Alex Young pays tribute to Hearts legend Jimmy Murray

Jimmy Murray, pictured at Tynecastle with his Scotland cap, scored 27 goals as Hearts won the title in 1958
Jimmy Murray, pictured at Tynecastle with his Scotland cap, scored 27 goals as Hearts won the title in 1958
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Jimmy Murray, the former Hearts forward who made an indelible mark on Scottish football history on a balmy June evening in Sweden in 1958, has died at the age of 82.

A key member of arguably the greatest team in Hearts’ history, Murray became the first player to score for Scotland in the World Cup finals against Yugoslavia in a 1-1 draw.

It was a moment which capped a remarkable season for Murray, who scored 27 goals for a record-breaking Hearts side in clinching the 1958 Scottish league title.

Fellow Gorgie legend Alex Young, who netted 24 times in that championship-winning campaign in which Hearts scored a staggering 132 goals in their 34 games, paid tribute to Murray.

“Jimmy was a wonderful player and a smashing lad,” said Young. “He was a strong player who could run all day, a really good all-rounder who anyone would have loved to have as their team-mate.

“He became a good friend to me and was a huge help to me when I was making my way at Hearts. Most of the time, he was at inside-right and I was at centre-forward and he would talk to me throughout matches.

“He was a really popular lad. It was a terrific team we had at Hearts during that period and Jimmy was as important as anyone to the success we enjoyed.

“I kept in touch with Jimmy and actually saw him as recently as last week. It’s obviously very sad that he has passed away.”

A product of the Capital’s Merchiston Thistle, Murray had a brief spell with Newtongrange Star before joining Hearts in 1951. He made his first team debut in March 1952 at the age of 19, scoring the opening goal after just ten minutes in a 5-2 league win over Stirling Albion.

His career at Hearts was interrupted by his National Service. While in the Royal Air Force, he was stationed in England, so was loaned out to Reading where he scored three goals in seven league appearances.

On his return to Tynecastle, he faced a daunting challenge to establish himself in the first team in a period which saw Hearts enjoy the services of their storied “Terrible Trio” of forwards in the shape of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, but the remarkable 1957-58 season saw Murray emerge as a star in his own right. Only Wardhaugh, with 28 goals, bettered Murray’s tally of 27 in the free-scoring campaign in which Hearts became Scottish champions.

Murray’s form earned him his first call-up for Scotland in April 1958. It proved to be a dispiriting experience as the Scots slumped to a 4-0 defeat against England at Hampden.

But Murray did enough to retain his place for subsequent friendlies against Hungary and Poland, in which he performed well enough to secure a place in Scotland’s squad for the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden.

The Scots, who had failed to score a goal in their maiden World Cup finals appearance in Switzerland four years earlier, were drawn in a group with Yugoslavia, Paraguay and France.

Murray was named in the side for the opener against the Yugoslavs on June 8, 1958. Six minutes into the second half, with Scotland trailing 1-0, Murray’s moment in his country’s international football history arrived. Eric Caldow’s free-kick was knocked back across the penalty area by Eddie Turnbull where Murray rose to head the ball beyond Yugoslav keeper Vladimir Beara.

Injury forced Murray to miss Scotland’s next match, a 3-2 defeat by Paraguay, but he returned for the final group game against France. His pass set up Sammy Baird to score in a 2-1 defeat that eliminated Scotland. Murray was never picked for Scotland again.

He enjoyed further success with Hearts in the 1958-59 season when, selected by manager Tommy Walker ahead of his close friend Young, he scored twice at Hampden in a 5-1 win over Partick Thistle in the League Cup final.

“No team in Scotland could have stood up to the devastating brilliance of this inside trio of Murray, Bauld and Wardhaugh,” exclaimed noted football writer Gair Henderson in his match report.

“And that was where the master touch of Tommy Walker showed up in this final. He took the brave and bold step of dropping Alex Young and bringing back Murray – a stroke of genius. The inside-right was out on his own as a goal-maker and a goal-taker.”

Murray helped Hearts become Scottish champions again in 1960, scoring 16 goals as the title was won for the second time in three seasons. In total, he scored 81 goals in 145 appearances for the club. He was especially effective in Edinburgh derbies, scoring six times in eight outings against Hibs.

Murray was sold to Falkirk in 1961 and also had spells with Clyde and Raith Rovers before hanging up his boots in 1965.

He moved into coaching, as assistant manager at Falkirk and then as a reserve coach with Raith Rovers, before returning to Hearts to take charge of the third team. Murray remained a well known and much-loved presence around Tynecastle in recent years.