MORE than two weeks into his job as Dumbarton manager and Ian Murray is becoming restless . . . the former Hibs star yet to take his place in the dugout.
Twice he has seen his club’s Scottish Cup clash with Hamilton postponed and his mood would hardly have been helped with the cancellation of today’s First Division match, coincidentally against the same opposition, but on this occasion at New Douglas Park, cancelled again because of the wintry weather.
Now Murray has his fingers firmly crossed that the fourth round cup tie will go ahead at the third time of asking at the Bet Butler Stadium on Monday night, although it is feared yet another attempt to have the game played may be required if the icy conditions continue beyond today.
As delighted as he was to be handed his first managerial appointment, Murray admitted he is becoming a touch exasperated at being left kicking his heels at a time when he is anxious to begin the daunting task of hauling Dumbarton clear of the threat of relegation, his new side seven points adrift at the foot of the table – a fact which led to the sacking of his predecessor, Alan Adamson.
At 31, one of the youngest managers in the country, the former Easter Road captain said: “It’s frustrating. As a manager you want to get your first game in as quickly as possible and hopefully get off to a good start. Obviously the aim has to be to keep the club in the First Division. It will be a tough ask; we are a part-time club in a full-time league.
“The likes of Dunfermline and Partick Thistle are away from us, but they aren’t the teams we’ll be looking to judge ourselves on. Dumbarton came up through the play-off system having finished third in the Second Division, which makes it even harder in the league where there are teams not long out the SPL and others who were in the SPL not so long ago.
“It makes the challenge even harder, but I’m not daunted by it in the slightest.”
As a veteran of almost 300 games for Hibs and having played for Rangers and Norwich – not to mention Scotland – this is Murray’s first taste of part-time football in a career which has spanned some 15 years, but,he insisted it was too good an opportunity to ignore.
He said: “I was actually in America coaching kids, saw on the internet there was a vacancy and applied. There was some contact and then it went quiet before I was told they wanted to speak to me. I came home on the Tuesday, was interviewed on the Wednesday and offered the job an hour later.
“I slept on it and accepted the job the next day. To get the chance to manage in the First Division in my first job is an excellent opportunity for me, it was a no-brainer.
“There are a lot of guys I played against are now managers, the likes of Paul Hartley, Steven Pressley, Paul Sheerin and Colin Cameron, and I’m quite possibly the youngest manager in the country, but there seems to be a trend for younger managers. Look at Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool for instance. He’s only 39, but he has already been a coach at Chelsea and boss at Watford, Reading and Swansea.”
Murray, who intends to continue playing once he attains full match fitness, admitted he’s aiming to use the experience gained under the numerous managers he played for, saying: “I have tried to learn something from all of them. Alex McLeish was a huge influence. He gave me my debut as a kid at Hibs and then took me to Rangers.
“I also worked closely with Colin Calderwood and kept in touch with him as I do Mixu Paatelainen. I have a pretty good network of people I can speak to and I know they will be there for me, although I intend to be my own man.”
While Murray won’t hesitate to seek advice from those who have influenced his career, he admitted that, initially, he’ll be leaning heavily on his assistant at Dumbarton, former Falkirk, St Mirren and Dunfermline star Jack Ross, who was No. 2 to Adamson and took interim charge of the team. And although Jack himself was interviewed for the post, Murray insisted that won’t be a problem.
He said: “I was under no pressure to retain anyone, but I was very keen to give everyone at the club the opportunity to stay. I felt it was right to offer Jack the chance to help me. He has been here for 13 or 14 months and knows the players and the club. We are of a similar age, come from similar backgrounds and I’m sure it will be fine.
“I know being part-time there will be things that crop up here that don’t happen at a full-time club, so you have to be flexible and realise the constraints, but, as far as I am concerned, my job is full-time, 24/7.”
Murray agreed being in the position to pick himself will be somewhat strange, but he insisted he’ll only play if he’s contributing to the team: “I’m not stupid or dishonest.
“If I deserve to play I will, but there are a few people around me at the club who will tell me when I shouldn’t be playing.”