Former Hibs captain Ian Murray reveals reasons for move back to Scotland

A brief glance at the lifespan of Scottish managers would probably be enough to persuade most to seek an alternative form of employment.

Wednesday, 24th October 2018, 7:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th October 2018, 9:28 am

Incredibly, almost a quarter of those in charge of the 42 Scottish Professional Football League clubs have been in their job for a month or less and a further ten have yet to complete a year at their respective clubs.

Managers such as Jim McInally, boss at Peterhead for more than seven years, and, in the Premiership, Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes and Tommy Wright of St Johnstone, with five years plus of service, are very much the exception in an occupation where the spectre of an axe hanging over heads looms ever large.

Given such a scenario, some might question the wisdom of former Hibs skipper Ian Murray in re-entering that mad, mad world, particularly with an agreement to extend his contract as assistant manager to former Easter Road team-mate Kevin Nicol at Norwegian club Asker for a third season already in place.

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However, in football everyone knows to expect the unexpected, Murray having struck that verbal deal only four days earlier being unveiled as the new manager of League One side Airdrie.

“It all happened very quickly,” revealed the 37-year-old. “I’d spoken to Airdrie at the beginning of last week, in depth on the Tuesday, flew back on Friday afternoon and got it all sorted out that night.”

With the season in Norway drawing to an end with Asker again coming within a whisker of clinching a play-off place, an amicable agreement was struck to allow him to leave early.

Murray said: “I’d verbally agreed a new contract with Asker four days earlier and I was looking forward to it with a couple of changes in my role, but to me this was a fantastic opportunity to come back into Scottish football at a decent level as a head coach.

“The people at Asker were brilliant, recognising my family were back here, that it was all about personal development and happiness and they wished me all the best.”

Less than 24 hours after putting pen to paper, Murray was at Montrose’s Links Park to watch his new side mark his arrival with a 3-0 victory, only their second win in eight matches although he watched from the stand as assistant manager Mark Fitzpatrick and first-team coach David Proctor took charge of the team.

Murray said: “I thought they won quite well and credit to them for that. I can see the nucleus of a really good squad and the signs were very encouraging. Hopefully we can follow that up and give ourselves a chance of a play-off position.

“The ambition is to get Airdrie back into the Championship, to build momentum and when you look at Ayr United trying to push for the Premiership I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be doing that after a couple of years.”

Time, of course, is that precious commodity afforded, it seems, to an increasingly smaller number of managers, many falling victim to the demands for instant success.

Having cut his managerial teeth at Dumbarton, where he guided them to First Division safety and then on to the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup and close to a play-off place, he earned him a move to St Mirren. That, sadly, turned sour as he stepped down before the end of his contract, but Murray recognises all too well the dangers associated with his choice of career.

“It’s been crazy this last wee while,” he admitted in reference to the recent spate of managerial changes in Scotland.

“There’s been a bit of a merry-go-round and I’d actually had contact with three clubs over the previous ten to 14 days, but Airdrie was the one that really appealed and I thought was perfect for me.

“I’d been two years away from Scotland and three from management, time to reflect, understand things and perhaps have a different approach to what I want to put in place.

“Football management is like any job, if you don’t perform there will be changes. It can be difficult, fans want winning teams and if you get success they want more and more, but at every club there is a limit. You need to be level-headed.”

Murray will operate on a rolling contract, a full-time manager at a part-time club but, he revealed, he’s enthused by the people behind the scenes at the Excelsior Stadium, where owner Paul Hetherington has a board headed by chairman Bobby Watson, the former Rangers and Motherwell midfielder, and vice-chairman Martin Ferguson, once a youth coach at Hibs and brother of ex-Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

He said: “There’s a lot of experience there, they understand the importance of trying to build a club, to put a structure in place, and that it won’t be success after success every season. It’ll be great to have these guy there, they’ll be invaluable to me but hopefully I won’t have to call on them too often.”

Murray admitted it was a wrench to leave Asker, but revealed he plans to bring some of what he has learned in Norway to Airdrie.

He said: “The life-style was fantastic, a small town which was great to live in. I couldn’t have asked for any more and at the club I was working for fantastic people. It wasn’t just the first team, we have a big youth project while I’d go watching the big clubs around Oslo, a different style of football and mentality.

“I’d like to think I can bring some of that here, although it won’t happen overnight.”