Nine months after departing St Mirren and dropping out of the professional football ranks for the first time in his adult life, Ian Murray is eyeing a way back in.
Since a testing managerial reign in Paisley came to an end last December – after just six months at the helm – the former Hibs captain has kept himself busy with his Pro Licence, punditry and an unexpected scouting gig with English Premier League side Middlesbrough.
However, Murray craves something more permanent and more hands-on. The 35-year-old is eager to get back in the saddle and start rebuilding a reputation that, just over two years ago, had enough sheen about it to have him mentioned as a contender for the Hibs job following Terry Butcher’s exit. In a ruthless industry, where managerial changes are occurring more regularly than ever, the ambitious former Hibs, Rangers and Norwich City player is confident doors will soon start opening for him.
“I’m just like every other coach or manager who’s out of work – I’m trying to get back in,” he told the Evening News. “It’s probably still a bit early in the season for movement, but you’re always hoping the phone will ring. You don’t like to see guys losing their job, but ultimately that’s what happens.
“As soon as something comes up, I’d like to think I’d have a realistic chance of getting it. I’m open to anything, whether it’s abroad or in Britain. If you limit where you would work, you’re closing down potential avenues that you might like to go and explore. If the phone rings or I see something that interests me, then I’ll go for it. I’m not going to be too precious to suggest I would only ever be a manager at professional level. There are so many different aspects to clubs, there could be opportunities as an assistant, a first-team coach or whatever. For me, it’s just about getting back in and getting back on the field, trying to improve myself and whatever team I’m at.”
Having had no clear gap between the end of his playing career and his first managerial gig at Dumbarton, Murray is philosophical about his current break from football’s sharp end. “This is the first time I’ve really been out of football, but, looking at it positively, to be involved in the game for 17 years and only be out of it for eight months isn’t too much of a hardship. It’s important to keep your mind occupied and keep your motivation. Thankfully I’ve had my Pro Licence to keep me occupied because if I didn’t have that I’d be sitting twiddling my thumbs. I finish that at the start of December so it’ll be good to get that on the CV.
“I’m also doing my scouting for Middlesbrough, which is good and that’s keeping me busy at the moment. It came out of the blue. I don’t know who recommended me to them but their head of recruitment, Gary Gill, phoned me up and said he was looking for someone up here to do some scouting. They take their scouting seriously and invest a lot of time and money into it.
“I’m at a game every week for them, usually in the Scottish Premiership. You watch the game a bit differently when you’re scouting because you look at in more depth. It’s important you still have that kind of contact with the game because there’s nothing worse than bumping into other scouts or managers at a game and they ask you why you’re there and you don’t have an answer. Doing this gives you a purpose when you go to the games on a Saturday. It’s great to be involved, working for a Premier League club, but ultimately I want to be back out on the training pitch with players.”
Murray knows his short time at St Mirren didn’t go to plan, but he is adamant that failing to spark an immediate revival in a floundering club’s fortunes at the age of 34 – as he was then – shouldn’t see him written off as a dud. Indeed, the Buddies’ current slide to the foot of the Championship under his former Rangers colleague Alex Rae lends lends credence to the notion that there have been deeper problems at the club than whoever happens to be in the dugout at any given time.
“I think it’s important that you sit down after any job and reflect on what went well and what you would do differently,” he said. “There were things at Dumbarton that worked really well and other things that I wouldn’t do again. It was the same at St Mirren. That was a tough job because the club was in a real bad way. In hindsight, I should have asked a few more questions at the time I got the job. They’ve not started this season well and I think I could have predicted that from some of the stuff that was going on. I hope they can get back on track soon.
“St Mirren will be seen as a blemish on my CV, that’s always going to happen. Football’s fickle, people are always very quick to judge. I try to look at it positively though. I’m still only 35 and I’ve nearly done my Pro Licence, been a manager at both a part-time and a full-time club and done a bit of scouting for an English Premier League club. My CV at 35 is pretty strong and pretty busy.
“People do judge you after one blemish but I’ve just got to hope someone will take a chance on me. I’m pretty confident I’ll get back in and start climbing the ladder again. Anybody who employs me now is getting a better manager than when I was 32, no question about that.”