There has been a wow factor to so much of the past 12 months for Graeme Murty, the 43-year-old could really only provide one response the other day when informed that this weekend marked the first anniversary of his first spell as interim Rangers manager. That month stint not to be confused with his second as interim. And not to be confused with his being confirmed as the club’s permanent manager for the rest of this season in the days before Christmas.
No wonder that Murty remembers precisely where he was on the Friday evening when he upscaled from his role as the club’s under-20 coach to take the team following the departure of Mark Warburton.
“Wow. I was at the rugby at Scotstoun; what a year it’s been. It seems like longer somehow,” he said. “I was really looking forward to watching it because I’m a fan of rugby and of Gregor Townsend and how he manages, so I was going to hopefully see this wonderful game with Glasgow Warriors really expressive, playing open, flowing rugby… Bzzz bzzz [phone noise]. No problem. And that was the start of a year that’s been very, very different.
‘Go to Ibrox.’ What for? ‘Just go to Ibrox’. No problem. And that was the start of a year that’s been very, very different and interesting, challenging, but rewarding as well.”
“Oh God aye,” Murty offers up when asked if he was nervous leading the team into their Scottish Cup fifth round tie at home to Morton that Sunday – the stage he will lead the Ibrox club into at Ayr this afternoon.
“I can’t remember who came up to me but they said ‘don’t worry about it, there’ll only be 40,000 or so there’. What? But because it’s not rammed, it wasn’t a massive game. I came from Norwich where it was full at 27,000. Ah, don’t worry it’s only 40,000. Oh my God, what the hell, what am I letting myself in for.
“It culminated in the game at Celtic [in March, when a 0-0 draw ended a winning league run of 22 games for the champions] which was just incredible. It built towards a brilliant crescendo for me, finishing on a real high for me professionally and emotionally.”
Murty Mark I as a manager was too interested in “appeasing” players, and tended to explain himself a lot. Now, the starting point for Murty Mark II is doing what he thinks is right by the team, however it may play with certain players.
Murty certainly does things his way as a public face of the club. He isn’t framed by populism or pretence but, in always articulate fashion, gives an honest appraisal of his thoughts.
That extends to daring to present Neil Lennon, the ultimate hate figure for Rangers supporters, as a role model in his unexpected and meteoric career trajectory, which has brought “hard losses” and spells when Murty has looked as if he is doing better construction work with the team than any of his three predecessors.
“I’m a first-team manager at Rangers: where else in the British Isles am I going to be in charge of a club of this stature? This is a singular learning curve.
“As a young manager his [Lennon]’s first job was to go and take charge of those guys [Celtic] and he had to do all of his developing, learning and growth in the public eye at massive club and look where he is now. I have no doubt that in the moment he found everything overwhelming, and sometimes I do, but the growth I’m going to have from this experience is going to help me evolve into a far more polished practitioner than I am currently; far better at dealing with the numerous things around football that you didn’t really know existed until you are asked to do them.
“I was more of a servant than a leader even as a captain. I was there to serve the club and the team. I still feel that’s my role, but ultimately I make the decisions now.
“I spoke to him after the game at Ibrox [won by Hibernian last week], he was very complimentary about the team and the recruitment, pretty much as I was at Easter Road…and then he walked out taking my points with him.
“As fiery, spicy and competitive as he is, he also had an intellectual distance from the result that I have not grown yet. That’s where he’s developed in his pathway that I have to get better at. Talking to him about it is quite revealing because he is characterised in a certain way in the press and he’s not come over in that way to me.”
To his credit, one thing that can be said about Murty across the entire last year is that he has always come across as himself. Whatever else changes, he can pride himself it won’t be that.