Results and performances have improved at Dumbarton
Not in playing, coaching or managing but job interviews. Having only known full-time football since joining Hibernian as a teenager, Murray had never before gone through the whole excruciating process of pulling on a shirt and tie, sitting nervously in front of prospective employers, and trying to make a case for why he was the best candidate for the job.
He can't recall what he said exactly, or how it all went, but whatever it was it was enough to convince the board of directors at Dumbarton of his capabilities in late November. Just a few hours later, they were happy to make the 31-year-old the second youngest manager in Scottish senior football.
Murray's leadership qualities were always held up as one of his strong points as a player and so it was widely assumed that he would become a manager one day. Almost nobody, not even the man himself, however, thought it would happen this soon. He applied speculatively for the Dumbarton job, not really expecting to be asked for an interview, never mind get the job. It came as a surprise to him as much as to anybody else, then, when the call came through telling him he was to be the club's new manager.
That was just seven weeks ago but Murray has not been slow to make his mark. Taking over with Dumbarton rooted at the foot of the Irn-Bru First Division, expectations were fairly low. Part-time clubs, after all, tend to struggle just to survive in a league dominated by better-financed, better-organised, full-time clubs. It was almost assumed that Dumbarton would last one season in the second tier then go back to a division where they would feel more at home.
One of Murray's first impressions was that his players maybe thought that, too. Changing that approach has been one of his first challenges and results would suggest he is going in the right direction. Seven postponed games in December gave Murray time to evaluate his squad and set them out in a way that would make them more effective. After winning just once in the league prior to his arrival, Dumbarton went to Falkirk and were 4-1 up with four minutes remaining, eventually winning 4-3. They followed that by winning 3-0 at then league leaders Morton, then lost narrowly to Dunfermline Athletic.
For the Dumbarton players, matchday has now become an occasion to be enjoyed rather than feared. "We are competing in the second tier but I just got the impression from the players that they didn't quite believe they were at the same level as the likes of Dunfermline, Morton or Falkirk," Murray said. "Having confidence as a player is so vital to your performance and I just felt that our guys didn't have that. It was as if they were turning up expecting to get beaten.
"So the first thing we had to instil in them was that they were good enough to be there. In recent games they've started to show the quality they've got and believing more in themselves. And that's been reflected in some good results and performances."
Dumbarton may be a part-time community club but, in Murray's eyes, that doesn't mean they can't be professional in their approach. That, he says, was not necessarily the case before he arrived. "I don't want to be disrespectful to the last management team but I just felt that things could have been run a bit better, been a bit more organised. We've been trying to emphasise to the players that, while they may not be full-time, they are still professional footballers.
"We've brought in a sports scientist to help with things like preparation and recovery methods, tablets, shakes and nutritional advice, all these things. We just want to give them the best possible chance of playing to their potential so they can go out and win games."
Murray's role is that of player-manager although the weather means he has yet to pull on the boots. When he does return it will be at a level lower that he was previously accustomed to with Hibs, Rangers and Norwich City but he has no regrets about closing the door on a full-time playing career. "I'm so immersed in managing I've barely thought about it."
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