Obituary: Jimmy Murray, footballer

Born: 4 February, 1933, in Edinburgh. Died: 10 July, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 82.

Jimmy Murray, vigorous Hearts footballer who scored Scotlands first goal in a World Cup final. Picture: TSPL

Jimmy Murray, the former Hearts and Scotland footballer, has died aged 82. He will be remembered as one of the leading players of the outstanding Hearts’ teams of the 1950s and as the scorer of Scotland’s first ever goal in a World Cup Finals, in Sweden, in 1958.

Murray was a dashing, vigorous inside right with a powerful shot and tremendous heading ability who first fully came to prominence as a free-scoring member of the wonderful Hearts team of 1957/8 which cut a swathe through Scottish football, destroying the opposition and setting records on its way to clinching the old First Division title for the first time since 1897.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Building on the club’s Scottish Cup success of 1956, manager Tommy Walker assembled a fine blend of players marrying the strength of Dave Mackay, George Thomson and Andy Bowman with the mobility and goal scoring nous of Murray, Jimmy Wardhaugh and Alex Young.

The team scored an astonishing 132 goals in 34 games, lost only one match and finished 13 points clear of second-placed Rangers, when a win only merited two points.

Murray played in 33 of the games, netting 27 goals; in terms of appearances, only Alex Young as an ever-present surpassed him, while only Jimmy Wardhaugh outscored him, with 28, one more than Murray.

In a crucial home game against Celtic in front of 35,000 fans four weeks before winning the title against St Mirren, Murray weighed in with a hat trick to set Hearts on course for the run in to the title.

His splendid form caught the selectors’ attention when he played for Hearts against a Scotland XI in preparation for Scotland’s participation in the World Cup finals in Sweden that summer and he was chosen to play for Scotland against England at Hampden.

In front of a crowd of more than 127,000, the Scots, captained by Tommy Docherty, lost 4-0 to a strong English team featuring Billy Wright, Tom Finney, Johnny Haynes and debutant Bobby Charlton.

Despite the drubbing, Murray retained his place for the two pre-World Cup friendlies against Hungary and Poland, the latter being the first ever game between the two countries, played in Warsaw in front of 70,000 fans.

He did well enough to be selected for the finals in Sweden and on 8 June he etched his name forever in Scottish football history, heading home Scotland’s first goal at a World Cup Finals in the Arosvallen Stadium in Vasteras to draw against Yugoslavia.

Through injury he missed the game against Paraguay but returned for the game against France, which was lost, but he had the satisfaction of laying on Scotland’s goal for Sammy Baird. That was his last game for his country with his international career over almost as soon as it had started, although back then there was undoubtedly selectorial bias favouring players from the west.

The following season, Hearts, “inspired by Dave Mackay and Jimmy Murray”, according to one report, were unlucky not to retain their league title losing out to Rangers by two points. But they did win the League Cup, beating Partick Thistle in the final in a game sometimes referred to as “Jimmy Murray’s game”. Not only did he score two goals but laid on the other three in Hearts’ convincing 5-1 victory.

The Scotsman report stated: “Murray was the most menacing forward on the field and in the eyes of Partick Thistle, the most sinister villain of the piece.”

In season 1959/60, which was to be his penultimate with the club, he won his second league championship with the Tynecastle outfit topping the table four points clear of Kilmarnock. At the end of the next season he was released after the recruitment of Willie Wallace and Norrie Davidson.

Jimmy Murray was raised in Orwell Terrace near Tynecastle. His father James, an electrician, was a big Hearts fan who soon had his son following in his footsteps. While playing for Tynecastle School, Murray gained representative honours before going on to play for secondary juvenile team Merchiston Thistle, which earned him a Scotland cap at that level.

On 27 September, 1950 Hearts manager David Maclean signed Murray, the fulfilment of an ambition for the player. Initially he played in the reserves before making his first-team debut and scoring a goal against Stirling Albion on 15 March, 1952 in front of 20,000 fans.

Despite that promising start he was unable to hold down a first-team place at that stage. National service in the RAF in England intervened, during which he played some games on loan to Reading until he returned to Tynecastle early 1955.

Playing part time while working as a Post Office engineer, more first-team appearances ensued without his really establishing himself till 1957/8. That coincided with his going full time while at the same time, Alfie Conn, of the “Terrible Trio” of Conn, Bauld and Wardhaugh, was injured, giving Murray the opportunity to claim a first-team spot as his own which he eagerly accepted.

After Hearts, he played on till 1965 with Falkirk, Clyde and Raith Rovers. Once finished with football, he became sales director of an electrical company. He remained a steadfast Hearts fan and was frequently seen at Tynecastle where he was a popular figure.

Tributes to him appeared on social media, referring to him as “a lovely guy”, “a gracious gent”, a “legend” and “hugely respected by and respectful of his peers”.

Although his first-team career with Hearts was not as long as some, few players have emerged from Tynecastle with two League Championship medals, a League Cup winner’s medal and five international appearances during one of which a historic World Cup goal was scored. For his part in those heady times, his place in Hearts and Scottish football history is assured.

His wife June predeceased him and he is survived by son Stephen and his family.