Leigh look to Murphy for a change in fortunes

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The Independent Online

Leigh have already played Salford five times this season without beating them, but in their National League One play-off today they hope that a 64-year-old, coaxed out of retirement and currently not even in the country, will make the difference. Salford have won all three league meetings this season and, after a draw earlier in the competition, also beat Leigh in the Arriva Trains Cup final. That was the record that persuaded Leigh they needed to make a change, which entailed replacing Paul Terzis as coach with Tommy Martyn and Norman Turley and bringing back the legendary Alex Murphy for a fifth stint at the club, in the role of director of football.

Murphy will still be in France this weekend, completing his annual holiday, but the new regime at Leigh believe that, even from that distance, he can have a positive effect.

"He's been in contact almost every day and he's had quite a bit of an impact, even from across the water," said the club's chief executive, Alan Rowley.

"He's been in touch with Tommy, bouncing things off him, and he's going to have a very big part in assembling our squad for next season, whether that's for Super League or National League."

Murphy, who coached Leigh to the Challenge Cup in 1971 and the First Division title a decade later, will return to the country on Tuesday, by which time the club will know whether they have taken the direct route to the Grand Final, or must play again next Sunday against the winner of this week's match between Rochdale and Hull KR.

On the evidence so far, Leigh are long odds against winning at The Willows today, although they hope that they might have narrowed the gap between the two clubs by going full-time for the business end of the season.

Rowley believes that it has been Salford's ability to maintain a full-time squad since their relegation from Super League last year that has been the difference between the two.

"Since we went full-time, our preparation has been great," said Rowley, whose son, the former England World Cup hooker Paul, will be a key man today.

The other potential game-breaker is Martyn. Ever since Leigh recruited him from St Helens in mid-season, Salford have been aware that his ability to win a big game with a flash of inspiration is the biggest threat to their hopes.

Whether saddling him with coaching responsibilities at this stage of the proceedings is the best way to draw out that little bit of magic is another matter entirely. If he can't do it today, however, Leigh can still have another stab at the Reds on 5 October - and this time Murphy will be there in body as well as in spirit.