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Interviews

INTERVIEW: It was all my dreams come true

Glenn Murray on setting the Premier League alight

13 June 2021

As we learned from part three of our interview with Glenn Murray, getting out of Bournemouth was something of a career priority, and his exit constituted a return to Brighton, who were by now comfortable and settled in their fantastic new stadium.

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“That move was really important at that point in my career,” he admitted. “I hadn’t scored goals at Bournemouth and I hadn’t been involved in squads, so it felt like if my next move hadn’t worked then I could have quickly have been forgotten about as a professional footballer.

“If you aren’t scoring goals for two or three years, it’s hard to get that reputation back, and it was a reputation that had taken me years to build. I had one year out with my ACL, so that was taken into consideration by clubs, but if I’d been fit but hadn’t scored goals for over two years then it becomes a real problem, especially when you’re in your early 30s.

“This next move was so important to prolong my career. I’d watched Brighton from afar, I still lived in the city and probably supported them to a certain extent. I felt with my attributes and how close they’d gone the year before, missing out in the play-offs, I felt like I could really thrive in that set-up.

“They had some great players putting great balls into the box and I was looking at that and thinking I could do well there. A lot of people thought it was just to come home, I was 32 and it looked like the ideal retirement move where I would sit about and pick my money up, but it wasn’t like that for me at all.

“There was much more thought to it than that for me, I felt like it would suit me and I would be the missing link that could score goals for them. It was also about prolonging my career, but in the sense that I knew with living local I could spend longer at the club and look after my body better.

“I’m lucky because it worked perfectly, exactly as I’d wanted it to, I probably couldn’t have dreamed it going any better than it did.”

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It surely doesn’t get to work any more perfectly than a return to the Premier League at your adopted home?

“It was special to get into the Premier League with Brighton, but you don’t really stop and think about it when it’s happening,” he commented. “You just keep rolling with the punches. You get promoted to the Premier League, which is obviously great, but I was already thinking about the next season and whether we’d be good enough to stay up, and whether I was good enough to score goals at that level.

“Everything was brilliant in the Championship and it was an amazing year, it couldn’t have gone any better, but then the worry of the Premier League started. I didn’t want it to end badly, I didn’t want to get relegated out of the Premier League and go back into the Championship.

“I really wanted to be a success in the Premier League. As soon as the final whistle is blown you’re thinking about what the next thing will be, you don’t sit and think about what you’ve just accomplished. Everything moves on straight away.”

“It was such a brilliant period though, I have to admit that,” he added. “It was all my dreams coming true at the ripe old age of 34. Just because you’re a footballer you don’t stop watching Match of the Day, you still tune in to see who is doing what.

“I’ve watched it since I was a little boy, and when you’re in the lower leagues as a player you look at that level and you hope that one day it’ll be you. But you watch and you can see that they’re on a different level, so to make it there and score goals it was just amazing, even for an old man in terms of my age within this industry.”

Could your approach of always looking to the next challenge be a nugget of good advice for any young players trying to make their way in the game right now to take away with them?

“I think you’ve just got to enjoy the good times and make sure you don’t get too low during the bad times,” he replied. “By enjoy the good times I don’t mean go crazy and enjoy them too much, you need to remain stable. I see a lot of footballers who get carried away when the times are good, then get really low when times are bad.

“I was certainly one as a young lad who would get too low when times were bad, I used to really beat myself up when I was a young pro. If I missed a couple of chances, I’d feel like I’d really let myself down.

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“I’d punish myself if I had a bad game, and if I had plans afterwards I’d lock myself in the house and think I didn’t deserve to go to the cinema or out for a meal, or whatever it was. I’d cancel it and sit in the house thinking about what had gone wrong.

“I realised all that was doing was getting myself stuck in a rut, and there was no benefit to me doing that. I completely flipped that on its head and spoke to a sports psychologist when I was at Rochdale, maybe around the age of 23 or 24.

“He spoke to me about how happy I was when I scored a goal, and I told him I could go home and paint the spare bedroom on a Saturday night and be buzzing about doing it because I’d score two goals earlier in the day. I could literally do anything on a Saturday night after I’d scored and be really happy about it.

“He told me to make a point of making plans if I had a bad game, or missed a chance, or got sent off, to lift my mood. That’s what I’ve done since then, and I’ve actually come across a bit of criticism for it.

“I’ve been out in Brighton on a Saturday night when I’ve missed a penalty and we’ve lost the game 1-0, and the first place you walk into you get asked why you’re showing your face after having done that. I totally see the point, but I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it, it was for the benefit of me as a football player, as well as for me as a person.”

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Having slotted into life in the Premier League so smoothly, we wondered what it meant to a player to have played and flourished at that level at different stages of his career?

“I think you just roll with it,” he insisted. “You don’t sit back and go ‘whoa’ or let it set your head spinning, because you can’t afford to. You have to perform at their level and you have to compete against them.

“Don’t get me wrong, every now and then you’d find yourself smiling at the fact that some real household names are in the tunnel with you, but you still had a job to do. You can’t do that job if all you are is overawed.

“I remember my first start in the Premier League for Crystal Palace, it was after my ACL injury, and I hadn’t even had a reserve game. Tony Pulis pulled me in the day before to tell me I was starting tomorrow – and tomorrow happened to be Manchester United who had a centre back partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

“That was a day when I looked across at them before kick off and I had to take a deep breath. Behind them were Rooney, and that calibre of player, so I took a second to say to myself, look, you’re here now and you have to live with these boys, or it’ll very quickly all be over.

“I knew then that my mindset had to be about giving everything, throwing all I had at it and making sure that I did myself justice.

“I remember even then that reporters would ask what I was planning to do after I hung my boots up, and all I could think was, hang on, I’m not planning for that, all I can think about is living in the now and doing what I need to do to keep up with these people.

“You can’t take your eye off the ball at all, in any circumstance at that level because if you do, you get left behind.”

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Any interview about a career as prolonged as this one has been has to bring with it the standard questions about managers who have been a particular influence, and about players who have provided particular inspiration or help.

“Every manager I’ve worked with has helped me,” he said. “I know that’s a bit of a cop-out but all of them have done little bits for me. Every manager is the best and the worst I’ve played under in different ways.

“The way that Simmo managed me was ideal, but at the time it drove me mad because I wanted more game time. Dougie Freedman took me to Palace and was really honest with me, which I think is so key for a manager as far as I’m concerned.

“Dougie had the integrity to tell me that I was good, but not at that level yet, and he told me I had to work harder because some of the things I was doing just weren’t going to cut it. I was always last into training and first out, and he said I could keep doing that if I wanted, but there was no progression there.

“He laid it put that I needed to take it more seriously. That was amazing for me and I really took that on board. I think the main manager I’ve got to look at is Chris Hughton. For him to be managing in the Premier League and back me as a 34-year-old, even though most managers would look at my age and think my best years were past me without even giving me a chance.

“For him to stick with me after that Championship season and believe in me enough to lead his line and score goals for him was just unbelievable, and I can never repay him for that.”

“As for player, I hate to have to say this in an interview with the Carlisle website but Chris Lumsdon and Paul Arnison were great with me as soon as I went into that dressing room,” he revealed. “They made me part of their little group, which was so important to me. I was very very shy when I first went into the first team dressing room at Brunton Park.

“It’s such a different environment to anything else you’ll ever walk into because it’s cut-throat. There’s banter, but it edges towards bullying at times, which can be difficult. They took me under their wings and they showed me how to deal with it all.

“You’ve got to have thick skin in a football changing room, you can’t be delicate, but I was really reserved when I first joined Carlisle. Some of the things that would be said, I was sitting there thinking that it was well out of order, but the rest of the lads are wetting themselves at it.

“That just got me used to being in a football environment, and those two were really important in terms of giving me the confidence I needed. They’d hammer me all week, but on a match day they’d put their arm around me.

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“Lummy and Arnie are the stand outs from that team, but the whole dressing room was fantastic and it was a really good group to join as a young lad. I think you get that with any successful group of players, the likes of Peter Murphy, Chris Billy and Brendan McGill were really good as well.

“When I look at the other end of my career, Bruno Saltor, the full back at Brighton, was huge for me. I suppose you aren’t meant to have role models as a 35-year-old but that was exactly what he was for me.

“He was a couple of years older and I watched how he conducted himself. He really looked after his body, he was in the gym and did his weights religiously, and I took a lot from him. I looked at that and saw him doing those things, so I thought those were the sorts of things I needed to be doing to prolong my career to the age he was at.

“There have been so many players along the way that I forged really close bonds with. Peter Ramage, Damien Delany and Mile Jedinak at Crystal Palace were really good. Dale Stephens was another at Brighton, and I’m still really close with him now. I could add to this list for hours.”

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And were there any regrets or opportunities missed along the way?

“I haven’t got a single regret,” he said. “I know people say that, but I really mean it. I’ve obviously made mistakes, loads of them, but those mistakes have moulded me into the person I am and the player I was.

“I nearly made a big mistake by joining Accrington, I think everything would have panned out differently if I’d done that, but Neil McDonald guided me in the right direction and I tried to listen.

“I don’t think I’ve ever thought I knew it all. Even with retirement, I spoke to seven or eight lads who have retired already just to see if I was ready for it. I think with all the knowledge I’ve got together from other people and from my own feelings I think this is the right time to call it a day.

“It’s the ending of something that has been a life-changing journey. It’s been unbelievable, everything the game has given me I could never have dreamed of. I’m really excited for what’s next.

“Like I said, you don’t sit back and reflect because football waits for no-one. You’re constantly on a conveyer belt of being judged, but now I can sit back and appreciate what I’ve done.

“That won’t be for long, I’m really looking forward to starting a new career at a relatively young age, which a lot of people don’t get the chance to do.”

“As for what I’m doing next, I would like to go down the media route, I’d like to keep that affiliation with the game that has given me everything,” he revealed. “I could never just stop and not be involved in football at all, I think that’s when I would find it really difficult.

“I want to stay involved in the game in some capacity, and I would like to keep an affiliation with Brighton in some way. That’s something we’re talking about at the moment, something like an ambassador role or something like that.

“I’ve obviously played at every level of the game so I feel like I’ve got a grounded opinion on most things, which I’m not afraid to air, so I’d like to watch football, talk about it and get paid for it.”

Thank you to Glenn for taking the time to share some of his experiences – happy retirement from us all!


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