Football

Man United's Scout Tried And Failed To Woo Eamon Dunphy's Mother With A Turkey

Man United's Scout Tried And Failed To Woo Eamon Dunphy's Mother With A Turkey

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Eamon Dunphy's podcast The Stand  is excellent. While we may disagree with them about plenty, Dunphy, Giles and Brady are still great characters and are particularly entertaining when telling stories of yesteryear.

This week, the trio spent a podcast episode trading tales about their first steps into professional football and their experiences of England after leaving the comfort of Dublin. To say that it was a different road to the one young footballers travel today is putting it mildly. In fact, nevermind nowadays, the landscape had changed dramatically in the 16 years between John Giles going over to England for the first time in 1955 and when Liam Brady journeyed in 1971.

An experience Liam described as a "doddle compared to John's" after hearing how a 14-year-old Giles travelled over to Liverpool by boat on his own and had to find his way to Manchester:

"My mother stuck a pound note - I don't know where she got the pound from - inside my pocket in case anything happened. I had to then get from Liverpool to Lime Street and then to Manchester Central where a man called Joe Armstrong was waiting to meet me.

"I was only a young fella and the only time I got a bit scared by it all was about ten minutes from coming into Manchester when it just crossed my mind that I had never met Joe Armstrong before. What's going to to happen if he doesn't recognise me and I don't recognise him? I'm going to be stuck in Manchester and didn't know anyone. That was the only time I got scared."

Giles did indeed find Armstrong and just five years later the same man would meet Eamon Dunphy when he arrived in Manchester, albeit after he was flown in by the club from Dublin. The most endearing part of Dunphy's origin story centres around the legendary Manchester United scout, Billy Behan. Behan served as the club's scout in Ireland for decades and had a keen eye for talent.

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In the late 50s, Dunphy came upon his radar. While Dunphy would join in 1960, Behan first introduced himself to his mother the previous Christmas: "He arrived at my house on Richmond Road, opposite Tolka Park, the Christmas before I went away, when I was 14 and a half."

"My mother was in on her own. He said 'Mrs Dunphy, my name is Billy Behan, I'm a scout for Manchester United,' and he presented her with a turkey and a bottle of sherry. Now we'd never had a turkey before. My Da used to go down on Christmas Eve and hopefully get a chicken. It was the first turkey we'd seen.

"My father came home from work - God rest the two of them - and she said 'Paddy there's a man after coming here and giving me a turkey, and he's talking about Manchester United. What's all that about?'

"My father said 'Well he's a scout and he might want Eamon to go to Manchester.' My mother was horrified, she hated him from that moment.

Ever the doting mother, the thought of losing her son to Manchester was not one Eamon's mam wanted to entertain: "She said to me the next morning when we were going to school 'Why are you going to England to play football? Sure there's loads of football here?'"

"Billy was not a welcome visitor from that point onwards but of couse I was thrilled beyond belief."

John Giles' mother had the same suspicion of Behan. "Not because he was a bad man or anything, explained Giles, "but because he was taking her son away to Manchester. But as far as I was concerned, I was like you [Eamon] and Liam, I was only too delighted to be going to Manchester."

The full episode is well worth a listen, with plenty of other great stories, including how Dunphy could have ended up playing for Liverpool.

See Also: Balls Remembers The Worst Ever Title Defence In Premier League History

Mark Farrelly
Article written by
Balls Media Audience Development Manager. Former Miss World 1997 contestant.

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