The late, great Tommy Sale MBE stands alongside the iconic Jim Sullivan as being an equally massive influence on the game’s greatest player – Alex Murphy OBE.
As tributes to continue to pour in for the man affectionately known as ‘’Mr. Leigh’’, Alex today offered his own glowing testimonial in honour of a fellow Leigh Rugby League legend.
Together, they turned water into wine and transformed Leigh proving a formidable and famous double act.
This all came about following a meeting on the car park at Grange Park Golf Club back in the late 1960’s.
Alex takes up the story of what was a truly remarkable journey.
He says: ‘’I have so much to thank the great Tommy Sale for.
‘’He forever remains a true legend and an absolute gentleman.
‘’What a marvellous man and what a wonderful servant not only for Leigh but also for a club he loved and also for Rugby League.
‘’I will rightfully always think the world of him.
‘’I learned so much from playing under the great Jim Sullivan when starting out.
‘’I also learned so much more from being alongside Tommy at Leigh. It was Tommy who introduced me to coaching.
‘’He was a master in everything he did and he gave me my chance as a coach. For this I am eternally grateful.
‘’Tommy was such a massive help and so passionate.
‘’He is definitely up there with the great Jim Sullivan when I look back and think what he did and how greatly he influenced me.
‘’This says everything. His help and advice was also plentiful and so good.
‘’I knew of him before he approached me to come on board at Leigh. I had just come off the golf course and there sat on the bonnet of my black, Ford car was Tommy.
‘’I must admit, I laughed when he came straight to the point and said there and then he wanted me to sign for Leigh. They were next to bottom in the league and I honestly thought he was having a laugh.
‘’Tommy then went into detail and outlined his exciting long term plans for the club. He was incredible and so determined.
‘’He was serious and said he wanted me to come to Leigh as the coach. I was 27 and had never coached but Tommy’s persuasive powers won me over and I said yes – it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
‘’I always wanted to coach and Tommy gave me my break knowing what I could bring. He knew I could still play and also be in charge.
‘’Everything worked out just fine.
‘’I guess Tommy wisely spied his chance to target me.
‘’Saints were wanting me to play in the centre and I was not overly happy with how things were going. Tommy Sale gave my career a new lease of life and he believed in me.
‘’He loved Leigh and he was a visionary. The first thing we had to do was build a team and we travelled miles finding players. Tommy did everything he could to help me and he clearly wanted to make things happen at Leigh.
‘’He always went out of his way to do the best for Leigh and to make them strong.
‘’I was all set to go and play in Australia and came off the golf course that day never ever imaging I would end up at Leigh. When we won the Challenge Cup, in 1971, Tommy was so happy – Wembley became Wemb-leigh that day and a dream became reality.
‘’Tommy was incredibly proud. He was one of the nicest and most genuine men I have ever known. It was an absolute honour to call him a friend and I would have done anything for him.
‘’Leigh was his town and he did so much for so many people. He was a great teacher and he introduced so many to Rugby League. I recently chatted with a lad who was caned by Tommy as a schoolboy.
‘’He said he couldn’t help but smile amid the punishment and did not mind such was his love and respect for Tommy.
‘’ My own love for the Leigh club, the town and the fans is well known but Tommy’s was absolutely incredible and his enthusiasm was remarkable.
‘’He was the ultimate ambassador.
‘’I could turn to him and know he was always there. His knowledge was vast.’’
Looking to the future, Alex feels Tommy will be happy and contented to again see his beloved Leigh strong and in safe hands .
Alex is totally supportive of CEO Allan Rowley, another proud local man maintaining a fine tradition with his own strong lifelong commitment to the club.
Owner Derek Beaumont is also admired and talked up by Alex for his own vision and determination for Leigh to be a force.
Alex says: ‘’Derek is a strong, purposeful leader who is very much carrying on the good work and the standard set by Tommy all those years ago.
‘’Tommy will be greatly missed but the club is again strong and again ready to challenge.
‘’I have lost of great friend but believe me, the memory of Tommy Sale lives on forever in what is his town and his club.’’