On The Outside Looking In

Close But No Cap For Jimmy

Jimmy Murray on duty for Wolves at Old Trafford.

How close were Wolves to having yet another England international on the books in their late-1950s hey-day?

In addition to Billy Wright, Ron Flowers, Bill Slater, Johnny Hancocks, Jimmy Mullen, Bert Williams, Eddie Clamp, Peter Broadbent, Dennis Wilshaw, Norman Deeley and Jesse Pye, a forward of huge prominence at one stage went close to representing his country’s senior team as well.

It’s no wonder Jimmy Murray was in the selectors’ thoughts. His 166 Wanderers goals leave him fifth in the club’s all-time scoring charts – and that doesn’t include his tally in the floodlit friendlies, in which Real Madrid were among those to have a close-up of his masterly finishing.

He was also ‘in the system’ to a degree, with under-23 international honours against Scotland and France coming his way during Wolves’ peak seasons and a solitary appearance for the Football League side materialising, too, in 1957-58.

Yet the Kent-born forward was still a young man of barely 22 when he flirted with being given an outing for the senior team.

He was named as a reserve alongside Maurice Setters of Albion and Chelsea keeper Reg Matthews for the friendly against France at Wembley on November 27, 1957, two changes (Tom Finney for Alan A’Court, and Bobby Robson for Derek Kevan) having been made following the surprise defeat at home to Northern Ireland early in the month.

In that October, Murray had played in the Football League representative team against the Irish League in Belfast and, true to form, scored in a 4-0 win. At club level, his total of First Division goals was already in the teens come the time of the clash with the French and he would end that triumphant campaign with 32 in League and FA Cup, including three hat-tricks.

We wouldn’t mind that sort of finishing power against Switzerland in Dusseldorf this weekend, would we?

Basil Easterbrook, in the Newcastle Journal, wrote: “The presence of Jim Murray, the young Wolves leader, among the three reserves named is clear warning to Tommy Taylor that he will have to produce the goods if he is to continue as England’s centre-forward.”

And Cyril Chapman, the long-serving Birmingham Post football correspondent, suggested Murray deserved a chance in the team, possibly in place of Taylor.

Murray threatens despite receiving close attention from a West Ham defender.

The Wolves man had a taste of the action the day before England faced France. He went on for Finney in the second half of a practice match at White Hart Lane against a Tottenham side described as being almost of First Division strength. This time he was not on target, Finney scoring one and Johnny Haynes a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory.

And his chances of securing a place soon came and went. Taylor scored twice against the French, as did Robson, although the Albion player did not keep his place as Bobby Charlton’s emergence continued at pace.

Murray did at least make his mark in under-23 international football. He scored in a 3-1 win against Scotland at Goodison Park in January, 1958, and also netted in March, 1959, when he was in the side who drew 1-1 with France  in Lyon, with Jimmy Greaves at inside-right and Haynes at inside-left.

In the senior game against France, there was a third cap for Don Howe, although he was told on the phone by his father in the preceding day or two that his mother had died at the age of 55 at home in Thompson Avenue, Wolverhampton.

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