SEAN MURDOCH today revealed how his dream move to Hibs was almost knocked off track by Edinburgh’s tram works as he battled to beat the clock to become Pat Fenlon’s latest signing.
Although born and raised in Wester Hailes, the goalkeeper found the streets in the centre of the Capital virtually unrecognisable as he made the dash from his home in Glasgow to clinch a deal with the Easter Road outfit.
He had been training with Fenlon’s squad for a couple of weeks, but lifelong Hibs fan Murdoch was only given the green light to put pen to paper as 20-year-old former Welsh Under-19 internationalist Calum Antell joined Second Division East Fife on loan.
But with all the paperwork having to be completed by 5pm on Friday, Murdoch faced a race against time, one he won with only minutes to spare thanks to the various diversions and road closures in the city centre.
Today Murdoch revealed just how close a call it had been. He said: “I’d actually finished training and gone home but after Calum had completed his move I had to come back to Easter Road to sign the contract. Everything had to be pushed through before the SFA closed at five o’clock so it was quite a quick trip through – I wouldn’t like to tell you my speed.
“I thought it would be pretty straightforward just to go right through the city. But I haven’t lived in Edinburgh for five years or so and didn’t realise just how bad the roadworks are. I ended up getting almost totally lost but managed to get to the ground in time.”
There the 26-year-old found the paperwork needed to satisfy the SFA and FIFA all ready to be signed – including an international clearance certificate given his last club had been English League Two side Accrington Stanley – freeing him to take a seat on the bench for the following day’s SPL clash with Dundee and leaving him to apologise to third-choice goalkeeper Paul Grant.
He said: “With Calum having made his move to East Fife, Paul had been left thinking he’d be the reserve goalie for the game so I did say sorry to him. He’d been on the bench a few times last season and was looking forward to doing so again. If everything hadn’t been completed in time I’d still have signed on Monday morning but Paul would have been on the bench rather than me.”
Having realised one dream by signing for Hibs, Murdoch now has his heart set on fulfilling his life-time ambition of playing for the club he supports. He said: “I’m a born and bred Hibs supporter, most of my family are season ticket holders and were there on Saturday, while a few more came along after hearing I’d signed.
“My dad Joe took me to see Hibs for six or seven years from when I was about eight. Even when Hibs had that year in the First Division we were the first to buy our season tickets. We went to every single home game and some of the away ones.
“I’ve seen a lot of players come and go, when I was really young Jimmy Boco was a big fans’ favourite but Hibs had so many top-class players, guys such as Kevin Harper, Ulises de la Cruz, Russell Latapy – who always seemed to get the man of the match award – and Stevie Crawford, who I actually played with a few years later at Dunfermline, and Mixu Paatelainen. As a goalkeeper, though, I’d look out for Nick Colgan, even when he was warming up for matches.”
Watching Hibs, however, began to take second place to playing, Murdoch, whisper it, starting off as a youngster with Hearts before joining Dunfermline, where he was taken under the wing of Scott Thomson, the current goalkeeping coach at Easter Road.
He said: “Thommo had me for about six years at Dunfermline, from joining as a youth player through to playing for the first team. He’s a top-class coach, he’s been excellent for me and has worked hard to improve me as a goalkeeper. He’s the reason I’m here now.
“I knew the manager was wanting to get Calum out on loan to gain experience, that’s something I did when I was with Dunfermline and had two spells with Forfar, and that he’d be looking for an experienced goalkeeper to fill the vacancy.
“I joined the squad for training and really enjoyed it. The boys have been first-class with me and thankfully I did enough to win a short-term contract.”
A half-season on loan with Hamilton saw the Lanarkshire club pay the Pars a nominal fee to land Murdoch permanently but at New Douglas Park he found himself playing second fiddle to Tomas Cerny throughout his three years with Billy Reid’s side. During that time, however, he did play at Easter Road as Accies beat Hibs 2-1 shortly before taking the drop.
Murdoch said: “As a Hibs fan I’d always wanted to play at Easter Road, it was a dream come true running out the tunnel and onto that pitch. I honestly thought that was as good as it would get, but now I’m a Hibs player I want to play there again – in the club’s colours.
“I didn’t play as much as I would have liked at Hamilton, but that’s the beauty of being a goalkeeper. They had Tomas Cerny at the time, he was a really good goalkeeper and as a goalkeeper there’s only one position you can play. You are either in or out, it’s as simple as that.”
As such, Murdoch recognises Ben Williams is Fenlon’s No. 1 although it’s also a situation he doesn’t need to accept. He said: “Ben is an excellent goalkeeper, he’s been in the game longer than me and has played a hell of a lot more games. He’s been one of our most consistent performers this season, but I am here to play first-team football. I wouldn’t have joined Hibs if I didn’t feel I was capable of being No. 1.”
After Hamilton were relegated, Murdoch fell victim to the inevitable cost-cutting which ensues, taking the opportunity to enjoy a new challenge in England with Accrington Stanley, where a change of management led to his move to Lancashire turning sour.
He said: “It didn’t work out and I had my contract terminated early to come back up the road. I hadn’t played since so it was great to get a run-out in Tuesday’s Under-20 match up at Aberdeen.
“My last game was against Oldham in March and although I kept myself very fit through the summer, I know I need a wee bit of match fitness.
“We have a couple of bounce matches before we are back in SPL action against Ross County, which will help, but I’m really looking to getting involved in it all.
“Although I’ve been away I’ve always looked out for Hibs’ results. I think everyone knows this is a club which has under-achieved for a couple of seasons.
“A club of this size, with the facilities we have both at the stadium and the training ground, should be top four.
“The manager has brought in his own players, he’s getting his ideas over and he’s doing a real solid job.
“Hitting top spot was great, even if Celtic knocked us off on Sunday but sitting second is excellent. There’s a real good vibe about the place, it’s buzzing.”