Born: December 12, 1941;

Died: November 7, 2016

ERIC Murray, who has died aged 74, was a footballer and one of the unsung heroes of the Kilmarnock side that won the Scottish League Championship in 1965.

Like the majority of that team, Murray was an Ayrshireman - he was born in and lived all his life in Symington - and the Rugby Park fans recognised him as one of their own, getting to represent the club on the park.

He came through the then prolific Saxone Amateurs development club, joining Kilmarnock as a centre-forward in 1960. He was briefly farmed out to Dreghorn Juniors, but was soon back at the club and making his debut, wearing the number nine shirt against Hearts in the League Cup in August, 1962.

Willie Wadell, however, converted him to a right-half, and, with the adoption of a 4-4-2 formation, Murray would eventually slot in as one of Killie's twin centre-halves. He did not make that place his own until the league-winning season, however, having to battle for the number four jersey with Pat O'Connor, following Ian Davidson's transfer to Preston North End.

Indeed, Waddell would use his versatility in a number of positions, including a spell back at centre forward. He found this difficult, but there was one tale which brought laughter at his funeral. Waddell, having been impressed by Eric Murray's display at centre forward in a midweek practice match handed him the number nine jersey for Hibs' visit to Rugby Park. However, Murray struggled to get into the game; if he came short, Kilmarnock played the ball long, and vice versa. Then, when his team mates played a high ball in, either John McNamee or Morten Jensen, the Hibs' centre-halves would out-jump him – he touched the ball twice, to kick off.

Then, towards the end of the game, Davie Sneddon mis-hit a cross, it glanced off Murray's head and past Ronnie Simpson in the Hibs goal to win the game for Kilmarnock. Needless to say, Murray always claimed the goal was a result of a superb Sneddon cross and his great run, but both players knew differently.

Murray played in 59 of Kilmarnock's 60 games in the wonderful 1964-65 season – including in the unforgettable second-leg Fairs Cup win over Eintracht Frankfort, when Kilmarnock overturned a four-goal deficit to win the tie; forming a superb defensive partnership with the late Jackie McGrory.

He was again a fixture in the side the following season, when Kilmarnock represented Scotland in the European Cup, and were drawn against Real Madrid. Murray always claimed: “I had Puskas in my pocket in the first leg at Rugby Park.” This game finished 2-2 and, many years later, after a Kilmarnock fan had “rescued” the Scotsport highlights tape of the game from a skip outside the STV studios, the surviving players were shown it at a function in the Killie Club at Rugby Park, held to celebrate goalkeeper Bobby Ferguson coming home from Australia for a visit.

Everyone knew of Murray's claim to have had Puskas in his pocket, so, it was somewhat disconcerting to hear commentator Bob Crampsey repeatedly refer to the legendary “Galloping Major” being on the ball. At the end, one of the team asked Murray: “How come, if you had Puskas in your pocket, he was never off the screen in the highlights clip”?

“That was only 15 minutes – there were another 75 in the game,” was the unabashed Murray's reply.

After over 200 games, Eric Murray was released at the end of the 1968 season, as Kilmarnock went part-time. He joined St Mirren for a couple of seasons, before running down his playing career with Cumnock Juniors.

After football, he worked for a time with The Evening Times before joining the legendary bookmaker Freddie Williams in his company. However, following a stroke some eight years ago, he was never the same.

His footballing ability was passed to his son Stevie, who played senior football, before his career was ended far too soon by a terrible injury.

Eric Murray, who is survived by wife Anna, and sons Stevie and Eric Jnr , was one of the good guys of the game. He was modest about his achievements, and was always ready with a laugh and a joke. One day, while he was in the Wee Windaes pub in Ayr, he was at the bar as mine host Jim McSherry, a former Kilmarnock team-mate, was telling a local sports writer, who McSherry thought had maligned him in print, he was “barred”.

Murray got hold of the offending article, read it, then told McSherry: “Hey Jim, that's just about the nicest thing anybody's ever written about you.” The banning order was promptly lifted.