The Brighton mystery of Murphy’s Mob

murphysmobWhile reading the Brighton v Watford matchday programme in December 2012, I was intrigued to read Spencer Vignes’ nostalgic article ‘Married to the Mob’ which celebrated Central TV’s youth drama Murphy’s Mob which ran for four series from 1982 to 1986.

Depending on your age, you may have enjoyed it. As a kid, I do remember it on Children’s ITV at the time. However I was slightly too young to appreciate it and instead gave my love to the supposedly much inferior Jossy’s Giants (1986-87) instead. Sorry!

Nevertheless, as Spencer explains:

‘Directed by former ‘Hey Hey We’re The Monkees’ drummer Mickey Dolenz, Murphy’s Mob charted the lives of a group of teenagers who followed an English lower league outfit called Dunmore United, in particular their efforts to set up and run a junior supporters’ club. You name it, Murphy’s Mob had it – school classroom angst, punch-ups, football rivalries, snogging (plenty of that) plus a catchy theme tune sung by the late Gary Holton who would find fame playing Wayne in the TV show Auf Widersehen Pet.

The show was originally filmed in Hertfordshire and even used clips from matches of Watford, then the new upstarts in the First Division and, by all accounts, finding life at the top a doodle. Ambitiously, Murphy’s Mob even combined real footage with sequences involving actors, as this video gem demonstrates:

Note the first clip is from Highbury, before it switches to Vicarage Road (or is it Stamford Bridge?) when the keeper catches the ball!

In November 1982, BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’ cameras arrived to see Graham Taylor’s high-flying Watford side blitz the Seagulls with the visitors playing about as well as that blundering keeper above. By the final whistle, the score was 4-1 with goals from Luthur Blissett (2 pens), John Barnes and Les Taylor, before substitute Gerry Ryan replied late on for the Albion. As Spencer laments:

A couple of weeks later Central TV went in search of footage from a Watford match to incorporate into Murphy’s Mob. They needed a game in which the Hornets, playing the part of Dunmore, had dominated and scored plenty of goals. Needless to say one particular fixture caught their eye.

Throughout 1983 and 1984 I, along with Albion supporting 11 to 16 year olds everywhere, had to endure countless school yard jibes every time footage of Watford’s (or should I say Dunmore’s?) rampant win over us appeared in Murphy’s Mob, which was regularly.

When I read those words, I was amazed. Could it really be that Brighton & Hove Albion had a significant, albeit a stooge-like, part to play in at least one of the episodes of this children’s TV series? Unfortunately, there wasn’t much footage unloaded to YouTube or indeed on other sources on the internet. However, after some detective work, I eventually did track down all 54 episodes, and scrolled through each one (sad, I know!) to find the episode where Dunmore gave Brighton a trouncing.

And do you know what? It’s still a mystery which edition it was because the only footage I could find with Brighton in it was this:

Perhaps some cuts had to be made to a re-running of the series, seeing as the BBC had the TV rights to the match:

By the end of the 1982/83 season, Watford were runners-up in Division One and Brighton had finished bottom. Both clubs enjoyed a run to Wembley in the FA Cup around that time before the unthinkable happened. In 1985, Central TV began using Derby County as the focus for its football footage, with Dunmore colours changing to blue and white. From Vicarage Road to the Baseball Ground, I wonder if Eric Steele remembers being a Dunmore player at either location.

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