Rangers’ failed pursuit of Derek McInnes has resulted in Graeme Murty being installed as the bookies’ favourite to be named permanent Ibrox manager. The stand-in, then, could suddenly have become the stand-out candidate. All the more so when he has occupied the post for the past six weeks and been placed in charge for the next six matches by the club’s board.
Yet despite all that, and even allowing for the fact that last week’s back-to-back wins over Aberdeen mean he is responsible for the team’s high water mark of the season, Murty point-blank refuses even to consider himself a contender to lead the Ibrox side on a longer-term basis than the 96 days he is on course to do so.
The 43-year-old admitted to “surprise” yesterday that he would be in the technical area for today’s visit of Ross County and beyond. His response to being asked if he was happy at that unexpected development, told its own story, though. “I wouldn’t say happy,” he said. “More accepting of the situation than anything else. I expected a manager to be in place. It hasn’t happened. I said to the players earlier on that is the reality of the situation, we have to move on and make sure you prepare yourselves properly. There are no excuses and we have to make sure we take care of business on the pitch. Everything else is just talk in the media and the fans. The players know what they have to do.”
What Murty is focused on doing is filling in until the moment he is not required to do so. He believes that moment could come even earlier than next year, as was the timescale set out in a snarky club statement that took aim at McInnes.
“I’ve been asked to fulfil a role,” Murty said. “That role hasn’t changed in my eyes. Nothing else has been talked about. The term of it has changed slightly but as far as I’m concerned I’m in this position on an interim basis. I’m cracking on with it and content with it on those terms. You know what football is like, if an outstanding candidate comes to the fore and the board decide tomorrow they are going to go with someone else, I’ll accept the board’s decision and give the new person my utmost support and I’ll be ready to move onto the next chapter and move forward.
“I had plans set, on Wednesday I showed the players our opponents, their areas of strength and weakness, I had a session planned for this morning, I had a video planned for this afternoon, just in case things didn’t pan out how we thought they might. If I hadn’t been prepared that way, I would be guilty of not doing my job properly.
“Although the appointment hasn’t been made, plans were already in place in house to make sure the players were taken care of and that will remain the case until the situation changes. My wants and my needs, as I said at the outset, are at the very bottom of the process.” Murty’s stance on McInnes’ decision to remain at Aberdeen could hardly have been more at odds with the huffy response it elicited in Rangers’ communique late on Thursday night.
“I am surprised but football, as Mr Greaves said, is a funny [old] game,” the Rangers interim boss said. “It’s one of those things. Nothing really should surprise us. He has made a decision. There is no point in second-guessing it. There is no point in going into the whys and wherefores or casting aspersions towards him in any way, shape or form. He has made a decision that he thinks is right. Fine. Draw a line under it. It’s done. Move forward. The players have to move forward. I have to move forward and the football club has to move forward.”
What hasn’t moved during Murty’s period stepping up from development coach to the frontline are the numbers on his pay packet. It is likely that 2017 will end with Murty having taken the team for almost half the time the club has been playing league football across the year. He maintains he wouldn’t expect that to be reflected in his earnings.
“I am a Rangers Under-20s coach,” he said. “The last thing on my mind is finance at this moment. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t expect to be paid as a Rangers manager, because I am not. I am Under-20s coach and I have a contract with the club in that regard.
“The club have asked me to help in a situation that is less than perfect, being that the club don’t have a permanent manager. I work for the football club, I love the football club and anything I can do to help is my pleasure. I have loved every second of it. If the club want me to continue and help in any way I can, that is the very, very least I can do.”