Hartlepool footballer broke goalie’s neck in vital game

The 1956 FA Cup Final.
The 1956 FA Cup Final.

A West Hartlepool-born footballer hit the headlines on May 5, 1956 - for a pitch accident rather than goal action.

Peter Murphy was playing for Birmingham City against Manchester City in the 1956 FA Cup when goalie Bert Trautmann broke his neck diving at Murphy’s feet.

“Peter is perhaps best remembered for this incident, but that shouldn’t be so. He was a player with an amazing distance shot,” said historian Norman Kirtlan.

Peter, son of building contractor labourer Peter Murphy and his wife Julia, was born in West Hartlepool in 1922 and answered to the nickname Spud.

As a boy he scored numerous goals for St Joseph’s in the West Hartlepool Schools League but, with the outbreak of war, his sports career was cut short.

“Spud finally turned professional after signing for Coventry in 1946. He made over 100 appearances, scoring one goal in every three games,” said Norman.

“In 1950 he moved to Tottenham Hotspur, for a fee of £18,000, playing as an inside forward in the side that won the 1950-51 League Championship.”

Fierce competition for team spaces saw him end up on the left wing, however - not a situation he was keen on.

So, when Birmingham City offered £20,000 for him in January 1952, Spud was willing to drop down a division. It was to prove the making of him.

He scored a hat-trick in his debut and his powerful left-foot shot made him Birmingham’s leading goal scorer three times; in 1952-53, 1954-55 and 1957-8.

Indeed, his attacking skills helped Birmingham claim the Second Division Championship in 1955, and he also scored five times in the 1956 FA Cup campaign.

“Spud’s eye for the goal, as well his ever-daring attempts from 30 yards-plus, made him a nightmare for opposition goalkeepers,” said Norman.

“And, on the day of the FA Cup, he was once again on the attack until, with 17 minutes remaining, Trautmann dived at Spud’s feet in a bid to win the ball.

“The German was knocked out in the dive but, after regaining consciousness, insisted on playing on. Only later was it discovered that his neck was broken.”

Spud played for Birmingham until 1959, when he joined the coaching staff. But, when his team faced relegation, he returned - scoring in wins over Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday.

“His final tally for Birmingham was 127 goals in 278 appearances - ranking him third in their all-time scoring charts,” said Norman.

Spud went on to guide Rugby Town to promotion in the Southern League Premier Division in 1961, and also spent time as a coach at Coventry before moving into the pub business. He died in 1975, aged just 53.