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The footie boss who coached Pele and Best; Tributes to Teessider with global reach over the beautiful game who has died aged 83.

TEESSIDER Ken Furphy, who has died aged 83, had a long and successful football career as a player and manager - and even managed Pele. Here ANDREW WILKINSON, who covered Darlington for The Gazette for many years and knew Ken well, looks back on his extraordinary life in football A STRAIGHT-TALKING Stockton lad, Ken Furphy's main claim to fame, in a sport that was becoming increasingly global, was to manage both Pele and George Best in North America.

There Furphy coached New York Cosmos, Miami, Detroit and Washington.

On meeting Brazilian icon Pele for the first time, Furphy told him he would be treated just like any other player. And that was typical of Furphy, for he treated everyone the same. Whether coaching the greats, or in his seventies when he covered football for BBC Radio Devon, he talked with great enthusiasm about the game and, despite his vast experience, retained an almost child-like love of the sport.

He joined Darlington as a player in 1953, though not before a couple of setbacks. Everton were keen on the midfielder, but he was called up for National Service and posted to his native North-east, where he applied for a trial at all the clubs in the region.

Only Darlington responded but they rejected him, questioning his stamina. He pleaded his case, telling Quakers he was second in the Durham cross-country championships. It seemed to be to no avail. However, when a player dropped out of a "possible versus probables" trial match at Darlington, a telegram arrived at Ken's house, asking him to hurry down to the ground.

The rest is history. Despite being pitched into an unfamiliar full-back role in that game, he did well enough to be snapped up - on PS1 a week and PS3 a game. He went on to play 349 games in nine years at Darlington, mainly at right-half, and was in the side that reached the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1958, beating Chelsea 4-1 at Feethams along the way, after drawing 3-3 at Stamford Bridge, when Quakers were 3-0 up - and Furphy was told to mark Jimmy Greaves, who Darlington manager Dickie Duckworth called "a flash in the pan."

But it was an incident in the first round at Rochdale that Furphy most remembered. He recalled: "I tack-bered. tack led an opponent so hard, I knocked him over the advertising hoarding and into the crowd. He had to go off injured.

"At the end of the game, a spectator ran on to the pitch and kicked me, so my dad ran on and whacked the spectator!" Darlington were finally knocked out 6-1 at Wolves in the sixth round, ending the club's best ever FA Cup run.

During his years at Feethams, Furphy quali-fied as a coach and, after finishing his playing days at Workington, he managed the Cumbrian side before going on to take charge at Watford, Black-Black burn and Sheffield United. He won promotion at Workington, then in 1969 took Watford to Division Two (now the Championship) for the first time in their history. Watford's most famous manager Graham Taylor, who went on to lead England, told BBC Sport: "He was very well thought of in Watford. He knew what he was talking about. When he had something to say, you listened."

Furphy managed Watford for six years - once having his team talk before an FA Cup tie with Manchester United broadcast on BBC sport programme Grandstand - before switching to take charge at Blackburn. He spent two years there before being appointed boss of Shef-Shef field United, where he led The Blades to sixth place in the top flight, one spot outside a UEFA Cup place.

He then spent six years in the States - his son Keith becoming a professional player there and at Plymouth Argyle - before managing the Bermuda national team. He returned to England and 15 years ago became technical director of Exeter City. He enjoyed golf in Devon and kept alive his football activities with his radio work, which is when he came to know the Darlington media, including The Gazette's Andrew Wilkinson.

Andrew said: "The long car journeys to Torquay were more palatable for the thought that the friendly face of Ken would be at the other end, ready to talk football and learn of the latest events at Darlington and Boro."


Ken Furphy taking his Watford team on a bootcamp training session in the 1960s, above and left. As a manager in America, he coached legends Pele, right, and George Best, far right
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 21, 2015
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