Jimmy Murphy: Manchester United statue plan for club 'icon'

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe disaster claimed the lives of 23 people, including eight Manchester United players

A statue may be erected at Old Trafford in honour of the Welshman who helped rebuild Manchester United after the Munich air disaster.

Assistant manager Jimmy Murphy could have been on the fateful 1958 flight, which claimed the lives of eight players, had he not also been Wales' boss at the time.

United is working with fans after a campaign to honour Rhondda-born Murphy.

He has been described as an "iconic figure" at the club.

Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation chair Pat Burns said Murphy was a "great servant" to the club, working alongside manager Sir Matt Busby between 1946 and 1971.

"Who knows what Manchester United may have become" without Murphy agreeing to take over the reins after the manager was injured in the crash, Mr Burns said.

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image captionJimmy Murphy (second left) is seen here with players in 1957

The team were back on the pitch days after the disaster happened on 6 February, 1958.

In all, 23 people died after a refuelling stop on the way back from a European Cup tie in Belgrade.

Murphy, who had stayed behind for Wales' World Cup qualifier against Israel in Cardiff, was called by the manager from his hospital bed in Munich and was urged to "keep the flag flying".

"Neither man would have been successful or as successful without the other," Mr Burns told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

If it gets the green light, Murphy's statue will rub shoulders with those of Sir Matt Busby, Sir Alex Ferguson, and the "United Trinity" of Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law.

In a statement, Collette Roche, United's chief operating officer, said it "will always be indebted to Jimmy for the critical role he played in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster".

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Football had been Murphy's passion since his childhood in Ton Pentre, where he was selected to play for Wales' schoolboys team as a teenager.

A scout spotted him and he joined West Bromwich Albion as a wing half, playing for them throughout the 1930s, including in an FA Cup Final.

And he gained the first of 15 Wales' caps in 1932.

The outbreak of World War Two led to Murphy meeting Busby, then a well-known Scottish wing half.

Post-war, Busby became United manager, taking on Murphy as his assistant.

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