FEATURE: Meet Roy Erskine, Andy Murray’s grandfather and former professional footballer

Tennis Features
Andy Murray and grandfather Roy Erskine

The Murrays being a brilliant sporting family is nothing new.

Andy Murray has scaled the heights in tennis, winning Grand Slams, Olympic titles, the Davis Cup, and becoming world number one. It’s hardly a secret.

Jamie Murray’s achievements should not be downplayed either. He is a five-time Grand Slam doubles winner and a Davis Cup champion, as well as being a former world doubles number one.

And then there is their mother, Judy, the woman credited with molding them both and instilling in them the practices of which champions are borne.

Before she was a brilliant coach, she won 64 junior tennis titles and had a crack at the professional game too before deciding it just wasn’t for her due to personal and lifestyle reasons.

Judy Murray

However, one man who doesn’t get mentioned much in the sporting stock stakes is Judy’s father, Andy and Jamie’s grandfather, Roy Erskine.

And that’s probably fair enough. He didn’t scale the heights in either playing or coaching that Judy or his grandsons managed, but he still had his own little slice of sporting significance that is worthy of recognition.

A passionate supporter of Scottish football club Hibernian, Erskine realised an ambition early by joining their ranks as a youth player in 1952, but not before his national service had been completed.

He never got the chance to play for them, however. A wiry full-back, he was unable to break into what was then a very strong team.

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“Hibs had a fantastic side when I was there so it was hard for me to get a chance,” he recalled.

“They won league titles and if they’d a good defence they’d have taken everything.”

Sadly, Erskine’s career never really took off from there. In February 1954 he joined Peebles Rovers, and that summer signed for Stirling Albion, though he would make just nine league appearances in two seasons

From there he went to Cowdenbeath in the summer of 1956. Playing almost every game in 56/57, things were looking up for his career, but he soon fell away from the first-team reckoning and made only two league starts the following season before returning to Stirling in February 1958.

He was freed at the end of that season without any more first-team appearances, never to be seen in the professional game again.

A fleeting and unglamorous footballing career, then, although Scottish football was a lot harder to crack back then. The standard was considerably higher.

“Football is so different now,” he said looking back. “I don’t understand why Scottish players especially cannot pass a ball [now].”

Erskine’s sporting ambitions coming to a premature end did’t prevent him from playing a large role in his grandsons’ development, though.

Indeed, he was a keen tennis player himself but was forced by the Scottish FA to give it up once he entered their professional ranks. The wrong choice of sports, perhaps? We’ll never know, but a career as an optician awaited outside of sport.

“He still claims to have invented topspin,” said Andy, who used to play tennis with Erskine and Jamie a lot in their youth.

“Both of the boys loved their tennis from a young age,” said Erskine. “When we were looking after them we would play with them.

“Andy didn’t like it when I played drop shots or sliced the ball. He would say to me, “For goodness’ sake Grandpa, play properly and stop doing those twiddly shots.””

“Jamie didn’t seem to mind me messing around. Andy always wanted to play what he considered to be proper tennis. He wanted to play proper shots so that we could have a rally.”

Jamie Murray and Andy Murray

Perhaps the above sentence demonstrates the difference between a top singles player and a top doubles player.

But how about Andy Murray and football? He often shows off his ball skills on court, as we well know.

Well, he had a chance apparently, so says his footballing Grandpa Roy, anyway.

“You should have seen that boy when he was 11,” he said. “He was a fantastic centre-forward.

“I was convinced that was what he was going to do. His control was so good.”

Who knows how good a centre-forward Andy Murray would have made, but it would’ve certainly been Centre Court’s loss.

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