Jimmy Murray’s sojourn at the pinnacle of Scottish football was not long-lasting, but while he was there he blazed brilliantly.
In 1958 the predatory marksman touched rarefied heights. He netted for the 27th time in 33 games as Heart of Midlothian were crowned as League champions in the spring – then, in the summer, he became the first man to score for Scotland in the World Cup finals.
His star remained ascendant as he shone at Hampden Park while notching twice in Hearts’ 5-1 victory over Partick Thistle in the 1958-59 League Cup final; then he was prolific again as the Jam Tarts clinched a second title in three years in 1960.
However, with stern competition for inside-forward berths emerging from the extraordinarily talented likes of Denis Law and John White, his collection of international caps was limited to five. Surprisingly, he had also slipped out of the Tynecastle reckoning by his late twenties.
At his zenith, the livewire Murray was a compelling performer, brimming with brio and exhibiting immense strength and stamina as he dashed to all attacking areas. His aerial work embraced both power and stealth, and he was as clever a creator of chances as he was a prolific finisher in his own right.
Murray arrived at Tynecastle via junior clubs Merchiston Thistle and Newtongrange Star as a 17-year-old in September 1950 and made his senior debut in April 1952, scoring in a 5-2 home win over Stirling Albion.
Thereafter progress was rendered difficult by the excellence of the revered “terrible trio” of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, and by national service in the RAF, during which he was loaned fleetingly to Reading.
However, as Conn fell prey to serial injuries, Murray blossomed luxuriantly, exceeding most expectations with his superb contribution to the 1957-58 championship triumph, during which he combined exquisitely with Wardhaugh and future Everton idol Alex Young.
His reward was a first full cap in a 4-0 Hampden drubbing by England in April 1958, but he compensated for that by nodding Scotland’s historic equaliser in a 1-1 World Cup group stage draw with Yugoslavia in Vasteras, Sweden, in June – his nation’s only previous sortie in the global tournament having ended goalless in 1954.
During 1960-61, Murray proved less effective and he was freed in May, having scored 81 goals in 143 senior matches, going on to short spells with Falkirk and Clyde. There followed a brief stint as Falkirk’s assistant boss, and fleeting coaching berths with Raith Rovers and Hearts, before he became sales manager of an electrical company.
James Murray, footballer: born Edinburgh 4 February 1933; played for Hearts 1950-61, Reading on loan 1954, Falkirk 1961-62, Raith Rovers 1962-64; died Edinburgh 10 July 2015.