Peter Murphy once said that it would be “weird to build a shrine to myself.” It was his way of explaining why his front room was not festooned with photographs, medals and other trinkets from the most enduring of all outfield Carlisle United careers.

His aversion to self-regarding nostalgia also applied, it turned out, to the most celebrated of his Blues feats. Murphy’s winning goal in 2011’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final was several narratives in one and will always define how he is remembered, yet it was not until the spring of 2020 that he revisited the occasion entirely.

“The night the club replayed the game in full on YouTube…that was the first time I’ve seen it all the way through,” he says, recalling last spring’s Covid-19 lockdown, when football nostalgia filled many a void. “A couple of my friends let me know it was going to be on, so I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with my family and watch it.”

Murphy settled on to his sofa with Oscar, his son who had famously attended the final a day after being born, and scrutinised the footage. The goal would, of course, always be vivid, but he had forgotten other details. “I didn’t realise we’d played so well as a team in the first half,” he says. “Then we had to dig in. I was getting nervous towards the end to see if we could hold out, even when I knew the result...”

News and Star: Murphy sprays champagne during the post-match celebrations at WembleyMurphy sprays champagne during the post-match celebrations at Wembley

It must be a curious experience to go back over every second of a day in which you are the story, you are the star. Then again, there was nothing normal about that weekend for Murphy and, when he recounted it all, it only confirmed that, once in a while, football has that way of producing a delightful tale which manages to give the illusion of being perfectly pre-ordained.

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United were, it is safe to say, on a mission. Their 2010 final against a Southampton team adorned with future Premier League players, had been a low experience for Greg Abbott and his team – and Murphy had played a regrettable part, in conceding a penalty after swiping a cross away with his hand.

“If you watch that game back, there were mistakes all around the team for the four goals, but mine was the one remembered,” he says. “We had something to set right because of that result.”

Murphy did not want to be known for the mishap and he made telling contributions to United’s subsequent JPT run. The purposeful way in which he went about each stage of that cause would not have surprised anyone who had watched his decade of previous work with Carlisle.

The Dubliner, who made his debut in August 2001 after leaving Blackburn Rovers, had survived as a versatile, focused player during three relegation battles and helped United to emerge into better times. His header against Stevenage Borough in 2005 delivered a return to the Football League and he had enhanced United’s charge up League Two and, at centre-half, their establishment as a lasting third-tier side.

Murphy’s composure was tied to an unshakeable care for his profession and a belief that a football career required meticulous application. These qualities earned Murphy the trust of several managers – and also ensured that he had the clarity of mind to deal with a seismic personal event on the eve of the final against Brentford.

Lisa – then his girlfriend, now his wife – had gone into labour on the Friday night. Murphy recalls: “When she started her contractions and the midwife came to check her, Lisa said: ‘Will this baby be out by Sunday? I need to be down in London.’ I don’t know if the midwife thought she was planning to go shopping or something. But Lisa was determined to be there as well because she knew how much it meant to me after the year before.

“Oscar was born on the Saturday morning and everything was all right, but there was a bit of a complication so I missed the team bus travelling down. After being up all night I thought I’d get home, have a couple of hours’ sleep and then try to get down. But I was told by the manager: ‘No, you have to get down straight away.’”

Murphy brought Lisa and their new son home from hospital, and then headed for Carlisle station: “I got on the train, sat down on the seat, put my head on the table in front of me and tried to nod off. When the train stopped at the next station, a guy got on, looked at me with a ticket in his hand and said: ‘You’re sitting in my seat.’ I looked at him as if to say: ‘Are you kidding me?’

“I stood up to look for another seat. A family – a man, woman and two children – were in a four-seater and they were Carlisle fans. The guy stood up and offered me his seat. He knew who I was and what had happened. I looked at his wife and kids and thought: ‘No, I couldn’t.’ I thanked him for the offer, but told him to sit back down.

“I ended up lying down outside the toilets with my head propped up on a bag. People were coming in and out, stepping over me, and I kept having to move out of the way…it wasn’t ideal.”

Murphy finally reached Carlisle’s hotel after his fitful journey, his fellow players gave him their good wishes at breakfast the following morning, and he was part of the squad again: “In a way it was probably a good distraction for the players, just talking and asking how everything went. We then went for a walk and got ready for the game. As we were on the bus, pulling into Wembley Stadium, Paul Thirlwell was asking me: ‘Are you going to do a Bebeto when you score?’ I hadn’t got a clue what that was.”

News and Star: Thousands of United fans were at Wembley for the 2011 JPT finalThousands of United fans were at Wembley for the 2011 JPT final

Murphy had to be reminded of the Brazilian striker who rocked an imaginary baby in celebration during the 1994 World Cup. But he needed no prompting when it came to the importance of the awaiting occasion, despite the commotion of the previous 24 hours. He says: “My head had been focused on this game since the year before. Against Southampton there had been a feeling of: ‘Oh, well, we’ve got there, that’s good.’ This time there was a better feel about it, more focus, a feeling that we had to win it to put things right.”

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The corner fell his way in the 12th minute. “Time sort of froze,” he says. “I remember making a run, the deflection came off Francois Zoko, I took just a little touch on my thigh and could see the player marking me was a bit off me.

“All that I thought was: ‘I don’t have to lash this.’ It’s pretty easy to swipe at things and they go astray. I knew the ’keeper would be blindsided with so many bodies in the way, so I just needed to focus on getting it into an area and then I’d have a very good chance of scoring.”

News and Star: Murphy scores in the 12th minute against Brentford (photo: PA)Murphy scores in the 12th minute against Brentford (photo: PA)

These instant calculations did not come by chance. “We used to play head tennis a lot at Carlisle and I had at Blackburn as well,” Murphy says. “Two-touch, skill games. You might think they’re innocuous, and a lot of players just play them for the craic, but I was playing them to win. It’s all about your touch, playing shots into different areas to try to win points.”

Murphy hit the jackpot as his measured shot sailed into the net. The moment he realised it, he charged off in jubilation. “I pointed to the sky, because I couldn’t believe it. I was thanking God for what just happened – and was then rocking my arms in the Bebeto for a couple of seconds. Then I thought: ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ I knew where Lisa and the baby were with my mam and mother-in-law. I pointed towards them, jumping up in the air. It was amazing. I ran nearly the full length of the pitch, shouting and screaming. I could hear the crowd like a blur of noise in my ear.

“I don’t normally go haywire, but because of what had happened the year before, and having Lisa and Oscar there…there was such a release of energy. It was way above anything I’d ever felt.”

News and Star: Murphy and his team-mates celebrate in front of jubilant Blues fansMurphy and his team-mates celebrate in front of jubilant Blues fans

Carlisle held on grittily to ensure that Murphy’s goal would be the winner, and it was again emphatically better than 12 months earlier, and the other two Trophy finals that he had lost with United, in 2003 and 2006. “Nobody remembers the losers,” he says. “You watch the other team celebrating and, on top of the total disappointment of losing, you have a pre-booked party just to say you got there, which doesn’t do anything for you. This time I knew straight away we’d get to celebrate with our fans. We were hugging each other as players, congratulating each other.”

Murphy, daddy cool, was the centre of attention as he conducted post-match interviews. Later there was a party for Carlisle’s victorious players, but, beforehand, Murphy found a bubble of calm: “I couldn’t wait to get to see Lisa and the family. We spent about two or three hours in the hotel bedroom just sitting on the bed with Oscar in the middle of us and our mothers there. We were all going: ‘Wow…that has been an unbelievable weekend.’

“When we got home, things were nice and quiet again. Our new normal was having the baby who needed looking after. There were a few more interviews and football training to get back to. It seemed like normal life resumed very quickly. The more I thought of that weekend, though, the more I thought I should have put the Lotto on. Everything just went right.”

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Murphy was a popular matchwinner, and he was regarded as a legend by supporters by the time that he left Carlisle in 2013. Only the great goalkeeper, Allan Ross, played more times for them, so that final was considered a rich reward for the most resolute of players.

Murphy’s working life after his playing days, which includes management with Annan Athletic and a job with West Coast Blinds in Carlisle, meant his days were so crammed that it was a rare pause indeed when he sat in front of the screen and remembered 2011 all over again.

Oscar had been an oblivious celebrity that afternoon, surely among the youngest people ever to have attended a cup final. “I don’t think he’s still fully grasped that,” says Murphy, who also has a daughter, Halle. “After half an hour of watching it [last year] he was charging around the living-room, kicking a ball around. He does say he’s famous because he’s been on the telly, and he remembers running around the pitch after my testimonial game in 2012. When we drive past Brunton Park, he says: ‘That’s my pitch.’

News and Star: Ten years on from his Wembley heroics, Murphy is manager of Annan AthleticTen years on from his Wembley heroics, Murphy is manager of Annan Athletic

“He loves football and thinks he’s going to be a footballer. I’m not pushing him because I know the sacrifices you have to make. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve been very fortunate to have it as a career for the majority of my life.”

Murphy is trying to apply the lessons of that life to management. His focus and intelligence appear to make him a good fit for a job which can grind the emotions. The philosophy he has taken forward is also informed by what he had negotiated and overcome in order to have his day of Wembley bliss.

“There are always different challenges,” he says. “What makes somebody successful is wanting to get through those challenges and come out the other side, rather than giving in.”

*Adapted from ‘Bolts From The Blues’ by Jon Colman, published by Vertical Editions (£14.99), with author royalties going to the NHS in Cumbria.