Ian Murray’s Hibees career over but utility man will seek new team
Deep down he’d known for some time it was coming. Nevertheless, it didn’t make the moment he was told his Easter Road career was over any easier to take for Hibs captain Ian Murray.
A brief, face-to-face meeting with Pat Fenlon, a quick explanation of what lay behind the manager’s decision and a shake of the hand and that was it, the utility man was facing unemployment for the first time in his 15-year career.
Naturally, the 31-year-old doesn’t entirely agree with Fenlon’s judgment but as a seasoned professional he accepted it and, as a lifelong supporter, hopes the Irishman has got that tough call right along with the others he’ll have to make as he seeks to rebuild a club reeling not only from two successive disastrous SPL campaigns but the supine Scottish Cup final performance which saw Hibs crushed by Capital rivals Hearts.
Murray, of course, had no part to play in that debacle, a hip operation having restricted him to just one appearance in a green and white shirt – the final league game away to Inverness Caley – since the turn of the year.
And, he believes, it was that injury which was probably a major factor behind his departure although, he insisted, he’d have loved the chance to have proved his fitness all over again in pre-season training.
Such an opportunity, though, was not on offer, leaving Murray to contemplate a future elsewhere, determined to carry on playing for as long as possible before seeking to carve out a career in coaching or management.
For the meantime, though, he’s been left to reflect on two spells at Easter Road, insisting he says farewell with a host of moments he’ll cherish, saying: “To be honest, most players can tell when their face does not fit any longer, it wasn’t as if it was totally unexpected.
“I hadn’t heard anything officially but you could tell by the signs and indications what he was wanting to do in terms of building his own squad so there was no shock, no surprise.
“We parted amicably, there was no problem on that front. He said I’d hardly played much since he came in and that was basically it. We shook hands and that was it. Fair enough, that’s the way it goes.
“I can’t say I agreed with the decision but he is the manager, he decides and really only time will tell whether he has made the right decision or not and at the end of the day managers live or die by their decisions.”
Youngsters Sean Welsh and Scott Taggart were also shown the door with Fenlon yet to make a call on the future of striker Garry O’Connor and goalkeepers Graham Stack and Mark Brown while the clutch of loan signings brought in by the Dubliner in January have returned to their parent clubs although it is hoped a number of them may return over the summer on a more permanent basis.
Murray, though, questioned just how big a blow the Cup final defeat might prove to be, revealing he’d privately harboured concern over the season just finished. He said: “This time last year I was wondering how we were going to fare looking round the squad and unfortunately I was proved right.
“I knew it was going to be difficult and it was really tough. Making the Cup final was a fantastic achievement but that might, in a strange way, have set us back that bit further. I think everyone is still coming to terms with what happened and we’ll have to wait until next season to see what effect it has.”
Having made his debut at a time when Hibs boasted players such as Franck Sauzee, Russell Latapy and Mixu Paatelainen, Murray has endured something of a rollercoaster during his two spells at Easter Road, returning for the second of them when Paatelainen was manager.
He recalled: “It was strange that having left Dundee United to join Hibs my first game was at Tannadice and at that time I played with some big players, great players.
“The day I signed for Hibs, of course, and my debut stand out as does the AEK Athens match in the UEFA Cup when we came within a whisker of going through despite being 2-0 down from the first leg in Greece, derby matches, the pre-season friendly against Barcelona, my Testimonial Match I really enjoyed thanks to the guys behind the scenes and the people I have met over the years.
“I’ve worked with quite a number of managers, Alex McLeish, big Franck for a short time, Bobby Williamson, Tony Mowbray, Donald Park had a wee stint for a couple of games, Mixu, John Hughes, Colin Calderwood and Pat.
“I’ve tried to take a little bit out of all of them although I perhaps didn’t agree with every single decision they made but hopefully that will help me in the future. I’ve already done a bit of coaching at Spartans and Coldstream and I look at guys like Colin Cameron and Paul Hartley who have made the transition from player to manager.”
That day, though, lies further ahead with Murray determined to continue playing although where exactly that will be has yet to be decided. Admitting he’s always hankered over the American style of life, the former Boroughmuir High School pupil said: “That might be an option somewhere down the line but I’ll relax for the next few weeks, get over the season and the disappointment of the Cup final and take it from there.
“Although some people think I am older, I’m only 31 and I’m looking to play for a while yet. The last few months have been frustrating in not being able to play and with the club in such a bad way but I’m more than happy to prove my fitness.
“I have no qualms about who I might play for to be perfectly honest although I am aware that times are tough and clubs are working on smaller budgets.”
Murray may not have had the chance to bid Easter Road farewell but he intends to say his goodbyes when his Testimonial Dinner takes place at the Corn Exchange on July 7.