Simon Murray reveals how Jamie Vardy helped clinch derby for Hibs
Hibs striker Simon Murray has revealed how Hearts' derby downfall was planned in a dimly-lit room within the club's East Mains training centre.
The video analysis suite has been a relatively new addition to the state-of-the-art facilities available to boss Neil Lennon and his players but you can bet most Hibs fans will today consider Murray’s third minute winner is, in itself, proof of money well spent.
Although he was the team’s top scorer, the flame-haired hitman claiming ten in his first seven matches following his summer switch from Dundee United – and eight of them in just five games – he had fallen out of favour recently.
Limited to just a couple of cameo appearances as a late substitute, Murray even found himself overlooked as 19-year-old Oli Shaw was given the nod as Hibs battled to get back on level terms with Celtic in their Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden just a few days earlier.
An ankle injury picked up in that match, however, ruled Anthony Stokes out of the first Edinburgh derby of the season and the first in the Premiership since April 2014, opening the door for Murray’s return although he only learned 90 minutes before kick-off that he would be starting.
But even he couldn’t have believed the immediate impact he would have on the game, taking winger Brandon Barker’s pass before nutmegging Hearts defender and former United team-mate John Souttar and lashing the ball high into the net at goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin’s near post.
“It was not too bad,” admitted Murray, rather understating his strike. “It was important to get off to a good star and we couldn’t have hoped for much better than that. I was delighted.”
The 25-year-old may have made an immediate impact but it was time spent with the club’s head of performance analysis Calvin Charlton – probably most recognisable to most Hibs fans as the guy making a half-time sprint down from the main stand towards the dressing-room clutching a laptop – which was the secret behind his goal. And, he revealed, it resulted in him taking a leaf out of prolific Leicester City striker James Vardy’s book.
He said: “I was watching a few videos through the week, all the strikers, and seeing how you get your head down and lashing at it, hitting it as hard as you can and getting it on target, so my first thought was to get it on target.
“I got a few clips of Vardy, he puts his head down and hits it. Calvin said that, just get your head down and hit it.
“I did it early in the game which maybe helped because the keepers aren’t fully switched on.
“We haven’t really watched those videos before, but when you watch Premier League players it’s good to study what they do and luckily I watched it this week. I’ll keep watching Vardy.”
Murray admitted he “went into a daze” after scoring although he was aware enough to indulge in the “Simon Says” celebration voted for by fans, one which brings a donation of £500 for the Hibernian Community Foundation from club sponsors Marathonbet every time he does so.
Although the Hibs fans were in uproar at that moment, Murray said: “I can’t actually remember hearing anything. I just went into a daze. It was like ‘what’s just happened?’ I just started running and I think I did a knee slide of some sort – but it was great.”
Now Murray is hoping his goal will kick-start a season which appeared to have stalled following that red-hot scoring streak.
He said: “I started the season well with a good few goals but you know you are always going to go through that wee dip in form. You don’t aim to have a dip but sometimes you are not just getting the bounce of the ball or the bit of luck you need.
“The ball is maybe going behind you or a couple of yards in front. It just does not click but if you keep working hard then it does come back and I have been working hard in training and hoping to get back into the team.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better time for that to happen. Obviously I was disappointed on Saturday because you want to play in every game. It wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t, but Oli did brilliantly when he went on.
“I only found out and hour-and-a-half before kick-off when the gaffer does the team that I was starting. We knew Stokesy was out injured so I was hoping for the nod and thankfully the gaffer put me in. Hopefully I rewarded him.”
Murray had been briefed by his father, former Hibs striker Gary, as to what to expect but, he admitted, he had to experience the derby for himself to fully appreciate it.
He said: “It was phenomenal. You could see what the crowd are like. It was a great experience and one I will always remember. My dad told me a few things about it and I have watched it on TV but I had never actually been to one before so it was good.”
Now Murray is hoping his goal – the most memorable of his career to date – helps Hibs kick on as much as he believes it will help him, the Easter Road outfit having struggled to turn performances into wins so far.
He said: “Our home form hasn’t been the best but hopefully this spurs the boys on. Everyone has seen that the team has been playing well for a good few weeks but we’ve not been getting the results.
“It’s important now we go on and pick up some wins.”