Text/ David Potter
The Second World War did loads of bad things, not least in the case of Frank Murphy Celtic Unsung Hero that it prevented the career of Frank Murphy from flowering to its full potential. The other thing that Frank suffered from was that he kept being compared with Jimmy Delaney on the opposite wing. Delaney on the right wing was of course, a superb player, the stuff of legend, but Frank Murphy on the left was almost his equal. He was a little less flamboyant than Delaney and did not do so many unexpected things, but he could do the basics of beating a man, charging down his wing and crossing for McGrory or Crum to do the needful.
Frank was born in Gartcosh in 1915 and joined Celtic in 1934, but it was the start of the epic season 1935/36 that he broke into the first team. Celtic had lacked a left-winger since the great days of Adam McLean with Charlie Napier not really living up to expectations, and Hugh O’Donnell disappointing more often than not. But Trainer and de facto Manager Jimmy McMenemy saw a great deal in Murphy, and his belief in the youngster was paid back. 1935/36 was the season where goals rained in from McGrory, so many of them coming from the fine wing play of Delaney and Murphy.
Murphy looked like a man of the 1930’s with his center parting, so characteristic of that age. His comparatively slight frame was deceptive for he was strong enough to hold off sturdy challenges from over-zealous right backs. He was fast, direct and skillful with the ability to evade tackles. He could take a goal himself, one at Easter Road described by Napoleon (Jimmy McMenemy) as the best he had ever seen – and that was from a man who had played alongside Jimmy Quinn and Patsy Gallacher and he was particularly adept at scoring from free kicks with his powerful left foot. He was a reliable taker of penalty kicks as well.
He won League medals in 1936 and 1938, a Scottish Cup medal in 1937 before Europe’s biggest ever crowd against Aberdeen in the final, and of course the Empire Exhibition Trophy in 1938. Celtic shaded a little in 1938/39 but Murphy didn’t. He was still old Mr. Reliable, and much loved by the Celtic fans. He possibly deserved more than one Scottish cap – against Holland in Amsterdam in 1938 in which he scored a great goal – but there was stiff competition for the left wing spot. He made 243 appearances and scored 77 goals for Celtic, the only team he really played for.
The Second World War changed everything – and for the worse. Murphy served in the RAF, and by 1946 was probably too old, his best years having been lost to the unfortunate necessity of beating the Nazis. In later years he got a job at Celtic Park on match days, reading out the teams over the loudspeaker! He was a fine Celt and he passed away in 1984, which was considered a great loss by everyone at Celtic Park.