Published on January 9th, 2016 | by Staples Soccer0
John Gould Recalls Dennis Murphy ’73 And The Bridge Grille Team
John Gould — longtime Westport soccer fixture (who once was invited to play piano onstage with the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden) — checked in with this tribute to Dennis Murphy ’73:
Dennis was a magnificent person. I’m proud to have been his friend. He was a true blue, heart of oak man of his word.
I have many happy memories of him. But let me tell a wee story of this giant person.
Scott Williamson ’70 and Larry McFaddin ’70 formed their dream team — the U-23 Bridge Grille — around 1975. They asked me to be their coach.
They had seen me play for the Westport Senior Soccer Club with the likes of Ray Flanigan ’69, Jon Hand ’69, Jan Leth ’72 and Stanley Matthews Jr. I had also coached my son’s team in the Westport Rec program, overseen by Matt Rudd with help from dedicated coaches like Cor Videler and Pete Abeson. Scott and Larry thought I would fit the bill, though I knew they had already been coached by the best in the business: Albie Loeffler and Jim Kuhlmann.
I went along to see if I could help. The Bridge Grille team changed my world. I was introduced to 23 of the fittest, most highly skilled players I had ever seen. They ranged in age from 15 to 23. There wasn’t much for me to do other than make subs at appropriate times, and try to get the young players to play proudly with their peers.
I soon became familiar with their strong individual personalities. I was usually successful at blending them into winning formations that crushed opponents by unusually high scores. Albie and Jim had done their jobs well.
However, that 1st goal sometimes became elusive, on days when the ball seemed square. Yes, we had plans and tactics, and everyone stuck to their designated roles admirably — without scoring a goal.
But on our team of lions, young colts and eagles, we had one tiger. Patrolling on left wing, as solid as you like, laying on cross after beautiful cross, was Dennis Murphy.
Inevitably during a goal drought — which for us was usually no longer than 20 minutes — we would unleash the tiger with the instruction: “Dennis, get us a goal.”
He would quietly nod OK. Soon there would be activity on the left wing. It was Dennis cutting in and leaping over desperate sliding tackles to the send the ball screaming, hard and fast, into the bottom right corner. He would trot humbly back to teh halfway line, amid the hearty congratulations and pats on the back from his happy and relieved teammates.
The Bridge Grille made quite a splash on the soccer scene. They were no ordinary bunch of guys. Our extraordinary goal tallies, black-and-white medieval uniforms, red boot laces and 1 white and 1 black sock could not go unnoticed. Especially among the other Westport team, the Elks a powerhouse of our friends from town coached by my friend Ray Flanigan.
They wanted a piece of us. Match day — when we would do battle for the title of Westport’s finest — was fast approaching. Dennis and I perused the upcoming clash of titans in our clubhouse: the Bridge Grille.
I was nervous — as I was about every game — but Dennis was not bothered. Several times he held up 4 fingers, determinedly saying he would score 4 goals against the Elks.
I did not scoff. I told him “great,” and went home knowing that Dennis Murphy would do his utmost the next day. His conviction and determination would be infectious with his teammates.
A vast, excited crowd awaited the highly touted competition at Doubleday Field. It was an exciting game, with the Elks showing what they were made of, proudly and skillfully trying to unseat us. But to no avail.
True to his word, Dennis Murphy scored 4 goals. He won the game for his beloved Bridge Grille, bringing a tear to my eye even today.
The following summer we took our team to the Roundhill Scottish Games in Stamford. We had 4 sets of brothers, among the other great players on our team.
We beat out 9 bloodthirsty teams that day, winning the tournament and the hearts of the crowd. We brought home to the Bridge Grille — much to our driving force Dennis’ delight — the cherished and huge silver Gillespie trophy. It stood proudly on the shelf in our home bar as testament to all the magnificent effort from Dennis and our team members.
On the Bridge Grille, we were all brothers. You got on the team by ability. Although we were blessed with 4 sets fo them, our last name was Bridge Grille.
Today, it is Murphy.