Mur­ray: The dif­fer­ences I see…

Soccer Laduma - - Front Page -

“It felt like it would be a nice op­por­tu­nity.”

He has a heavy Scot­tish ac­cent and has left op­po­si­tion de­fend­ers with even heav­ier hearts in only a cou­ple of months in South Africa – ladies and gen­tle­man, Si­mon Mur­ray is in town, and boy, does he mean busi­ness. Mzansi, or even Africa for that mat­ter, is not a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for play­ers from Scot­land, and you wouldn’t have bet­ted on Bid­vest Wits sign­ing a player from that part of the world so soon, af­ter things did not go well with Keaghan Jacobs, who seemed to strug­gle to ac­cli­ma­tise. Yet what mat­ters now is that Mur­ray is in Gavin Hunt’s ros­ter and re­pay­ing the coach for draft­ing him into his start­ing XI al­most im­me­di­ately. Soc­cer Lad­uma’s Ce­line Abra­hams had a chat with the 25-yearold striker to find out what makes him a cut above his peers.

Ce­line Abra­hams: Si­mon, Bid­vest Wits have earned a place in the Telkom Knock­out semi-fi­nals af­ter beat­ing Mar­itzburg United 2-1 last Satur­day.

Si­mon Mur­ray: Ah, ob­vi­ously this is good for us. It was a tough game and we man­aged to walk away with a win at the end of the day. Now our fo­cus is on the next one and we know that we have to make that one worth­while against Baroka FC in a few weeks’ time. It is go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing one and we look for­ward to it.

CA: Bak­gaga knocked out the mighty Mamelodi Sun­downs to live up to their gi­ant-slay­ing sta­tus. Won’t be an easy game for you…

SM: We know that it’s not go­ing to be an easy one for us. It is go­ing to be a tough game. They are look­ing to get a good re­sult against us and they will be high on con­fi­dence, but we are go­ing to play our nor­mal game, plan for them and hope­fully we get it right on the day.

CA: Af­ter 11 games in all com­pe­ti­tions un­der your belt at Bid­vest Wits, you’ve scored four goals. Quite im­pres­sive, lad!

SM: Ja, well, it has been good so far, you know. There were ad­just­ments that I had to make, but it has been quite a smooth pe­riod for me. Ob­vi­ously, com­ing in to a dif­fer­ent coun­try, a dif­fer­ent league, it was go­ing to take a lot for me to get used to, but I must say that I was happy to find peo­ple who were will­ing to help me set­tle in as fast as pos­si­ble, you see? The club, the play­ers and es­pe­cially the back­room staff have re­ally helped me and they all got me started. So, yeah, I am happy. South Africa has been good to me so far – it’s a re­ally nice place to be in and there is a nice life­style here. Ev­ery­one has re­ally made me com­fort­able.

CA: Be­fore your move to Mzansi, you’d ac­tu­ally never played out­side of Scot­land. Why the sud­den change?

SM: Err, just a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge, I sup­pose, yeah. It’s a dif­fer­ent style of foot­ball here, a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity and re­quire­ments. I guess I was just look­ing for that dif­fer­ent chal­lenge and to see my ca­reer take a dif­fer­ent route. It’s al­ways nice to chal­lenge your­self some­where else and get out of your com­fort zone a bit, yeah. All I can say is that it was just a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge that I was look­ing for, I sup­pose.

CA: You have bucked the trend of Scot­tish play­ers pre­fer­ring to go to Eng­land…

SM: An agent got in con­tact with me and ex­plained that there was in­ter­est from a South African team and they wanted to sign me, so I was look­ing for­ward to it. I came here and met with the club. We spoke and it felt right at the time and it felt like it would be a nice op­por­tu­nity to come and play in a dif­fer­ent league, so that was it ba­si­cally. I man­aged to get here and it has been won­der­ful so far.

CA: Ap­par­ently, you did not know much about the South African league be­fore your ar­rival!

SM: (Laughs) How did you find out about that? That is true. But I did a bit of re­search be­fore I landed here just so I could be fa­mil­iar with how things were this side. I made sure to look at the teams and, as I said to the me­dia be­fore about know­ing the two big teams Or­lando Pi­rates and Kaizer Chiefs, that was about it, ha, ha, ha. I guess it was all part of my jour­ney to

learn­ing about a new coun­try and get­ting a new chal­lenge. I didn’t know too much, but I’m sure I’ll get there soon. The first month that I was here, I had to learn a lot not only about the team that I was play­ing for, but also about the teams I was go­ing to face. It took a lot of learn­ing and work­ing out how I was go­ing to take on the chal­lenges that were go­ing to come my way. But, as I said, when I got here, ev­ery­one made it eas­ier for me. The guys have been great and have helped me ad­just, and the coach (Gavin Hunt) has been in­cred­i­ble and bang­ing me into place. It’s good to have such sup­port around me.

CA: One may be tempted to ask, com­ing to these shores, scor­ing goals and adapt­ing in such a short space of time… what pic­ture does that paint about the level of the lo­cal game? SM: Err, I re­ally don’t think it paints any­thing bad, you know. I feel that dif­fer­ent play­ers adapt dif­fer­ently. Some lo­cal play­ers might find them­selves in a com­fort zone and so they might not be giv­ing more of them­selves. But I think the league is very com­pet­i­tive and, for me, it has been a process of learn­ing and try­ing to find my way through. Hon­estly, it might look like it is eas­ier for us com­ing here and be­ing able to score and do well, but it’s not that easy. It takes a lot of hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion. Like, I re­ally never had a pre-sea­son with the guys; I had done my pre-sea­son with my old club. When I came into the team, I think it was the last week of pre-sea­son, so I never had that chance to be there with the guys. I think this was also the rea­son why the coach de­cided to ease me into the games when the league started. Then, once I trained for about a month, my time came.

CA: It must have been hard. SM: I would say it is a bit of a 50-50 when you look at it be­cause, yes, it’s good for the rest of the team to get that chance to be to­gether and plan for the sea­son ahead, but on the other side, for a com­pletely new player it could be more of a chal­lenge. I need to learn about them, the style of the team and they also need to learn about me, about my move­ments. So it does put a lot of pres­sure on that new player to catch up with the rest of the team. That’s what re­ally takes a bit of time to get used to and that was where I had to come in and learn from ev­ery­one as quickly as pos­si­ble be­cause I was gun­ning to play and the league was just about to start.

CA: Which meant that you didn’t have much time left to get your­self into the thick of things!

SM: That is very true and, when the league did start, I saw some­thing that was fairly dif­fer­ent from what I was used to. There was more pass­ing in the game as com­pared to back home where the guys are more hard and phys­i­cal. Here I see that those small touches get you into a bit of trou­ble, yeah. For me, it was a bit of an eye-opener to see how dif­fer­ent things were, but it’s foot­ball and it’s a uni­ver­sal lan­guage, to be hon­est. You just have to get used to a few things and adapt as fast as you can. I think what made it eas­ier for me was that I was will­ing to learn and ac­cept as much as I could from the guys around me, who were there to as­sist. I brought in my own style but I also made sure that I did what was re­quired from me. I had to find a bal­ance be­tween the two to make life eas­ier for me and for the team. It took a lot of plan­ning and hard work. I am happy with the way that foot­ball is played here.

CA: Gavin men­tioned af­ter your per­for­mance against Cape Town City, where you scored a brace, that he en­joyed your old-school striker style and that he has been able to han­dle you in the right way. What ex­actly did he mean?

SM: I guess that he was just talk­ing about the way he has been able to guide me and help me adapt to ev­ery­thing here. In that game against City we had a plan, which was to ex­ploit them be­cause we saw the way they played – they like to go for­ward a lot, which left a few spa­ces in their de­fence and that gave me the chance to get right in there. That was a good game for me and it re­ally gave me a con­fi­dence boost.

CA: He also joked that some­times he doesn’t un­der­stand you be­cause of your Scot­tish ac­cent…

SM: Ha, ha, ha, ah, well, at least we have a foot­ball un­der­stand­ing! We have been work­ing well to­gether and things are get­ting bet­ter day by day. I have been learn­ing a lot from the coach and he is a hard man, but he knows ex­actly what he is do­ing. He is one that knows how to man­age his play­ers and what he needs to do to bring out the best in them. He is one of those coaches that are hard on their play­ers, but gen­uinely a re­ally nice guy. At the end of the day, that’s how any good coach in the world is. It’s not a per­sonal thing when they are hard on you; it’s be­cause they can see your po­ten­tial and what you can of­fer the team.

CA: Si­mon, thank you very much for your time.

SM: Thank you, I ap­pre­ci­ate it.

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