Simon Murray: I'm hoping to do my Dad proud at Hibs
He's only been at Easter Road a matter of days but new Hibs striker Simon Murray can genuinely claim to have always had a soft spot for the Capital club.
Although he was born after his father Gary was forced to retire from playing through injury, the 25-year-old has been brought up listening to his days playing in the green and white shirt.
And, he admitted, his old man got a bit emotional when he learned his son was to follow in his steps by heading for his old stomping ground, snapped up by Neil Lennon after Dundee United’s failed bid for an immediate return to the Premiership.
Listening to Murray jnr talk it sounds as if it could be a bit of “like father, like son” when he takes to the pitch, revealing he’d been nicknamed “Mini-Charger” by former United boss Jackie McNamara, his dad having been christened “Charger” by his team-mates in the 1980s for his refusal to see anything as a lost cause and a work-rate which never gave opposition defences a moment’s peace.
“I think I do play in a similar way to the way he played,” admitted the new arrival. “I was called Mini-Charger by Jackie because his dad played with my dad.
“I’m hoping I can do better than he did when he was here, that’s my goal.”
Murray’s father accompanied him as he visited Hibs’ East Mains training centre as he prepared to make the switch from Tayside to Edinburgh and, he revealed, it proved to be a real eye-opener.
He said: “He came down with me when I signed. He was here a good few years ago so they never had a facility like this. I think they were just at a public park. I remember him mentioning they were running up dunes.
“He loved it when he came through. He loved the look of the place, the facilities are just amazing and he knows it can only help me improve.
“The family have always had a soft spot for Hibs even though I’m from Dundee. He’s got pictures in his kitchen and it’s always a team we’ve looked out for.
“When the opportunity came to come to Hibs it was good and I think he was a bit emotional as well.”
One story Murray snr never tired of regaling his son with was the day he scored twice against Celtic as Simon revealed when he was asked of his father’s favourite moment as a Hibs player.
“I think he scored two against Celtic,” he said, “He did score two against Celtic because he never stops going on about it. He was up against Danny McGrain and he said he had him on toast. Those were the words he used.”
Like his father, Murray began his career at Montrose but his own route to Easter Road was more circuitous, dropping into Junior football and even spending a year in Australia before being signed by Arbroath where his goals alerted then United manager McNamara who forked out £50,000 to take him to Tannadice.
Last season Murray scored 18 goals for United and is now determined to continue listening and learning.
He said: “I suppose I have done it the hard way, coming through the juniors and the lower leagues at Arbroath. A lot of boys come through the academy route but some people don’t get that chance so you keep working hard.
“I was lucky enough I got picked up by Dundee United and that’s given me the chance to come here.
“I’m just grateful it happened to me. I was working as a plumber when I was at Arbroath and I don’t want to go back there.
“I’ve got my chance and I still feel as if I’ve got a bit to learn and hopefully I can do that under the manager here. I am sure I will improve.”
Having done it the hard way Murray admitted he feels he perhaps appreciates it all that little bit more, saying: “You don’t take it for granted. I’m not saying people do, but you know what it’s like and you want to be playing football as long as you can, especially at this level.
“You need a bit of luck and you need the right person to be watching. I’m just grateful it happened to me.”
Murray couldn’t contain his excitement at signing for Hibs, posting a photograph on social media of himself at East Mains before his move was officially confirmed and thus incurring the wrath of United supporters who’d just seen Ray McKinnon’s side lose their Premiership play-off to Hamilton.
It wasn’t, he confessed, too clever, adding: “It probably wasn’t the best timing but I suppose these things happen. It spread so quickly, it just shows you the power of social media.”
Since then it has been a waiting game for Murray, Lennon’s players enjoying an extended break before reporting back for pre-season training this week.
He said: “It’s good to be back in and to meet all the boys for the first time and with the fixtures coming out, it’s exciting. I can’t wait to get started.
“My first impressions have been brilliant, the training ground, obviously, is amazing. The players all seem great as well, which is a positive.”
There was, though, one familiar face, Martin Boyle having briefly been a team-mates at Montrose.
He said: “I was a youth player there and Martin was in the first team but he is still as fast as he was then.”
Murray is well aware of the great air of expectation among a Hibs support which in the past two seasons has watched their team win the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years and then clinch the Championship title and a long-awaited return to the top flight of Scottish football.
He said: “It’s absolutely massive. Obviously Dundee United, where I have come from, have a good history themselves.
“But coming through to Edinburgh, seeing the fans, seeing those season ticket figures, it’s amazing the size of this club. It’s exciting.
“Obviously there are high expectations from the fans. You want to meet those. We never want to say too much, but obviously we’re trying to make everyone happy.”
Hibs will kick-off the new season at home against Partick Thistle, before travelling to Ibrox to face Rangers for the first time since their historic victory at Hampden 13 months ago although the fixture list in the opening few weeks of the season appears to have looked kindly on the Capital club with four of their five games thereafter against sides which finished in the bottom six last season.
Murray, though, insisted each match will prove to be a tough encounter.
He said: “I’m just looking forward to the first one initially, against Partick. But then obviously you look to the Rangers game second up, it will be great.
“You want to get a god run but we know each game is going to be difficult.”