Someone’s saying no, it’s a tragedy
Find another place, cos you can’t play here
Don’t want any lip, so there!
Y’know it’s gonna be alright if we stick together
We’re gonna have a fine, fine time if we stick together
No more mindless empty days…
And so went the opening theme tune to one of my favourite childhood programmes and one of my favourite football related dramas ever – MURPHY’S MOB.
As a teenager growing up in Thatcher’s Scotland of the 1980’s, you needed as much joyous TV escapism as you could get and it didn’t come much better than rushing home from school twice a week to watch Murphy’s Mob, to see their latest scrapes and escapades, which of course were always more exciting than your own!
Broadcast on ITV from 1982-1985, running to four seasons and over 50 episodes, Murphy’s Mob was set around a struggling, fictional English Third Division Football Club called Dunmore United.
In particular the show focussed on a group of long suffering young fans as they overcame obstacles to set up their own Junior Supporters Club and clubhouse in the stadium, whilst also following their day to day lives and misadventures, in school, after school and of course, on a Saturday afternoon.
Dunmore played in yellow, red and black, which was no real surprise as the show was filmed at Watford’s Vicarage Road ground. So close to East Fife’s colours as well, adding extra spice for those of a Bayview persuasion.
There was football. There was fun. There were fights. There were football rivalries – meaning football fights! There were girls. There was snogging. There was despair. But most of all, there was great TV.
The show had all you could want if you were a football loving kid in the early 80’s.
The characters in the show were varied, as was their acting experiences prior to the show and since.
Dunmore United was owned by pop star Rasputin Jones (played by Terence Budd), who was coming towards the end of his pop career and decided to sink his cash into the struggling club. He was very much a hands-on owner of not only the club, but also Outer Space – the amusement arcade where many of the kids congregated and spent all their money and where a lot of the action took place, especially with rival fans from the Town.
Of the kid actors, Boxer was meant to be the main star. Played by Keith Jayne, who had been a star previously as the lead in ITV’s Stig of the Dump, Boxer was joined by characters such as Mugsy Moran, Pacman, The Hulk, Prof and girls Charlie and Hannah.
For me though there were three real stars of the show, whose performances still stick fresh in my mind today as if it was only yesterday that I was regularly watching the show.
Ken Hutchinson, a Scot, who played Dunmore’s downtrodden manager Mac Murphy was tremendous. Snarly and an Alex Ferguson in the making – mannerisms wise at least, if not in terms of managerial success!
And then there was Mr Cassidy, who really didn’t want the kids around the club at all. Boo!
Cassidy was wonderfully played by the great character actor Milton Johns, who is probably best known to millions in his later role as Brendan Scott in Coronation Street. He was a pantomime style villain played to perfection. He didn’t like the kids. The kids didn’t like him. I can’t really remember what Mr Cassidy’s role was, but he certainly seemed to be Rasputin Jones’ right hand man and ran his arcade. Not someone to get on the wrong side of, but did he actually have a right one?!
Cassidy provided a lot of the show’s most memorable comedic scenes and provided almost a comedy double act in his scenes with his foil, policeman’s son ‘Wurzel’ Glossop.
The mentioning of Wurzel here brings me to my third most memorable and my favourite character from the series. For me, the star of the show.
Wurzel was a much downtrodden upon character, who at times never seemed able to do anything right. He wasn’t the brightest kid in school, but he was certainly one of the wittiest, played in fine comic style by Lewis Stevens.
For those of you who remember Wurzel and the series as fondly as myself, we have a treat in store, as AFTN caught up with Lewis Stevens who played Wurzel and chatted to him about his time on the series and what he’s been doing since. You can read that HERE.
It’s strange to think that the show has never been released on video or DVD as, at the time, it was immensely popular and is often cited as the definitive children’s TV drama series, above even the likes of Grange Hill.
The show also spawned a series of three paperback books based on the characters and series.
All three books were produced by Puffin. “Murphy’s Mob” by Michael Saunders started the ball rolling and this was quickly followed by “The Return of Murphy’s Mob” and “Murphy and Co” by Anthony Masters.
The cast were even immortalised in cartoon form with Look In Magazine (another blast from the past) running regular comic strip adventures of the gang during the show’s time on TV. We’ve tracked down a number of the comic strips and will feature those in a separate section here on the site. Stay tuned!
The show is definitely long overdue a DVD release. In the years that have passed we could only live with our vague memories of Auf Wiedersehen Pet’s Gary Holton’s punky theme tune, the storylines and the childhood wonders of why we never had such a cool clubhouse for young fans at East Fife. The theme tune still really holds up as strong today.
Enjoy those opening credits once again or for the first time. Some episodes have appeared on You Tube, and we were lucky to get hold of a full set of episodes a few years back, which we hope to get round to summarising here on the site sometime soon.
Let’s hope that one day we’ll be able to see the whole series once more on our TV screens via DVD.
Got your own memories of the series? Then share them with your fellow AFTN readers below.