DANNY MURPHY: Grimsby Town are doing my uncle Paul proud

DANNY MURPHY: Grimsby Town are doing my uncle Paul proud with this fairytale FA Cup run… he was once England’s most expensive defender and watching him as a kid made me want to become a footballer

  • Grimsby Town will play Brighton at the Amex for a place in the FA Cup semi-final
  • Former defender Paul Futcher played for a number of clubs including Grimsby 
  • League Two club have done well and I hope they can make my uncle proud 

Covering Grimsby’s tie will be a labour of love for me today because one of the club’s most-popular former players was my uncle Paul.

Paul Futcher, who passed away in 2016, and his twin brother Ron were major reasons why I wanted to become a footballer.

Family occasions at my nan’s were always particularly exciting when they were there. She’d have Paul’s England Under-21 caps and Ron’s hat-trick matchballs on display in glass cabinets. Everyone was so proud of them and I wanted that as well, particularly being football-daft from a young age.

My mum was one of nine, three girls and six boys, three of whom became footballers. Graham, the eldest, played for our local team Chester but Paul and Ron went further afield.

Paul, a polished centre-half, was England’s most expensive defender when he joined Manchester City for £350,000 in 1978 and represented England U21s alongside Glenn Hoddle, Peter Reid, Ray Wilkins and Laurie Cunningham.

League Two side Grimsby Town will play Brighton for a place in the FA Cup semi-final

Former defender Paul Futcher played for a number of clubs including Grimsby and Man City

Danny Murphy was starting his own career at Crewe when Flutcher was at Grimsby

He played for different teams including Luton and Barnsley but Grimsby turned out to be a glorious autumn to his career. He was 34 when he signed in 1991 but had three successful years, helping the team win promotion to what is now the Championship and then finishing in the top half. When he died aged 60, the tributes from the club were overwhelming, hailing him as one of their best-ever players.

I was starting my own career as a Crewe player when he was at Grimsby and I remember being taken by another uncle, Steve, to watch him play. One game at Tranmere stood out in particular because of the running battle he had with John Aldridge.

Paul and Ron were identical twins so it would be easy to mix them up. Personality-wise, Ron was a bit gentler, Paul could deliver the one-liners.

I remember as a kid cheekily telling them I’d be a better footballer than they were and Paul rubbing my head as if to say ‘Not likely’. After I played for England, I reminded him of that and he replied, ‘Ah, but you’ll never be England’s most-expensive midfielder.’ I had to give him that.

His son, my cousin, Ben, also played professionally, including a spell at Grimsby. That side of the family had the height, Ben was a 6ft 6in centre-half.

It’s always been a big regret that I didn’t attend Paul’s funeral but I’ll be thinking about him a lot today while doing the co-commentary at Brighton. Grimsby have done amazingly well to get this far from League Two. I hope they can do my uncle proud.

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