Loyalty and Contracts

Date: 2nd September 2022

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Loyalty and Contracts

My floors at College were laid by Spud Murphy.

I was the manager at the College and one day a very familiar figure came in with his measuring tape. Now I say familiar. I had watched him from afar. John “Spud” Murphy holds Ayr United’s all-time record for appearances. Managing to rack them up from the late ’60s to the ’70’s Spud never played for anybody else.

He was one of Scotland’s best defenders of the time. Unfortunately, the time was when Danny McGrain was also playing so Murphy never graced the national team.

Their loss.

Our gain was to see him in an Ayr shirt every weekend. Even those of us without nostalgic tendencies know that this was a golden time for the club – our wee club.

Murphy stayed for all of it.

I have no idea if riches would have followed him had he taken a transfer out of Ayr and gone elsewhere. It was not a time when there were riches in Scottish football.

He was an incredibly loyal servant.

I have no idea if his contracts were year to year, multi-year or whatever because we never heard such things. The fact that each and every pre-season he was there was enough.

We loved him for it.

Now when a Montenegrin winger signs a five year deal with Celtic it makes the news. Loyalty is now questioned by figures of contract deals. It also highlights that the guy might actually be pretty good OR it is one of those they buy him for a few bob, harness him, develop him and sell on for a fortune.

In short, he becomes a commodity.

It may make purists balk but they are always also the ones who tend to be nostalgic for a time when you could get a decent transfer fee out of an average player.

It made me wonder, not for a long time mind you, what we see as the ultimate example of loyalty to our club in 2022. Players now need to make a living – not just because the carpet fitting business is not what it once was – but because we recognise their careers are short and clubs are far more fickle than they used to be. If a player does not “cut it” with the support, they get cast adrift.

Supporters take little time before they call players out, as well as managers, and call for the livelihoods of these individuals to be cut short. And their comments are very cutting. I try not to do that but can see where there is a loyalty to a player or a group of players in a dressing room, beyond their effectiveness how that spreads to the whole team – it is simple project management.

I witnessed the sharp end of that at Ayr when Chris Aitken was hounded out. Certain supporters did not like him. I have no idea why. I was involved in the matchday programme at the time and the mood between the players was one of solidarity with Aitken, their captain, in the main. There were some who perhaps were a little less than onboard, not because they agreed with the crowd but just because in the normal way of things, they saw things differently. It was their right to do so and perhaps some thought that if Aitken was being picked on, they were being left alone. His loyalty was constantly questioned and then he left.

People who questioned his commitment were then on the case of somebody else. Eventually they left.

The days of five year contracts may be a luxury up the leagues and we sit well below that luxurious position. But, given the current state of play for us – top of the Championship as I write this – I would take what we had over any nostalgia for the moment…

And I have a vinyl floor I could do with Spud fixing in the hoose…


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