Who is Brian Barry-Murphy: Why has he been compared to Pep Guardiola and could he swap Rochdale for Blackpool?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 20 February 2020, 10:20

Blackpool’s search for their sixth manager in five years has taken a twist after Rochdale boss Brian Barry-Murphy sprung out of nowhere to lead the next Blackpool manager market.

From a famous father and comparisons to Pep Guardiola, we profile the 41-year-old Irishman and assess the likelihood of him trading League One dugouts...

Famous Father

Peterborough’s Darren Ferguson isn’t the only League One manager with a famous father. Brian’s dad is Jimmy Barry-Murphy, an iconic former Gaelic footballer and hurler over in Ireland.

“My dad is a similar figure to Sir Alex in Irish sports, incredibly well-known,” Brian revealed to The Guardian. “When I sneaked over to the UK I escaped that. I just kept it on the quiet.”

From Caretaker to Main Man

Rochdale sought a new direction when they sacked long-serving boss Keith Hill in March 2018. Hill, now at Bolton, had been in charge for a whopping six years but the club pulled the plug after a run of one win in 12 left them five points adrift of safety in League One.

First-team coach Brian Barry-Murphy was subsequently named caretaker at the relegation-threatened club. A return of eight points from four games saw his status elevated to full-time manager on a two-year contract. The Dale were still in the relegation zone but four wins from their final seven games saw the Cork native lead his troops to a very respectable 16th-placed finish.

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Blackpool Bound? Brian Barry-Murphy has been installed as the new favourite

Guardiola Comparison

Back in the hazy days of August Rochdale whipped up an early contender for ‘team goal of the season’ after producing an eye-catching 40-second 16-pass move, in which they delightfully swept the ball from the edge of their own penalty box through to the back of the Southend net. 

The passing combinations and slick interplay drew comparisons with a certain Pep Guardiola and Man City, which is testament to the attractive style of football Barry-Murphy implements at Rochdale.

“We know the way we like to play and I enjoy seeing the lads have the balls to stick to it,” he said. “It doesn’t always work but when it does, it’s great. 

Barry-Murphy, who operates on a small budget, has also won praise for his trust in youth. From 16-year-old Luke Matheson - we’ll get to him in a minute - who has since been snapped up by Wolves for £1m, to the likes of Rhys Norrington-Davies and Aaron Morley.

Cup Prominence

Earlier this season Rochdale took Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd to penalties in the third round of the League Cup at Old Trafford. The League One side famously equalised through 16-year-old Luke Matheson, who had only collected his GCSE results a month previous, and the following day was back in school for psychology.

It’s not just the League Cup in which Rochdale have caught the attention of the wider footballing public. Wins over Wrexham and Boston United set up a juicy FA Cup third-round clash against Newcastle. Again, they held a Premier League side for 90 minutes, as they took the Toon to a replay at St James’ Park, unfortunately for the 2,500 travelling fans the visitors were unable to conjure up an upset second time around.

Could he swap Rochdale for Blackpool?

19th-placed Rochdale currently sit just two positions above the drop zone - four points and three places behind Blackpool - however, at the time of writing they have a 10 point cushion on Tranmere down in 21st.

With respect to Rochdale, if Barry-Murphy is keen on challenging up at the other end of the table then a move to Blackpool would suit.

While it didn’t quite work out for Simon Grayson, Barry-Murphy and his attractive brand of football could prove to be an ideal fit at the Tangerines. A promotion push is pretty much out of reach now but he could put the foundations in place for a push next season.

The fact that the Oystons are no longer involved is also a strong selling point.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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