THE phrase part-time football manager has always seemed like a contradiction in terms.
Reduced time on the training field doesn't automatically equate to less stressing about the welfare of your team, but Ian Murray appears to be making the arrangement work. In addition to booking a William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final showdown against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, the former Hibs, Rangers and Norwich City player this week picked up the Championship manager of the month award for January. Goodness knows how well he would be doing if he was working on a full-time basis.
"The hours I put in depends on our schedule," said Murray, who might not always have time to work on team shape, but whose sundry chores on a weekly basis can include such mundane activities as organising food orders for his players and ensuring his team has clean kit. "But obviously as a manager, your mind is hunting for 24 hours, thinking about the next game, how the opposition might set up, stuff like that. Childcare occupies me during the week! I've got a little boy, Lewis, and my hands are pretty full with him. But it works out well because we train at night."
Despite a decent, if injury- affected, career, Murray largely flew under the radar as a player but there is something about his easy manner, and intelligent thinking about the game, which suggests he could be destined for big things as a manager. In the 18 months since he has been in the shadow of the rock, he has raided his contacts book thoroughly, first to consolidate Dumbarton's status as a full-time club, then to the point where now they aren't out of the hunt for a play-off place, even if he is unaware of any contingency plan to go full-time in the event of promotion.
"In fantasy land if we got into and won the play-offs, we'd have to look at something," he says. "But as far as I'm aware, we don't."
The prospect of a cup journey to Pittodrie - to take on a reborn Aberdeen side - doesn't fill him with dread, but then neither would a visit to Ibrox to take on his old club. "Aberdeen is a club with huge pressure on all the time," said Murray. "They are a massive club that hasn't achieved what it should have. But I'd have had no problem going to Ibrox with the team we have," he added. "I'd have put that as a 50-50 game."
Plenty of managers have contributed in their own way to Murray's managerial world view, but in particular he is a disciple of Alex McLeish, his former boss at Hibs and Rangers. Having said that, he isn't exactly on the phone every other day. "I don't really speak to anyone," said Murray. "Maybe Colin Calderwood now and again. Him and Alex are really the only two. It's funny, I probably speak more to managers in my own league. A lot of people in my generation are getting jobs so you can phone them up or text them."
At 32, and still as young as many of the players in his dressing room, Murray is merely the latest of this crop of young managers who are happy to use modern methods such as rotating his squad even in the first division, and using social networking to keep abreast of developments.
"There were two we left out against Livingston who had played just about every game," said Murray. "I was resting them for the cup tie and they were gutted. But once I told them why I was doing it, they were bubbling about the place. I still check Twitter because you get a lot of information from it - on opposition injuries and suspensions. But some of the stuff footballers tweet is crazy. I don't follow any of my players - but I have someone who does!"