Symington-born Eric Murray, who has died aged 74, was right-half and the only ever-present in Kilmarnock’s League Championship winning side of 1964-65.
Although only 5’ 9” and dead-on 11st dripping wet, Eric started his career as a centre-forward with Saxone Amateurs before joining Killie in the close season in 1960. He spent some time farmed out to Dreghorn Juniors before making his debut as a number nine in a League Cup tie against Hearts in August 1961.
But with Bertie Black and Andy Kerr vying for the chief striker’s role, first team chances to play up front were few and far between. Manager Willie Waddell decided to convert him into midfield and it was with a number four on his back that Eric played in the first eleven towards the end of 1961-62.
That position was normally filled by the accomplished Ian Davidson, but when Davidson was transferred to Preston North End it provided an opening in the team which was fought over between Murray and Pat O’Connor over the next season.
Murray started out as first choice right-half in 1963-64 but injury to Bertie Black saw Waddell move him back up front and it was as a central striker he played most of that season, scoring 14 times in 29 league appearances.
It wasn’t until the emergence of striker Ronnie Hamilton towards the end of that term which saw Murray finally move back into the right-sided midfield role for which most of those old enough and privileged enough to have seen him play remember him.
It’s surprising to recall that Eric, who became one of the mainstays of the title-winning team the following season, had hitherto made fewer than two dozen league appearances in that role.
Yet he went on to become the only ever-present in that legendary team. And by ever-present I mean every minute of every match, this being before substitutes were permitted. Eric wasn’t flash or showy. He was a solid, dependable player, capable of fulfilling either of the two positions he was picked for with unflappability.
He continued to play with distinction for Killie over the course of the next three seasons, notably scoring the opener against Lokomotiv Leipzig in the Fairs Cup quarter-finals in 1967, levelling the tie on aggregate, before Killie went on to claim a famous victory.
His last match for Killie was the final league game of 1967-68, away to Hibs, and it says a lot about the regard in which he was held by Killie fans that his successor struggled for a long time to win them over. When you consider that his replacement was the equally legendary John Gilmour that tells you just how highly Eric was rated.
Eric moved on to St Mirren where he spent three seasons before winding down his career with Cumnock Juniors.
In those days it was a common enough sight to see first team players in the street and while I can’t say that I ever noticed Eric walking down King Street, I can recall my father coming home from the pub one Saturday night to breathlessly exclaim that he had just had a pint with Eric Murray in the “tap shoap” in Dundonald. Such was the proximity between supporters and their idols half a century ago.
All told, Eric made 205 appearances for Killie, scoring 32 goals.
League - 145A - 26G
Scottish Cup - 16A - 2G
League Cup - 32A - 2G
Europe - 12A - 2G
Eric McIntyre Murray 12/12/41 - 7/11/16 RIP