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Interviews

INTERVIEW: It was a good move for a number of reasons

Glenn Murray on his time with Brighton, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth

12 June 2021

The next move for now retired striker Glenn Murray was always going be up the way with him having established himself at Spotland, under Rochdale boss Keith Hill, as a potent force.

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And there was little surprise when clubs at the same level, and above, who perhaps considered themselves as ‘bigger’ started to send out the feelers.

But, and bearing in mind that he was a self-confessed homebird, how on earth did he end up in Brighton?

“Growing up as a northern lad I have to be honest and say that Brighton was never really on my radar as a football club,” he admitted. “I never registered their results, or anything like that, until my name was linked with them.

“I was actually told that a fee had been agreed, but there was a lot of media chat around me at that point anyway because I was scoring a lot of goals. There were rumours that Leeds were interested, they were in League One at the time, and a few other clubs got mentioned as well.

“However it very quickly went from being just rumours about it being Brighton to me being told that they were the club who wanted me. To be absolutely honest, I wasn’t even sure where it was.

“I had to double check on the map and the first thought I had, of course, was that it was a long, long way from home. I sat down and thought, right, this is everything Neil McDonald spoke to me about with being prepared to move to pursue your career.

“I held firm initially, there was no way I was going down there for nothing, but then money came into it. I had a figure in my head that, if they could match, I knew it would be life-changing, and I would do it.

“We talked, they agreed to it, and I remember saying to my girlfriend at the time that I was off and that if she wanted to come she was more than welcome, but I was going whatever. That was it, and off I went.”

At a new club and so far from his roots, it was perhaps inevitable that it would take him some time to settle.

“For the first two years I had good spells and bad spells, but it always takes me a while to settle into my surroundings,” he explained. “I’d had a brief go at League One with Carlisle, but Brighton was my first real opportunity.

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“I scored goals in the first year, but I lost my way a little bit in the second year and there were question marks over my attitude. I can look back and I can admit that I deserved that now.

“When I was 25 I was a professional footballer but I didn’t have anything else, I didn’t have a child or anything like that, and I suppose I thought I’d made it to a certain extent. I lost the reasons why I was doing it a little bit, then Gus Poyet came in and refocused me and by the end of that season I’d scored 22 goals.

“I had a lot of injuries at Brighton, I had a double hernia and little niggly things that held me back for quite a long time. I have to thank Gus because he gave me a jolt and it was my fourth season there when I hit the ground running and scored those 22 goals, and that was probably the year I completed League One, if you want to put it like that.

“I suddenly felt comfortable that I could score that amount of goals season on season at that level, so it was time for a new challenge. We got promoted at Brighton that year so I could have taken me next challenge with them in the Championship in their new stadium, but that wasn’t to be and I ended up going up the road to Crystal Palace.”

Very, very few players make the transition between such close rivals successfully, and once again there was a bumpy road to navigate before he eventually found his feet.

“It was a good move for a number of reasons,” he said. “I’d fallen in love with a girl from Brighton, so I didn’t want to come back north at that stage, so everywhere north of London was off the radar a bit.

“She was pregnant, we were about to have a little girl and life was good. I was happy and it’s a nice place to bring children up, and my stepson was settled in school. We wanted to stay where we were, we had grandparents who were a massive help, and we knew if we went anywhere in the middle we wouldn’t have that help, we either needed to be far north or far south.

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“I took the decision that I wanted to be in the vicinity of Brighton so I could keep that as my home, then travel to work. There were two clubs interested, Millwall and Crystal Palace. I was actually really close to signing for Millwall but it just wasn’t to be. I think eventually they pulled the plug on me instead of me pulling it on them, so I ended up at Crystal Palace.”

“The first year at Palace was a bit of a catastrophe, to be honest, I didn’t do very well at all,” he continued. “I think I scored seven goals and the team as a whole wasn’t what it eventually grew into.

“There were a few big names there, I think Steffen Iversen was coming to the end of his career and Darren Ambrose was there, but there was a lot of young lads as well, so I never felt out of my depth. Unlike what Carlisle did with me where they outgrew me, I think Palace grew with me.

“We were on the same path but, yeah, that first year was difficult and I found it hard to find the back of the net. Thankfully it improved and I really found my feet at that level in the second year, and so did Palace. There was no stopping us from that point. The squad we put together at that time was some squad when you look back on it.”

More frustration followed, albeit tinged with the knowledge that the club had made the ultimate step up, when he ruptured his ACL during the Championship play-off semi-final against, would you believe, Brighton.

“Going up through the play-offs is possibly the best way to get promoted, but from a personal point of view it wasn’t that great because I snapped my ACL,” he confirmed. “But Palace getting promoted made a massive change to my rehab.

“They generally say nine months, but you can sometimes rush it. I knew the ballpark was nine months, but it ended up taking me ten. Doing my rehab every day in the gym on my own was so much easier knowing I was coming back to prove myself in the Premier League rather than the Championship.

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“That was the positive spin I put on it to get myself through those times, because it is tough. You don’t see the other lads very much and I always wanted to do things quicker than I was able to do them.

“It takes a long time for your brain to send the right signals to your repaired bit because it’s a tendon that needs turned into a ligament. It’s a really slow, agonising process which is quite demoralising. You spend every day in the gym but you feel as though you aren’t progressing, and I wasn’t able to do much at all. To have that mindset and to know that I was coming back to be a Premier League footballer made it so much easier.”

And part of the smooth return to football, this time in the top-flight, included the netting of his first ever Premier League goal.

“It was a special moment on a personal level and it was special for Palace as well,” he told us. “After the season we’d had together that was a real affiliation between me and the fans.

“It was a penalty away at Swansea and to get that off my back was nice. I think all strikers dread the first three games of the season.

“You want to get up and running, if you go longer than three or four games it starts becoming a bit of a worry. To get that Premier League goal, even via the penalty spot, was really special to me and something I’ll always remember.”

A desire to continue to be tested eventually led to a discussion with the manager at Selhurst Park about what the best way forward was for all concerned.

“I can remember going into Tony Pulis’s office and telling him I felt like it was time for me to get out of there,” he revealed. “It wasn’t so much that I wanted to leave Palace, but more that I needed to prove to myself that I could still score goals and that my body was robust enough to withstand playing every week.

“He had no problem with that, and we spoke about Ross McCormack who had just been bought for £15m, so Tony said I could leave if he got £10-£12m for me. I asked him if he was kidding me, but he was talking about McCormack and how many goals I’d scored compared to him.

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“Fair enough, but I just thought wow, he’s going to price me out of a move. When I look back I was maybe worth that at the time, but I looked at it as being me coming off the back of an ACL injury and I hadn’t played regularly for 12 months.

“When I said he was never going to get that sort of money for me we had a laugh. I had a really good relationship with Tony and in the end I stayed a bit longer, and he decided to leave anyway. I left not long after him when Neil Warnock came in.”

And it was back to the south coast and Bournemouth, and a move that maybe didn’t quite reach the expectations it appeared to hold during the negotiation phase.

“Bournemouth was a bad spell for me, it just didn’t really fit,” he said. “I don’t think my attributes fitted with the ethos of the club at the time under Eddie Howe, we didn’t really see eye to eye.

“It was a frustrating time for me. It was a long way from home, I was still living in Brighton and commuting, and funnily enough there was actually roadworks on the road I used the whole time I was there which added about 40 minutes to the journey, which wasn’t ideal when it was already two hours away.

“It just didn’t go well there, I never really settled. They were a really tight knit squad who had achieved a lot together, and even though the boys tried to make me feel welcome, I always felt like a little bit of an outsider, which was probably because I didn’t really suit the way they played.

“I was desperate to get out of there and I was happy when I did get out, but looking back I learned a lot from my time there even though it was only one season. I learned a lot from Bournemouth and I learned a lot from Eddie Howe.”


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