Derek on an ‘impossible dream’ as little Mossley make it to Wembley final

RETIRED journalist Derek Rigby, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, played no small part in the glory days at Mossley Football Club.

Derek Rigby with an old Mossley club tie

Had it not been for Derek’s timely intervention it might well have been a completely different story at Seel Park.

Bob Murphy, who proudly led Mossley out at Wembley in the final of the FA Trophy, was appointed caretaker manager in 1978 following the dismissal of Dick Bate.

Derek, who lives on Mossley Road, Ashton, takes up the story: “I asked the committee if Bob had applied for the job and was told he hadn’t.

“They said if he hadn’t applied he wouldn’t be considered. I think Bob thought as he was caretaker he didn’t need to apply.

“I tipped off Bob who applied and he got the job and that was the start of the most successful chapter in the club’s history.”

Derek also alerted Bob to the availability of Eamon O’Keefe who was returning home after a spell playing in Saudia Arabia for Al Hilal.

He explained: “Former Mossley manager George Smith managed Al Hilal and when he returned home he informed me Eamon was also coming back.

“I alerted Bob and within days he was on the club’s books. If he had not heard, another club would have quickly snapped him up.”

O’Keefe went on to play 113 games for Mossley, scoring 50 goals – form that tempted Everton to splash out £25,000 in 1979 – which remains a club record sale.

Derek reported on the fortunes of the Lilywhites from the 1950s to the early 1980s for the Mossley Reporter.

He recalled that Mossley a very poor side in the Cheshire League that contained the likes of Altrincham, Macclesfield Town, Northwich Victoria and Runcorn.

But the appointment of Eddie Quigley, the former Sheffield Wednesday, Preston and Blackburn inside forward as player manager in 1957 helped transform the club’s fortunes.

Mossley finished bottom in his first season, but by 1961 were fourth – their best post-war finish.

Derek said: “Eddie brought some success, but nothing like what Bob Murphy did which was one of the most outstanding achievements at non-league bearing in mind Mossley is such a small town.

“I maintain Eddie was the best player I ever saw for Mossley.”

Derek added Mossley have the distinction of having two England managers on their books – Sir Walter Winterbottom and Howard Wilkinson.

He dealt with Wilkinson, who managed the club for six months in 1976/77 season early in his managerial career.

“I used to speak to Howard once or twice a week and got on well with him, though he could be a bit curt and sharp,” he said.

The highlight of Derek’s writing about Mossley was charting their path to the Wembley final of the FA Trophy in 1979/80 when they lost 2-1 to Dagenham.

Derek continued: “When I began covering Mossley, never for one moment did I ever think I would see them play at Wembley.

“It was an impossible dream for a small-town club with poor facilities, compared to other non-league teams at that time.

“But when the gang came along, they were a brilliant side.”

Derek has great memories of the cup run, notably travelling with the team to the final.

He continued: “It was amazing to be on the team coach as it drove up Wembley Way through the big doors into the stadium.

“An official from the Football Association took me into the changing rooms after the game.

“I was also the only non-player allowed on the team bus on the parade back in Mossley – not even the chairman was on the bus – but Bob insisted I was on. I will never forget the crowds packed into the Market Square.”

Derek also played his part in the cup success as he explained: ‘I found out about the opposition from their local newspaper for the Reporter and also fed the information to Bob.

“I would find out who were their form players, their style of play, whether they had a shaky defence and so on.”

Derek says Mossley have had many wonderful players over the years, including Scot Harvey McCreadie, a striker who scored 36 goals in 44 appearances in 1961/62 when he was sold to Hibernian for £1,000.

There was also goalkeeper Gary Pierce who was sold to Huddersfield Town and later played for Wolves in the 1974 League Cup final when they beat Manchester City.

Derek also recalls Lewis Goram, the former Hibernian and Bury stopper playing for Mossley. He is the father of former Oldham Athletic, Hibernian, Glasgow Rangers and Scotland keeper Andy.

Mike Batty, who made 13 first-team appearances for Manchester City, is another player who Derek remembers fondly as was winger John Willis who made 251 appearances and scored 43 goals between 1957/64. 

Willis was transferred to Aston Villa for £500 but, after only one first-team appearance, returned to Seel Park.

And he also remembered Mike Summerbee, the Manchester City and England winger, who was lured out of retirement to play for Mossley in the first round of the FA Cup when they beat Crewe Alexandra.

Derek began his working career as a 15-year-old office boy at the Reporter and rose to deputy editor by the time he had to retire through ill health aged 58.

His career was interrupted by three years in the RAF in which he served in Southern Rhodesia.

After retiring, Derek continued to watch the Lilywhites and was saddened by their demise.

He said: “I was worried sick they might be forced to sell up and houses built on the ground. 

“Happily that never happened and it is good to see the club back in the Evo Stik League.”

One Reply to “Derek on an ‘impossible dream’ as little Mossley make it to Wembley final”

  1. I have no clue how I stumbled across this website page …. but so DELIGHTED to know that dear Derek Rigby aged 90+ is still “correspondent”. He was Chief Reporter on the Ashton Reporter newspaper group when I was an indentured “cub” way back in 1996 and (even though the Ashton Reporter sacked me for unauthorised use of a circulation department battered old van) it was Derek’s skills and example (and occasional blind eyes to stupidity) that propelled me to far greater career. I’d very much appreciate his full addresss (still living in Mossley Road?) so that I can write to him and thank him. Mark Roberts.

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