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The Arts

Exclusive Excerpt from John Ludden’s New Book, Jimmy Murphy: Once Upon a Time in Munich

Once Upon a Time in Munich is a short novel that pertains to tell how Manchester United assistant manager Jimmy Murphy kept the club afloat in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophic events of Thursday, February 6, 1958. When at the end of a Munich runway United lost seven players amidst the fire and flames and blood red snow on that wretched afternoon.

Disaster struck when returning from Belgrade after a European cup quarter final match. Murphy never travelled because of his duties as Welsh manager and so armed with nothing but blind faith and a hope and a prayer from an ailing Matt Busby, in the Rechts Der Isar hospital in Munich, to ‘keep the flag flying,’ he went to work. A man driven but inside broken, Murphy toiled night and day to ensure a club formed eighty years previous in Newton Heath, would not wither and die. He raged against not just the dying of an ominous light, but against those who claimed Salvation was impossible.

For thirteen days before United could take the field once more, an FA cup fifth round match at Old Trafford against Sheffield Wednesday, Murphy plotted, charmed cajoled. He swore, drank and threatened red murder against all who stood in his path. He lost faith in a god for what had befallen his football club and the people he loved. Only to ultimately make peace as the band played ‘Abide with Me.’ Yet despite the sheer weight of odds stacked against him, Murphy came through. People like Jimmy Murphy don’t need a statue for there are simply none tall or grand enough to do him justice for what he did for Manchester United football club. Once Upon a Time in Munich hopes to tell you why.

John has very kindly allowed MancMade to include some text from Jimmy Murphy: Once Upon a Time in Munich below. Beautifully written it sets the tone for a story that is both heartbreaking and inspiring. We can’t say enough good things about this book and would urge any sports fans, not just football fans, to check it out.



‘Hello Duncan,’ I sit down beside him. He slowly turns his head towards me and smiles. ‘Hello chief.’

I grab his hand. ‘How are you feeling son.’

‘I’m so tired. I can’t find my watch Jimmy. I keep telling them but they’re not listening. Somebody has thieved it. It was solid gold. A present off Real Madrid. I need it Jimmy I really do need it.’ I take off mine and fasten it onto his wrist.

‘Here you go son. Have mine until we find out where yours is.’

Baumann taps me on the shoulder. ‘I am going to ring the airport. See if they have found anything resembling the watch from the plane.’ He leaves the room.

‘There you go Dunc,’ I put it to his ear. ‘You can hear it ticking. I’m going to have to go home soon. Sort matters out. But you’re in great hands son. These are good people, they’ll make you better.’

‘I don’t remember nothing Jimmy, they tell me we was in a crash?’

‘Aye you’ve had a bad time.’

‘Is everybody else alright Jimmy?’

I grip Duncan’s hand tight. ‘You just concentrate on getting yourself well lad.’

‘Will do. What time’s kick off Saturday Jimmy?’

‘It’s three o’clock lad.’

Duncan smiles….‘Get stuck in chief.’

His eyes starting to close until finally he’s gone back into a deep sleep…

I stand to leave. ‘Get stuck in chief.’ I’d give everything to have this boy well again. Outside the room I notice a fire escape and head through it for I need to be alone for a few minutes. To compose myself before I go and see the rest of the boys. I sit on the stairwell and suddenly the pain, nerves, tension and sheer agony explodes. The tears begin to flow. From a trickle to a river and I can’t help myself and pray nobody comes through that fire door now. They think I’m unbreakable but I’m not see. I break and fall like anybody else. Finally I dry my eyes, blow my nose and head back upstairs. Seems I’m all cried out. …..At least for now.


John Ludden is an acclaimed author from Manchester. He has written over twenty books and his work has been translated into several different languages. His cult classic ‘Maradona: Once Upon a Time in Naples’ is currently the basis for a forthcoming documentary film by Oscar-winning ‘Senna’ director Asif Kapadia due for general cinematic release in 2018.

A Manchester United fan, John’s work has chronicled the history of his club with the highly acclaimed ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘From the Stars’. John has also written a series of well-received novels and factual works, these include the intriguing Quality gangster series mixing fact with fiction that take in the Manchester crime scene from the 60s onwards.

John worked closely with Manchester Boxer Michael Gomez for five months on Michael’s autobiography. They forged a close bond and Michael left no stone unturned. He hopes this will be the first of many similar autobiographical projects.

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