Ex-Hibs player back to watch son at Easter Road

Gary Murray will be at Easter Road to watch his son Simon play today. Picture: TSPL

Gary Murray will be at Easter Road to watch his son Simon play today. Picture: TSPL

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Such are the hurdles that need to be negotiated when purchasing tickets by phone for a football match, even someone as modest and unassuming as Gary Murray might be tempted to shout 
into the receiver: “Don’t you know who I am?”

He doesn’t, of course. He doesn’t
 expect people to know who he is because, he reasons, why should they? Murray last played for Hibernian in the early 1980s. Difficult though it is to believe, he has not returned to Easter Road since the day he left.

This will change today. Because his son will be playing for the opposition, he phoned Easter Road yesterday to request tickets for this afternoon’s Scottish Cup fifth round tie between Hibs and Arbroath. Murray’s identity was wheedled out of him when he asked whether he and Julie, his wife, could be accommodated amongst the home supporters in the main stand, rather than be housed with the away ones in the south stand.

He likes to watch games from the half-way-line, Murray explained, after it was suggested this could be problematic. “Are you a registered Hibs fan, sir, came the query? “Well, no,” he had to reply. “But I did once play for Hibs.”

That means today is bound to prove an emotional experience for Murray, who has been lured back to the ground to watch his son, Simon. Signed last month by Dundee United for £50,000, the flame-haired 22 year-old has been loaned back to the Gayfield club for the rest of the season.

Like father, like son. Gary Murray moved to Hibs from Montrose for the same amount – it remains the highest transfer fee received by the Angus club. It is here Murray desperately hopes the similarities end.

Hibs supporters of a certain vintage will remember harbouring high hopes for a striker who had been scoring freely in the lower divisions with Montrose (and returned later to the Links Park club to do the same). They might even recall him scoring against Hibs in a League Cup tie in 1979-80. It was one of the reasons why manager Bertie Auld was persuaded to spend a not inconsiderable sum on Murray.

Hibs were looking to return to the Premier Division at the first attempt, having been relegated in 1980. Murray arrived midway through their First Division-winning season and helped them over the line. But it was not the start of a long full-time career, as he’d hoped. Rather, it was the beginning of the end of one.

A knee ligament injury picked up in the process of shooting during a reserve game versus Aberdeen had a devastating effect on his career and, he reports, still causes him trouble today. Now a taxi driver in Dundee, Murray retired from football at only 30 and is now learning to live with an artificial knee inserted five years ago.

He has, though, been compensated by the emergence of Simon, who he describes as a “much more skilful” version of himself. His son has also been forced to overcome obstacles after being jettisoned by Montrose, where his father is so highly regarded.

Simon then flourished at Tayport under John McGlashan and then earned another shot at senior football with 
Arbroath, for whom he has already struck 18 goals this season.

It will surely prove cathartic for his father should Simon score this afternoon at a place where you sense Murray, while clearly retaining enormous affection for Hibs, associates with the crushing of a young man’s dreams.

“I never really recovered,” he laments. “I signed when I was just 21, and was released just before my 24th birthday. I had three seasons at Hibs and my last game is not one I like to look back on since it’s when I received an injury that has affected me in later years.

“But I have fond memories of playing against Celtic and Rangers – and scoring against both clubs. Although I still finished on the losing side both times, I still managed to score a couple of goals against them. I scored 18 goals and played just under 80 games.”

It is far from a poor record. Indeed, it is a goals-per-game ratio many Hibs strikers in recent years would gladly boast.

“I struggled on,” continues Murray, now 55. “I have a full knee replacement to show for it. But I would not change anything for the world. A lot of people have a lot worse injuries than me. Unfortunately, when you get one at a level where you need to be at your best, it doesn’t help.

Just as Simon has made people at Dundee United sit up and notice him, Murray earned his transfer to Hibs the hard way – by scoring goals in the lower leagues.

“I would like to have progressed further but if you get injured that’s just the way it goes,” he says. “It was Bertie Auld who signed me. Pat Stanton came in and it was then that I got my injury and I was released under Pat. But I joined when they won the championship – I joined in December, so have a 
league medal to show for it. I look back fondly.”

As well as scoring against both sides of the Old Firm, Murray also struck against Dundee, the team he supported as a boy.

“I remember that goal well – a one-two with Ralph Callachan. It was a good feeling. When you get released by a team and score against them, it is a good feeling.”

Murray joined Dundee on S forms along with two other Errol Rovers 
players – Gavin and Ian Redford. They were kept on, Murray wasn’t.

He became a professional footballer in the end – a better than average one, who is still considered a legend by Montrose fans. But, in view of the cruel way he saw his career hampered, if anyone deserves to do some living through the exploits of a son, it is Murray.

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