He was only at the helm for a month and that was seven months ago but the fact that Graeme Murty delivered a point against rivals Celtic means he was unable to fully slip into the background when Pedro Caixinha arrived on the scene.
“I get people coming up to me about that game from both sides. I can’t repeat what one side says,” said the Rangers development squad head coach, who has again assumed the role of caretaker manager. “But the other side is handshakes and thank yous and people saying ‘we really enjoyed the day’. It’s something I look back on with a sense of pride. I was part of a group that delivered a good day for the Rangers fans.”
Since then the Ibrox side have been on the end of derby results that many would chose to forget, with three comfortable wins for Celtic, none more so than the 5-1 spanking they gave their Rangers hosts – a record home loss in that fixture – the month after the Portuguese took charge.
That was just one of the results in a calamitous seven-month tenure that saw them lose at home to Aberdeen for the first time in 26 years and suffer their worst result in Europe. They all combined to cost Caixinha his job.
“I think the club need more good days against big opposition to really repay the support that we get,” said Murty, as he considered the task he faces to restore some equilibrium while the board decide who should take on the role on a more permanent basis. “It is our job collectively, myself, the players, all the staff to ensure that when called upon we can try and do it. It’s not just about one club that we are playing against, it’s about ensuring game days against any opposition are delivered properly in a manner that befits the football club.”
Back in the hotseat, he knows that much will be expected but he has no complaints about that. For him, the previous experience of guiding the first team simply reinforced what he already knew – that the club has standards that have to be lived up to and, while finding ways to do that may not be easy, he doesn’t necessarily believe it should be.
The same can be said for pulling on the Rangers shirt. Which is why he believes no player has any excuse for underperforming; no reason to whine if a game proves tough.
Even with 19-year-old Ross McCrorie, one of his development squad players who has been thrust into the first team due to injuries and suspensions, making a daunting debut in one of those Old Firm games, he sees only an opportunity every player should embrace.
“I had a distinct lack of sympathy for him. He’s playing for Rangers against Celtic – a childhood dream. It’s supposed to be hard, it’s meant to be difficult. If everyone could do it there would be no point,” added Murty.
“Everyone need not apply to play for this football club. Everyone need not apply for this manager’s job. It’s going to be tough and we need to find ways of helping our players cope with that. So when it’s difficult, it doesn’t become insurmountable.
“Ross has a fantastic mindset. He wants to improve himself every day and works very diligently. He’s the consummate professional even at a young age and knows what he wants. He’s prepared to put in the hard work. But he has to keep that going to maximise his potential. Because that’s what we’re working with, potential. There’s more to come from him and it’s our job to give him the platform to expand his current form.”
Murty’s previous spell in the caretaker role taught him a lot about himself and while he says it did not change his life, it did change his outlook and certain perceptions. What did not change was his insistence that everything revolves around the players. With man-management often seen as a weakness of the man who has just been ousted, Murty has immediately welcomed every outcast back into the fold, keen to show he understands what the players need.
Trusted to take on the first team again, he refuses to publicly throw his hat in the ring to take on the job long-term but he doesn’t rule it out either. The honour, he says, is being asked to do it at all, adding he will do it for as long as the board desire and feels better-placed to do it well.
“I learned a great deal about myself. This job – whether it is the first team or the youth team – is about relationships and making sure they feel as comfortable as possible and are ready to perform. I have to make sure I work extremely hard over the next period to get to know the players better than I have done and give them what they need.
“A level of detail is very much required for the players. What I learned about myself is that I am more able to take emotion out of the equation and give the players what they want. That experience at Parkhead was potentially the best learning I have had in that regard because it would be really easy to get swept up in the colour, the noise and the vibrancy of it, but we had to put it to one side and deliver clarity and concise information to the players so they could go on and perform.
“I’m an emotional guy and I get caught up in the game. I love the game desperately and I want to do well. But I’ve taken that no matter how I feel or het up I get – when the players need direction I need to wind my neck in a bit and just give them what they need. That has been a massive learning curve.
“I know everyone is watching all the time. So, I need to conduct myself in a manner that gives the players permission to go and be brilliant. It’s not about me doing gymnastics on the sidelines and getting caught up to that extent again.”