HEARTS are looking to promote from within after it was revealed that player development manager Darren Murray has accepted a job offer from League One side Coventry City.
The 43-year-old coach, who had been at Hearts for 14 years and helped foster the talents of the majority of the current first team squad, was most recently in charge of the under-20 squad, but he has made no secret of his desire to move into first team coaching on a permanent basis.
When Gary Locke took over from John McGlynn in February this year, Murray had been a key component of the back room staff but, with the arrival of Billy Brown as assistant coach, he was consigned to taking the match-day warm-ups and asked to again focus primarily on his developmental role. The job down south does offer him a new platform though, as he chases his own ambitions.
Speaking about the move, Murray told the Hearts website: “Going to Coventry City is a great opportunity for me and England is the next step in terms of my development, so it’s exciting times.
“I’d like to thank Hearts and I’m going on good terms. This place has been a massive part of my life and my development. I’ve got to thank John McGlynn for bringing me into the club back in 1999 and especially John Murray [director of football] who has let me be myself, do things my way and develop as much as I can. Special mention too to Gary Locke and I really hope he tastes success with this group of talented young players.
“The club has been particularly good to me during some difficult times with family illness. It’s a big wrench to leave this football club and an even bigger wrench to, initially, leave my family up here. So it’s not a decision that I took lightly.”
Murray progressed through the coaching ranks at the academy and was responsible for bringing through many of the current first team players including the likes of Scotland Under-21 internationals Kevin McHattie, Jason Holt, Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson. And while Hearts have not completely ruled out bringing in someone from outside, they are again looking at promoting from within the current set-up.
“The players have been fantastic and have bought into my philosophy and without that then I might not have made it as far along as I have,” said Murray. “Hopefully the boys can push on and stay up this season as the talent is definitely there. Hearts will always be the first result I look for.”
Murray has initially been given the role of under-18 coach at the League One club but will combine that with helping at under-21 and first team level.
Like the Tynecastle club, the Midlands outfit, which is managed by former Hearts captain Steven Pressley, is operating in trying circumstances. Currently ground-sharing with Northampton Town following a dispute over the rent on their Ricoh Arena stadium, they also have financial concerns after one of their subsidiary companies entered administration.
But despite being deducted ten points, they are already clear of the relegation zone with less than a quarter of the league fixtures played and are the only team in the bottom half of the table with a positive goal difference. Having spent time together at Hearts, Pressley knows that Murray shares his football philosophy, while his ability to bring through internationals like Lee Wallace, Ryan McGowan and Christophe Berra, has helped enhance his reputation in the game.
“I look forward to welcoming Darren to the club,” said Coventry’s academy chief Gregor Rioch. “We have some exciting youngsters here who have managed to make that break through into the first team and I look forward to working with Darren in bringing through the next generation.”
The Sky Blues’ development director Steve Waggot added: “In Darren we’re getting someone with a great deal of experience and knowledge in how to achieve that. This really is a pivotal role within the club.”
Finding someone to succeed him in that role at Hearts will be the next step. While it is understood the administrators would be willing to free up some cash to bring in a replacement, it is understood that director of football John Murray is contemplating filling the void internally, with the possibility of bringing in someone cheaper further down the pecking order.
A Hearts spokesperson said: “We wish Darren all the very best in this next chapter of his career. He has become an integral part of this football club and we will always be grateful for his development of many of the young stars who currently grace the first team.”
But with fixtures coming thick and fast and the under-20 squad vital as back-up to the first team this term, the need to appoint a successor soon is keenly understood.