Away From The Numbers

MURPHY'S MOB
- NO MORE MINDLESS EMPTY DAYS

Mac Murphy - Manager of Dunmore UnitedWurzel and Mr CassidyMurphy's Mob LogoLewis Stevens as Wurzel GlossopWurzel and Mr CassidyLogo from Murphy's Mob comic strip from Look In Magazine

Everywhere you go, everything you see
Someone's saying no, it's a tragedy
Find another place, cos you can't play here
Don't want any lip, so there!

Y'know it's gonna be alright if we stick together
We're gonna have a fine, fine time if we stick together
No more mindless empty days...


And so went the opening theme tune to one of my favourite childhood programmes and one of my favourite football related dramas ever - MURPHY'S MOB.

As a teenager growing up in Thatcher's Scotland of the 1980's, you needed as much joyous TV escapism as you could get and it didn't come much better than rushing home from school twice a week to watch MURPHY'S MOB, to see their latest scrapes and escapades, which of course were always more exciting than your own!

Murphy's Mob - Y'know it's gonna be alright if we stick together
Broadcast on ITV from 1982-1985, running to four seasons and over 50 episodes, Murphy's Mob was set around a struggling, fictional English Third Division Football Club called Dunmore United.

In particular the show focussed on a group of long suffering young fans as they overcame obstacles to set up their own Junior Supporters Club and clubhouse in the stadium, whilst also following their day to day lives and misadventures, in school, after school and of course, on a Saturday afternoon.

Dunmore played in yellow, red and black, which was no real surprise as the show was filmed at Watford's Vicarage Road ground. So close to East Fife's colours as well, adding extra spice for those of a Bayview persuasion.

There was football. There was fun. There were fights. There were football rivalries - meaning football fights! There were girls. There was snogging. There was despair. But most of all, there was great TV.

The show had all you could want if you were a football loving kid in the early 80's.

The characters in the show were varied, as was their acting experiences prior to the show and since.

Dunmore United was owned by pop star Rasputin Jones (played by Terence Budd), who was coming towards the end of his pop career and decided to sink his cash into the struggling Club. He was very much a hands-on owner of not only the Club, but also Outer Space - the amusement arcade where many of the kids congregated and spent all their money and where a lot of the action took place, especially with rival fans from the Town.

Of the kid actors, Boxer was meant to be the main star. Played by Keith Jayne, who had been a star previously as the lead in ITV's Stig of the Dump, Boxer was joined by characters such as Mugsy Moran, Pacman, The Hulk, Prof and girls Charlie and Hannah.

For me though there were three real stars of the show, whose performances still stick fresh in my mind today as if it was only yesterday that I was regularly watching the show.

Ken Hutchinson, a Scot, who played Dunmore's downtrodden manager Mac Murphy was tremendous, snarly and an Alex Ferguson in the making - mannerisms wise at least!

Murphy's Mob - Wurzel and Mr Cassidy
And then there was Mr Cassidy, who really didn't want the kids around the Club at all. Boo!

Mr Cassidy was wonderfully played by the great character actor Milton Johns, who is probably best known to millions in his later role as Brendan Scott in Coronation Street. He was a pantomine style villain played to perfection. He didn't like the kids. The kids didn't like him. I can't really remember what Mr Cassidy's role was, but he certainly seemed to be Rasputin Jones' right hand man and ran his arcade. Not someone to get on the wrong side of, but did he actually have a right one?!

Cassidy provided a lot of the show's most memorable comedic scenes and provided almost a comedy double act in his scenes with policeman's son 'Wurzel' Glossop.

The mentioning of Wurzel here brings me to my third most memorable and my favourite character from the series. For me, the star of the show.

Wurzel was a much downtrodden upon character, who at times never seemed able to do anything right. He wasn't the brightest kid in school, but he was certainly one of the wittiest, played in fine comic style by Lewis Stevens.

For those of you who remember Wurzel and the series as fondly as myself, we have a treat in store, as AFTN recently caught up with Lewis Stevens who played Wurzel and chatted to him about his time on the series and what he's been doing since:


AFTN:  HOW DID YOU LAND THE PART OF WURZEL IN MURPHY'S MOB?

LS:  I was at a local weekend drama club in North London and the Producers of Murphy's Mob came to see one of the stage shows we put on twice a year - they were looking for regular 'normal' kids, so they looked wider than the normal drama schools. They invited a whole bunch of us to come to an audition - and I got lucky!

Lewis Stevens on Crackerjack's Young Entertainers in 1978
AFTN:  WE FIRST SAW YOU ON OUR SCREENS FOUR YEARS EARLIER WHEN YOU APPEARED ON CRACKERJACK'S YOUNG ENTERTAINERS IN 1978. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GO INTO SHOW BUSINESS AT SUCH AN EARLY AGE?

LS:  I started doing stand-up comedy at the age of 7! I used to enter talent competitions each year while on holiday at various holiday camps around the UK. I just enjoyed it and was always amazed that it seemed quite easy to win them - I don't think I realised how unusual it was for a kid of that age to be on stage telling jokes… Then Crackerjack advertised for 'Young Entertainers' to contact them - so my mum sent in a postcard and that's how it happened.

AFTN:  DO YOU HAVE FOND MEMORIES OF YOUR TIME IN MURPHY'S MOB?

LS:  I had a great time for the whole 4 years we made the show. It was an amazing experience and I really enjoyed it. It was great to have that opportunity to get so much TV acting experience and to work with some great adult actors. I was also interested in the 'behind the scenes', so loved just hanging around and watching what was going on.

AFTN:  ANY STANDOUT HIGHLIGHTS?

LS:  Although I have never got into a real fight - we had a few fight scenes which were really great to do - and were choreographed by real fight co-coordinators. One involving water buckets outside Watford Football Club and another in a later episode that had us all throwing lots of cakes and ice creams. I really enjoyed the scenes where there was comedy and I could really get into it. The writers saw that I enjoyed and was good at the comedy, so they began to write two-hander scenes between me and Mr Cassidy and between me and Rasputin and they were always very fulfilling to do well.

AFTN:  WAS IT DIFFICULT TO JUGGLE FILMING WITH YOUR EVERYDAY SCHOOLWORK?

LS:  It was difficult, but I didn't mind it. I used to work a lot of the week on Murphy's Mob (away from home in Nottingham for Series 3 and 4) and come back home at weekends when I would do my school work. My maths teacher gave me private tuition on Sunday mornings.

Wurzel Glossop and his dad
AFTN:  IT MUST BE A NICE FEELING TO KNOW THAT SOMETHING YOU DID SO MANY YEARS AGO IS HELD IN HIGH REGARD AND CULT STATUS TODAY. YOUR CHARACTER IN PARTICULAR IS VERY FONDLY REMEMBERED. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

LS:  I've been really pleased with the reaction to the clips that are up on YouTube - it seems to have stirred a lot of memories. I think Wurzel was a likeable character with a good heart - he was always trying to persuade the adults to do things, but in a way that made them think it was their idea. He was often getting into scrapes and had some good comedy moments, so I guess he was good fun to watch.

AFTN:  WHY DO YOU THINK THERE'S NEVER BEEN A DVD RELEASE OF THE SERIES? DO YOU THINK THERE EVER WILL BE ONE?

LS:  The show came off air in 1986, so I think that was before DVD releases were as common as they are now. I have recently been asking ITV if there's a chance of licensing the DVD rights but have not got much response from them. I'm unsure if demand would be big enough to support a DVD release though? I think a fan's website that streamed clips and full length programmes and enabled fans to post comments & questions etc would be an interesting idea though.

AFTN:  THAT WOULD BE CERTAINLY BE EXCELLENT AND ENJOYABLE.

WHAT IMPACT DID BEING A NATIONAL TEENAGE TV STAR HAVE ON YOUR LIFE?

LS:  Not much really. I did get noticed quite a bit when it was on (and got asked to sign a few autographs) - and very occasionally still do - but that was about it really. It gave me tremendous experience at an early age, so I guess I grew up a lot doing it.

AFTN:  DO YOU STILL KEEP IN TOUCH WITH ANY OF THE CAST OF THE SHOW?

LS:  I lost contact with all of the cast, but since the video clips have been up on YouTube I have been contacted by many other cast members that also played kids roles in the Series. So I am in e-mail contact with some of them and hopefully I'll get to meet up with them at some point. It'll be interesting to meet up after 20+ years!

Lewis Stevens as Wurzel Glossop
AFTN:  YEAH, THAT COULD BE INTERESTING AND SCARY!   WHAT DIRECTION HAS LIFE TAKEN YOU SINCE THE SHOW?

LS:  After finishing Murphy's Mob, I went to Oxford to study Engineering, Economics and Management, where I began to produce theatre, as well as act in it. A couple of years after graduating, I worked in the West End for a theatre producer, before joining Granada TV as a management Trainee. I then went to Los Angeles to do an MBA at UCLA and came back to the UK to work at the BBC - in business development roles related to the web and new technologies. I left the BBC last summer and now run my own consulting firm focussed on digital strategy and business development for media companies.

I haven't been acting much, but I did dabble with stand-up comedy again last year, which was fun. I do miss acting, so would love to do something else again at some point…

AFTN: WELL GOOD LUCK WITH ALL THAT LEWIS. THANKS SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US. IT'S BEEN REALLY ENJOYABLE GOING DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH YOU. CHEERS.

* * * * * *

It's strange to think that the show has never been released on video or DVD as, at the time, it was immensely popular and is often cited as the definitive children's TV drama series, above even the likes of Grange Hill.

It also spawned a series of three paperback books based on the characters and series.

All three books were produced by Puffin. "Murphy's Mob" by Michael Saunders started the ball rolling and this was quickly followed by "The Return of Murphy's Mob" and "Murphy and Co" by Anthony Masters.

Murphy's Mob comic strip from Look In Magazine
The cast were even immortalised in cartoon form with Look In Magazine (another blast from the past) running regular comic strip adventrues of the gang during the show's time on TV.

We've managed to track down one of the comic strips, from Issue 28 of Look In Magazine in 1983.

You can view the strip in it's full glory in another window, by clicking HERE.

The show is definitely long overdue a DVD release. In the years that have passed we could only live with our vague memories of Auf Wiedersehen Pet's Gary Holton's punky theme tune, the storylines and the childhood wonders of why we never had such a cool clubhouse for young fans at East Fife.

That was until the joy that is You Tube and the discovery of the clips below:

(NB: these clips will all open in individual seperate windows. If you want to avoid this just follow the links of the clip sumbitter from the first clip)

HOMEWORK SCENE (SEASON 1)
DOG TROUBLE (SEASON 2)
AT THE POLICE STATION (SEASON 3)
GETTING THE JOB (SEASON 3)
WORKING WITH MR CASSIDY (SEASON 3)
WASHING UP (SEASON 3)
CAKE FIGHT (SEASON 3)

Enjoy the moments once again or for the first time. Let's hope that one day we'll be able to see the whole series once more on our TV screens via DVD.

Got your own memories of the series? Then share them with your fellow AFTN readers in the FORUM.

C'mon Dunmore.




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