Fraser Murray didn’t recognise the number that flashed up on his phone and, initially, he didn’t twig as to whom the initials AM which accompanied it belonged.
But you can imagine the shock the 19-year-old Hibernian midfielder felt when it dawned the text message was from double Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray.
To many there will be no obvious link between the pair other than sharing the same surname, although they are not related.
However, Murray, along with fellow Easter Road youngster Ryan Porteous, are signed up to the tennis legend’s Sports Management Agency 77 and rather than simply be a figurehead for the organisation, Sir Andy is determined to play an active part in looking after its clients.
Aware his namesake had been dogged by a nagging groin problem which had severely limited his game time for months, Sir Andy, no stranger himself to the misery injury can cause any sportsman, was on hand to offer some sage advice to the youngster.
Having now hopefully shaken off the injury which had plagued him for so long, Murray is in Dubai as Neil Lennon’s squad enjoy a week of warm weather training as they look to turn what has so far been a disappointing season, the Edinburgh club hitting the Premiership’s winter break in eighth place and still smarting from suffering defeat by Hearts in their last game of 2018.
Murray was a frustrated on-looker throughout the first half of the season, watching as fellow youngsters, defender Porteous and striker Oli Shaw, cemented their places in Lennon’s plans. But now he’s eyeing the chance to emulate their achievements and, he admitted, that’s in no small part down to the regular “chats” he’s enjoyed over the past seven months or so with Sir Andy.
He said: “I’d been struggling with a groin problem for the last year, on and off, but I’m feeling better now. I’d sat it out for the last couple of months or so to try to get to the bottom of it and I’ve been back running the last couple of weeks and feeling the better for it. I’m good to go.
“There was no need for an operation. It was an overload problem and my groin was compensating for other areas, everything was going through there. I played through the injury towards the end of last season, felt it again in pre-season and sat things out for a few months. I came back, but it started to get sore again and midway through October we decided there was no point in trying to play through it again. But that’s the back of it now and I’m back to full fitness.”
Throughout that time Sir Andy was on hand, aware of just what the football player, so highly rated by the powers that be at Easter Road that he was handed, like Porteous, a new contract tying him to the club until the summer of 2023. was going through.
Murray revealed: “Ryan and I went down to Wimbledon last summer and had a half-hour, 45-minute chat with Andy talking about football, everything, that was good. That was when I first had the injury
“We went down for the day, had something to eat, then went to see Andy at the tennis centre and he took time out of his own training to speak to us.”
But it was the follow-up interest Sir Andy took in his predicament which surprised the youngster. He said: “Yes, first time it was just a random number I didn’t recognise. It was on Whatsapp it had his initials and I was wondering who is that? I don’t have any relatives with those initials being a Murray myself, then it clicked.
“There was AM next to it, a bit of a shock. I didn’t know what to say.The first one was seven months ago or so. I appreciate it, him taking time out when he’s globe-trotting and working hard on his fitness himself. He keeps up to date and it’s good of him to do it. It’s roughly once a month.
“He has had quite a bit of trouble himself but he is one of the best role models you could have, so it’s good having him talking to you giving you advice all the time.”
Knowing that the teenager gets the best of care from Hibs’ own medical staff, Sir Andy’s chats have been more about how to cope and deal with a long-term injury, the youngster revealing: “I think when people hear you’ve signed to his agency they’d probably have thought it’s just his name. that Ryan and I wouldn’t have any dealings directly with him.
“To be fair, he’s great to speak to, down to earth. Easy to speak to.
“The texts have been to ask how I am. It’s basically saying to focus on the stuff I can do, not to worry about being injured, to focus on getting back fit. to do stuff I can do in the gym, on the bike to keep fit, that kind of stuff.
“He’s a great guy, funny, a good personality. I’ve got his number but I haven’t called him myself yet. The thing is he’s doing his training, but taking time out to speak to Ryan and me shows the sort of guy he is, interested in other people.
“We talk about football, he asks how we are getting on, my injury, his training, my training.
“He talks of the importance of at night getting your head away from it, relaxing and be ready to go back into it the next day. We have a few jokes.
“We don’t chat about his injury or the treatment I was getting for mine, more psychological support advising me on how to stay strong mentally.”
To that end, Murray admits it has been a test watching Porteous, pictured right, and Shaw begin to make names for themselves but, he insisted, there’s no hint of envy, just a determination to catch up with them as quickly as possible with the return of Emerson Hyndman, pictured inset, to Bournemouth at the end of his loan spell perhaps presenting an opportunity. He said: “It is frustrating, but they have been doing well and fully deserve to be in the team, so, hopefull,y I can follow on now and do what they have been doing in the second half of the season.
“I want to be there as quick as I can. I’ve still been training, when I can, with the first team but hopefully now I am over it I can make an impact in the second half of the season. Hope to catch the eye this week.
“Emerson’s away, so there’s a space there. Hopefully, I can train well, keep my fitness up and make my case.”
Life will be anything but easy in the heat of the United Arab Emirates but, admitted Murray, he’d rather be sweltering in Dubai than pounding round Hibs East Mains training centre.
He laughed: “It’s better going out training in the heat than the freezing cold, thermals on, gloves, hat, scarf, the lot.”