Ex-Hibs captain Ian Murray opens up on life coaching in Norway

Ian Murray

Ian Murray

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At this time of year, Ian Murray would usually be packing his suitcase and joining Scottish football’s annual dash for the beaches of the Mediterranean and beyond.

But it’s a summer with a difference for the ex-Hibs captain, hard at work alongside former Easter Road team-mate Kevin Nicol as they negotiate the early weeks of the season with Norwegian side Asker.

Kevin Nicol is head coach at Asker

Kevin Nicol is head coach at Asker

Nicol has, of course, been s resident in Scandinavia for many years, turning his hand to management in some style as he guided the club into the second division and kept them there despite league reorganisation which resulted in the seven bottom clubs being relegated.

And Murray had no hesitation in joining him in the town situated between Oslo and Drammen when asked to become Nicol’s right-hand man.

However, in a season which began in April, there’s no break until July before the action gets under way again.

“It’s a bit different,” admitted Murray. “But in terms of football it’s much the same, getting a good pre-season in as you gear up for the start of the season and then the games come thick and fast.”

So far results have been mixed, three draws and two defeats, although Murray insists the draws could easily have ended up as victories.

He said: “We are a very young team, but we are getting there. We were well beaten in the games we lost as we didn’t play to our level, but we felt we deserved to win the three that ended in draws.

“But overall we are comfortable with the start we have made. The games we’ve had were probably the hardest we could have picked, but now we are getting towards a period of the season when we can pick up a few points.

“Kevin did really well last season as the leagues were re-regionalised, which meant seven teams stayed up and seven went down. Asker had just won promotion, but they finished fourth, which we’d like to at least equal.

“It’s only our second year in this league so we are looking to consolidate and then push on, if not this year then next.

“To me, though, it is very much like the Championship in Scotland, everyone is capable of beating everyone else.”

The changes to the league mean there isn’t as much travelling as Murray might have anticipated, although this weekend Asker head for Alta, nearly 800 miles to the north and close to the border with Russia, meaning a flight on Friday morning returning on Sunday.

However, as new as he might be to Norwegian football, Murray revealed varying kick off times has allowed him, along with Nicol, to quickly build up his knowledge of opposition teams.

Having spent so long playing in Scotland and England, the 36-year-old is well used to having matches rearranged to accommodate television cameras and in Norway it’s exactly the same – except football is at the mercy of a betting company.

He said: “Games can be quite staggered but it’s been good for me as I’ve been able to get about and to know the league and the players from other clubs.

“But it’s like anywhere else, they sponsor the league, put the money in and so we need them as much as football in Britain needs the television money.

“To be honest, I don’t think Norway has a big betting culture. I certainly haven’t heard any of the players talk about it and walking about the streets you don’t see bookies’ shops.”

And as ever in football there are the haves and the have nots, Murray revealing: “Norway is a wealthy country and there are people who can afford to put money in to their local team. There are big benefactors who will pump the cash in take pride in seeing their local area do well.

“It gives them a slight advantage in terms of finance, but Asker are in a good catchment area to attract good players.”

The language barrier is something Murray hasn’t had to contend with, the vast majority of the Asker squad, like most Scandinavians, able to speak almost fluent English while he has been picking up a smattering of Norwegian.

He said: “I’ve been picking up words here and there, little things like football terms, although I don’t really need to use them.

“Kevin, of course, has helped me adjust but it’s like any other group of guys, getting used to each other and adapting. It’s not been a problem.

“Pre-season, though, was pretty full on. They don’t mess about with ten subs made during those friendly games. It’s taken pretty seriously from the off.

“We started back in January and although we had ten days in Portugal and then a week off, it’s a long time from then until July. We’ll get a break of ten or 12 days then when I’ll be able to come home again to see the family before the second half of the season gets under way.

“Yes, it was something of a gamble to move to Norway, but sometimes you have to make a decision and this was an opportunity to experience something different.”