Hibs' Simon Murray is keen traveller '“ but Faroes weren't on hitlist
Simon Murray likes nothing better when he has a bit of time off than to pack his bags and go travelling.
So far the Hibs striker’s wanderlust has taken him as far afield as Australia, Thailand, the United States and Canada, not to mention a clutch of European countries.
But, he admitted, the Faroe Islands never featured highly on his list of must-visit destinations, which makes his first taste of European football that little bit different.
“The Faroes is a new destination for me and, I’d imagine, for the rest of the boys,” said the 26-year-old. “I like travelling when I get the time and I’ve been lucky enough to have been to a few places around the world, but this will be somewhere a bit different, a life experience I’ll never forget.”
NSI Runavik may not be the one of the best-known names in European football but, claimed Murray, the fact Hibs have pulled the lowest-ranked side in the first qualifying round of the Europa League and have avoided all the big guns should, if as expected, they progress is good enough for him.
He said: “There’s the two schools of thought, to get a really big name but also of wanting the best chance to get through. To be honest, I’m not really bothered about the big games – if you get to the group stages you’ll get six in any case.
“What you want is the easiest path you can get, the further we go the better it is financially for the club and if we should get into the groups stages we can enjoy the rest of the competition, the games, the trips.
“But the hardest bit is getting there and that starts when Runavik come to Easter Road tomorrow night. The pressure will be on us in a way, but they’ll be exactly the same as us, hoping they can get as far as they can.”
Runavik’s Euro record would suggest that is something of a forlorn hope as far as they are concerned. This will be their 12th time at this stage and they have failed to win at tie in the previous 11 occasions. They have suffered a number of stinging defeats, losing 9-1 on aggregate to FK Lyn of Norway, 7-1 to Danish side Esbjerg fB and 7-0 to Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus to list but a few.
However, although they’ve failed to make any headway, the minnows from the Faroes have also notched a few notable scorelines on their own plastic pitch, beating Dinamo Tbilisi 1-0, defeating Linfield – complete with former Hibs winger Ivan Sproule – 4-3 and holding Fulham to a scoreless draw.
Such results might suggest Neil Lennon’s players would do well to ensure that the tie is, if possible, done and dusted over the 90 minutes tomorrow night to avoid any nervous moments at the Svangaskard Stadium a week later.
Murray said: “At the moment we don’t know too much about them, but Garry Parker [Lennon’s assistant] and Mike Meechan [Hibs head scout] have been to see them so I’m sure we’ll be looking at their games and seeing what’s what.
“But it’s a matter of concentrating on ourselves. We can only control what we do. The fact they’ve drawn at home against the likes of Fulham would suggest they can’t be that bad, but while we are confident we don’t under-estimate any team.
“Tomorrow’s match is the most important we have, you don’t go looking beyond it and think too far down the line.”
Murray admitted that as he played Junior football on Tayside in the not too distant past, the thought of being on the European stage would never have crossed his mind and, to date, his only experience of playing abroad has been pre-season in Holland with Dundee United and a winter trip with Hibs to Portugal.
He said: “It’s something I never thought would happen for me. If you’d said I would be when I was playing for Tayport, I would have laughed.
“However, it shows what is achievable if you get your head down, work hard and believe in yourself. There are ups and downs along the way, but tomorrow night will be something to look back on when I am older and the boots have been hung up.
“As a kid you dream of these sort of things, so hopefully we can go out, give a good account of ourselves, enjoy it – but most importantly get the win.”
Although he was Hibs’ top scorer last season, Murray spent the second half of the campaign on loan at Dundee as Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren forged a strikeforce which helped drive Hibs into fourth place in the table.
However, while the majority of his 15 goals came in the Betfred Cup, Murray believes he also played his part in clinching that European spot, claiming vital strikes such as his winners against Hearts and Dundee.
He said: “I levelled off halfway through for one reason or another, but I did well at Dundee, played 16 games, got more experience of Premiership football and the manager thinks I did well there. The aim was to come back and kick on. I feel I am capable of doing that and so does the manager. Hopefully that will be the case.”