MURRAY IN A HURRY TO PROVE HE’S A WINNER
Fearsome frenetic, and so respectful
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.
“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.”
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.”