MUR­RAY IN A HURRY TO PROVE HE’S A WIN­NER

Fear­some fre­netic, and so re­spect­ful

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Luke Baker PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

RO­NAN MUR­RAY has gone from Notts County’s re­serves to their po­ten­tial League One saviour this sea­son – and it’s all thanks to boss Shaun Derry.

The for­mer Ip­swich trainee was signed in the sum­mer by pre­vi­ous Mag­pies man­ager Chris Ki­womya, only to be cast aside.

Mur­ray failed to start a sin­gle game be­fore Ki­womya was sacked in Oc­to­ber but has since starred un­der Derry and is flavour of the month at Meadow Lane.

The 22-year-old had notched five in his last five games be­fore County’s clash against Port Vale yes­ter­day.

Such form has given Notts some much-needed be­lief af­ter toil­ing at the bot­tom of the ta­ble for most of the sea­son, and Mur­ray cred­its Derry for trust­ing in his tal­ents.

“The sec­ond half of the sea­son has been bril­liant from a per­sonal point of view,” said Mur­ray. “I’ve been in­volved a lot more than I was un­der the pre­vi­ous man­age­ment.

“I want to help the team out and hope­fully get us out of rel­e­ga­tion trou­ble.

Con­fi­dence

“When he (Shaun Derry) first came in it was a clean slate for ev­ery­body. I wasn’t get­ting a lookin un­der the pre­vi­ous man­ager so I took it as a pos­i­tive to work even harder for the new man. And per­son­ally it’s been good ever since.

“He’s worked us hard but he’s worked us in a good way. I’ve en­joyed it ever since he’s come in and it’s shown on the pitch re­ally.

“The lads are full of con­fi­dence but we’ll con­cen­trate on the task in hand. There won’t be any pushovers. We’re in a dog­fight at the minute so ev­ery game is go­ing to be a tough one.

“The man­ager’s at a good stage be­cause it’s not so long ago that he was a player him­self, so he un­der­stands the lads’ point of view and a man­ager’s point of view. It’s a good mix­ture of both and he’s mix­ing them well to be hon­est.

“It helps me that he’s such a young man­ager. Ob­vi­ously he has that fear fac­tor as a man­ager where you want to do well for him but you know he un­der­stands you. So you can re­lax a lit­tle bit and play your foot­ball.”

Mur­ray’s start to life at County re­sem­bled the end of his time at Ip­swich, where the for­mer Repub­lic of Ire­land U21 in­ter­na­tional feels he wasn’t given a chance to prove him­self.

De­spite con­sis­tently scor­ing goals at re­serve level, first-team op­por­tu­ni­ties were limited, and Mur­ray was forced to go out on loan to Torquay, Swin­don and Ply­mouth to learn his trade.

“I came through the academy at Ip­swich and found that if you came FLAVOUR OF MONTH: Ro­nan Mur­ray, left, cel­e­brates an­other goal for Notts County through the academy you didn’t get looked at as a first team player,” he added.

“You don’t get treated the same as play­ers that come in from an­other club and that’s dis­heart­en­ing.

“I was on loan and did al­right and got a few games un­der Roy Keane which was good. But then Paul Jewell came in and it was a dif­fer­ent era so I went back out on loan.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish play­ing in the re­serves at Ip­swich to play­ing in a rel­e­ga­tion scrap or a ti­tle race.

“It’s to­tally dif­fer­ent when you’re one of the boys in the big chang­ing room week-in and week-out. You’re play­ing with real men and I def­i­nitely learnt a lot out on loan.”

WITH his long, flow­ing locks, it should come as no sur­prise to learn Shaun Derry was of­ten nick­named Je­sus by his dress­ing room co­horts.

But one thing’s for sure – the Notts County man­ager never showed a hint of Chris­tian spirit on the pitch.

Renowned as one of the most un­com­pro­mis­ing play­ers in the game, Derry viewed a 50/50 the way a dog sees a bone. A mid­field gen­eral of the old­est school, he spent his ca­reer on the dis­ci­plinary edge and, on many oc­ca­sions, well be­yond it.

Yet his ar­ray of full-blooded tack­les, fre­netic work-rate and bor­der­line bru­tal­ity also won two pro­mo­tions to the Pre­mier League and the grat­i­tude of his team-mates.

“Shaun brings so much to any team,” said Andy John­son, the striker who played with Derry at Crys­tal Palace and QPR. “Be­cause of the way he plays, he’s seen as a lower league player. But the so­lid­ity and com­mit­ment he brings – there aren’t many bet­ter at any level.”

It was an at­ti­tude born of both his lim­i­ta­tions as a player and his tough up­bring­ing in Not­ting­ham.

“We lived on a coun­cil es­tate and there would be 20 kids on the patch of grass kick­ing a ball around,” he said. “Fiveyear-olds to 19-year-olds. No pris­on­ers.The strong­est sur­vived.”

One of the first to recog­nise that strength was Sam Allardyce, who put Derry at the cen­tre of his pro­mo­tion­win­ning Notts County side and called him “the best player in the league”.

From there it was on to Sh­effield United and a first meet­ing with the man who would be­come his friend and men­tor, Neil Warnock.

Though he would ul­ti­mately sell Derry – then, by his own ad­mis­sion, still fond of a wild night out – to Portsmouth, Warnock would later make him skip­per at both Crys­tal Palace and QPR.

“Shaun al­ways had a good brain,” said Warnock in 2011.“But now he looks af­ter him­self on a daily ba­sis. He has a fit­ness pro­gramme. He does his weights. He gets his rest. He’s sim­ply a good pro.

“When I signed him for Palace, I said to Si­mon Jordan, ‘His legs have gone, but he’ll keep us up’. Then I signed him again at QPR, think­ing we’d get a few games out of him to give us some ex­pe­ri­ence. On both oc­ca­sions he fin­ished up play­ing ev­ery game of the sea­son. He just got bet­ter each year.”

Bizarre

Though Derry twice reached the Pre­mier League – with Palace in 2005 and then QPR in 2011 – nei­ther ex­pe­ri­ence was par­tic­u­larly sweet. Deemed un­fit for pur­pose by boss Iain Dowie, he started just one game for Palace, a 3-1 de­feat to Man City in which he was bizarrely played on the left wing.

Then, at QPR, Derry went from skip­per to bit-parter as first Mark Hughes and then Harry Red­knapp plumped for more ex­otic – but less ef­fec­tive – tal­ents.

In be­tween came Leeds, the club where, de­spite in­juries and a fall-out with boss Den­nis Wise – in which the man­ager shame­fully tried to blame the club’s poor form on Derry and os­tracised him from the squad – he re­mains a ter­race hero to this day.

That ex­pe­ri­ence with Wise is some­thing that has shaped Derry man­age­rial phi­los­o­phy ever since he was sur­pris­ingly un­veiled as the new boss of home-town club Notts County in Novem­ber.

“I’ve al­ways re­sponded to man­agers who have treated me with re­spect,” he says. “I treat ev­ery­body with re­spect and when you do that I think you get your re­wards. People will al­ways go that ex­tra mile for you.

“I’d like to think ev­ery­one has a role to play at the foot­ball club, whether it’s the tea lady or your top scorer.”

And those words are backed up by Enoch Showunmi, the tow­er­ing Notts County striker cur­rently on loan at Ply­mouth.

“Shaun has al­ways kept me around the squad even when I was not 100 per cent and I wasn’t com­ing off the bench. He al­ways made sure the play­ers were around me and made me feel part of things.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s lost any of that fear­some drive, as Mag­pies mid­fielder Mark Fother­ing­ham at­tests.

“He’s been out­stand­ing since the day he came in,” said Fother­ing­ham. “He’s a win­ner and a leader and he drives people ev­ery sin­gle day.

“He drives people in train­ing, he drives people off the pitch and he drives us out there when we’re play­ing. It’s there for ev­ery­one to see and when you’ve got that pas­sion and lead­er­ship there it bodes well for the fu­ture.”

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