, with the legendary Man U manager Alex Ferguson being one man to feel the rage of "Chopper" in a legendary picture. It was to be Alex Ferguson's last match for Rangers, possibly scared off after this moment (full picture).
One interesting anecdote is that Bobby never asked an opposition player to swap his jersey after a game. For example, see the famous photo of the Celtic players running around Hampden and celebrating at the end of the European Cup victory against Leeds United. Most of the Celtic players are wearing Leeds jerseys, but Bobby is still wearing the Hoops. He would happily swap his jersey, but only if an opposition player asked him.
As for Scotland, as Hugh McIlvaney put it, Murdoch was awarded an insulting total of just 12 caps! Less said the better on the pathetic international set-up on picking players and their loss was our gain.
He left Celtic in 1973, having played 484 games and scoring 105 goals, and transferred to Middlesbrough admitting that he needed a fresh challenge. He went on to make 125 appearances before his retirement in 1976 having become a firm favourite at his new club. One of the upcoming players he mentored was Graeme Souness.
Murdoch after playing took up the role of juniors' coach at Middlesbrough. Later on, he had a brief, but unsuccessful spell manager of Middlesbrough between 1981 and 1982, ending with his departure shortly after the club were relegated to Division Two.
After leaving football, Murdoch had an unsuccessful spell as a publican that ended in debt but in his last years he had a role helping at Celtic Park with match-day hospitality where he was a lively and respected host.
So after all that, we have learned that the big man was a hard-edged winner of which any team would be proud of, but there was another side as Jim Craig likes to recall. Bobby Murdoch for all of his toughness was always greeting (crying). He cried when the Celts won (or lost). The hard man was a big softie underneath it all, and reveals a human touch which we all can admire.
He died on 15 May 2001, aged 56, following a stroke, in the Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow, and remains a much missed and beloved man.
| APPEARANCES ||LEAGUE||SCOTTISH CUP||LEAGUE CUP||EUROPE||TOTAL|
|1959 - 1973||291||53||83||57||484|
Honours as a Celtic Player
Quotes"Bobby Murdoch is my complete footballer."
Herrera (Inter Milan Manager) in the aftermath of Lisbon 1967
"As far as I'm concerned, Bobby Murdoch was just about the best player I had as manager.”
"Bobby was a strange guy in many ways. Up front he was a big, brash, confident-looking lad but on the other hand he was a great introvert at times and a real family man. He was not a confident person. We always had to push him before the game, when you thought with his talent he would have just come out and got on with it. A lot of that stemmed from the fact Bobby knew how much we relied on him and the pressure came from that responsibility. He had two great feet, a powerful shot and terrific vision. There can be no higher compliment than to say when Bobby played, the team played. You name it, he could do it. He was just superb to play behind."
Jim Craig on Murdoch
“To me Bobby Murdoch will go down as one of the finest Celts ever. He was absolutely magnificent and could have played for any team at any level. The phrase “world class” is a bit overused, but he was that and a little bit more. Sometimes people forget that.”
"He came along at just the right time, not only for me but for the whole team. His experience settled us down as we went for promotion and he also proved to be a big influence on my career. Bobby was an excellent passer of the ball and he had an excellent attitude. He would always pull me to one side to pass on advice or to tell me when he thought I was acting wrongly."
Graeme Souness, a team-mate at Middlesbrough as a young player
“I sometimes wish I had not bothered!”
Bobby Murdoch on Souness whom he taught a lot to whilst at Middlesbrough
"He has the football brain and positional sense of an Alec Thomson"
"We send Murdoch down to the health farm at Tring to lose some weight and the main result is that we are polluted with bad tips from the wee jockeys he meets there."
Jock Stein joking to Hugh McIlvaney about Bobby Murdoch's weight control
"He is the most honest footballer I have ever known."
England World Cup winner Jack Charlton talking about Bobby
"Murdoch is the Papa of the team, the rest are the sons around him."
Fiorentina manager on Bobby Murdoch after their European Cup two leg defeat in 1970
"Quite often I would go home from training at Barrowfield with bumps and bruises. Training under Big Jock was competitive."
"He was such a popular lad and a superb player. A big influence, but more importantly he was just a really decent human being ".
"Mr Murdoch is my Dad!"
Bobby liked supporters to call him Bobby than by the more formal Mr.Murdoch. He loved sitting with Celtic supporters sharing his stories.
"Jock Stein put us on the park afraid of no one."
"Bobby Murdoch was the first player I ever signed and he was also my favourite. I played against him for Leeds when he scored to send us out of the Eutropean Cup... but I forgave him for that! Yes, he was a smashing lad and there's no doubt that he went on to become a major part of my team at Middlesbrough.
"Bobby was an amazing passer of a ball who could drop a ball on a sixpence from any distance and, although I've had players who covered more ground, I never worked with anyone who could strike the ball as well as he could."
Jack Charlton, Middlesbrough Manager
- "Bobby Murdoch: Different Class" by David Potter (2003)
- "All The Way With Celtic" by Bobby Murdoch (1970)
- Bobby Murdoch: The Bhoy from Rutherglen by Robert Harvey (2010)
David Potter on Bobby Murdoch (from KeepTheFaith website)It is the privilege of the 50-something and perhaps the 40-something Celtic supporters to have seen Bobby Murdoch in his prime. Bobby was a truly wonderful player, and although it is occasionally divisive and offensive to single out one member of the Lisbon Lions as being better than others, I am sure that there would be no real disagreement if one were to put Bobby Murdoch up there as “very high indeed”.
Yet there were times in the bad old pre-Stein days when one wondered whether Bobby Murdoch would ever make it. He made his debut on the first day of the 1962-63 season, scoring against Hearts in the League Cup, but the early promise did fizzle out somewhat, as incompetent management tried him all over the dysfunctional forward line of that time. Bobby did score the equalizer in the 1963 Scottish Cup Final against Rangers, but the forward line was then re-jigged for the Replay with the successful Jimmy Johnstone and Frank Brogan dropped!
Several times, the cruel and impatient of the frustrated Celtic support turned on Bobby in the dreadful years of 1963 and 1964 (although 1964 did contain a good run in the European Cup Winners Cup). Thus by Christmas 1964, Bobby and his beautiful wife Kathleen were considering emigration to Australia with their young family. Fortunately things changed at the end of January with the appointment of Big Jock Stein. Jock realised very quickly that the prodigious talent of Murdoch was somewhat misplaced in the forward line, and after a few games moved him to his natural habitat of right half.
The effect was instantaneous and dramatic. It turned out to be Stein's greatest ever master stroke, and fortunately Stein made it just in time for the 1965 Scottish Cup Final which changed the world. Billy McNeill headed Celtic to the glory that our forefathers used to talk about, and Bobby Murdoch was a vital and crucial part of it.
Murdoch was a very complete player. A brilliant passer, a ball winner, a good tackler in defence when required and still capable of a few goals, he teamed up with Jimmy Johnstone on the right, with Bertie Auld in midfield. Very soon the old timers of the support were comparing Bobby with Sunny Jim and Peter Wilson, and the middle-agers with Bobby Evans and Willie Fernie.
The success of that Celtic team is well documented. Less easy is it to tell a youngster how well they actually played, what a pleasure it was to see the Murdoch-oiled side take over a game. It was simply the way that the game should be played and all of Europe reluctantly but genuinely agreed that Celtic played the best football of them all, and that Bobby Murdoch was the greatest midfield player of that decade.
Not that this was achieved without cost, however. Bobby had a recurring ankle injury sustained in 1964, and he also suffered from a weight problem which he and Jock Stein had to work at with visits to health farms and intensive training and so on. On the International front, Bobby was not so fortunate. He played against England at Hampden in 1966 when not feeling well and in 1969 when the whole Scotland side played badly to lose 1-4 at Wembley. But he did score a great goal against West Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 1969. It remains a shame that Scotland never qualified for the World Cup in 1966 and 1970, for the world could then have seen how good Bobby Murdoch was.
In 1973, following nearly a decade of consistent success, Bobby moved to Middlesbrough, there to team up with Jackie Charlton and to win promotion for the Teessiders and to bring a little happiness to that depressed region. In 1976, his ankle became so bad that he could not continue playing, but he stayed on as Coach and eventually as Manager. He was no success as a Manager, but to this day he retains the love and affection of the North East.
The author recalls watching a cricket match in 1981, and saying something to a Yorkshireman in his Scottish accent. The Yorkshireman immediately said, “Did you ever see Bobby Murdoch playing for Celtic?” as if nothing else in the world mattered. Did I ever see Bobby Murdoch! What a question!
In his later years, Bobby Murdoch was frequently seen in Rutherglen walking with his stick. As they said of Jimmy Quinn, “He was just an ordinary man”. Yes he was, and no, he wasn't. He was ordinary in the sense that there was no pretentiousness about him. He had no enemies, spoke affably to Rangers fans and Celtic fans alike, his love of football shining through. But on the football field, Bobby Murdoch was far from an ordinary man. I remain proud to say that I know a lot about football. Why? Because I saw Bobby Murdoch!
Bobby died in May 2001 after a long period of ill health and pain from his ankle injury. His loss was felt by the whole Celtic Family.
Latest page update: made by joebloggscity
, Mar 21 2013, 2:29 PM EDT
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