GEORGE KIRBY, who died yesterday at 66, will go down in history as the man who masterminded Halifax Town s two most astonishing victories.
GEORGE KIRBY, who died yesterday at 66, will go down in history as the man who masterminded Halifax Town s two most astonishing victories.He was at the helm in 1971 when the Shaymen beat star-studded Manchester United 2-1 in the Watney Cup.
And, in his second spell at the Shay, he guided the side to a stunning 1-0 win over top flight Manchester City in the FA Cup.
Merseyside-born Kirby, whose playing career took in spells at Everton, Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth, Southampton, Coventry, Swansea and Walsall, was brought to Halifax Town as coach by Alan Ball snr in 1969. He first became manager in May 1970, succeeding Ball who had left for Preston North End.
On his appointment he promised "progressive, entertaining football with a greater emphasis on attack".
And he delivered with 21 wins and 12 draws from 46 League matches which saw the Shaymen miss out on promotion to the old second division by just four points.
Incredibly, Kirby used just 16 players and the side were the highest scorers in the division with 74 goals.
The following pre-season, Town beat Manchester United in front of BBC TV cameras.
But there was a shock for the fans as Kirby left for Watford to replace Ken Furphy soon after Halifax lost to West Brom in the Watney Cup semi-finals.
After two years at Watford - he described his time there as the only unsuccessful phase of his career - he moved abroad.
The first stop was Iceland where he managed Akranes to two championships and two cup finals.
But midway through a four-year contract he left the Arctic Circle for a coaching position in Kuwait.
A chance phone call from a friend brought him back to the Shay on November 3, 1978 succeeding Jimmy Lawson.
Town were forced to seek re-election at the end of the season, but avoided the ignominy 12 months later as Kirby steered them to 18th.
The highlight of the 1979-80 campaign was the 1-0 win over Manchester City thanks to Paul Hendrie s goal.
More than 12,500 packed into the Shay to see the game with 6,000 travelling to Bolton to see the fourth round clash which went to the first division side 2-0.
The following season Town survived another cap-in-hand trip to the Football league after finishing in the bottom four.
And that proved to be the end of Kirby s association with the club as, after he refused a request to resign midway through a four-year contract, he was sacked.
The repercussions continued through to November that year after Kirby announced his intention to take the club to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal.
On the day of the hearing, Kirby and the club announced that an amicable settlement had been reached.
After leaving Town for the second time, Kirby scouted for a number of clubs including Everton, West Brom and QPR.