BLOG: A new beginning - or beginning of the end - for Raith boss Murray?

Raith manager Grant Murray has endured some tough times - but he can still win back the fans. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Raith manager Grant Murray has endured some tough times - but he can still win back the fans. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

When results are consistently poor and supporters turn against the manager there comes a point when the board of directors have to stand up and either back or sack the boss.

For Raith Rovers that moment arrived this week as in an exclusive interview for The Fife Free Press, club chief executive Eric Drysdale outlined the board’s support for Grant Murray.

KIRKCALDY;'FIFE FREE PRESS staff and contributors portraits; MATTHEW ELDER'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

KIRKCALDY;'FIFE FREE PRESS staff and contributors portraits; MATTHEW ELDER'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

Nobody wants the ‘dreaded’ vote of confidence - it often comes with a caveat that results must improve and for many managers it spells the beginning of the end.

While some fans will disagree, there is good reason to hope this is not the case with Murray.

Here is a young manager who has shown, in patches, that he can build a winning team that plays attractive football.

The good form at the start of this season, and particularly last season, is proof of that, while the cup runs - especially the win over Rangers in the Ramsdens Cup final - should not simply be forgotten.

The major thing Murray has struggled with has been arresting a run of poor form.

Every club - even the top teams in the world - go through a slump from time to time, but whenever this Raith team have fallen into one, they have been unable to dig themselves out.

Had last season not finished when it did, Rovers would have almost certainly have been dragged into a relegation play-off, such was their inability to halt a spectacular collapse in form.

Now, after a good start this season, they find themselves in another uncontrollable skid with only one league win in 10 resulting in another tumble from third to seventh.

Injuries haven’t helped but mistakes have undoubtedly been made - team selections, tactics and substitutions have all been questioned - and at times Murray has appeared short of answers. But like it or not, he is still learning on the job.

He was one of the most experienced guys in the Stark’s Park dressing room as a player, but that should not be confused with his position as manager. He is still a rookie in that respect.

That’s why, in my opinion, the decision not to replace Paul Smith and bring in an experienced, full-time assistant may go down as Murray’s biggest error, if indeed it was his decision.

However, there is no doubt that he is working hard to get things right, and here’s hoping that he can justify the board’s support.

But now that the board has given the vote of confidence and acknowledged that results must improve, its position becomes extremely awkward if things stay the same over the next few weeks and into January.

On the back of a good start to last season, the club rewarded Murray with a two-and-a-half year contract extension until the summer of 2016 - a cavalier decision in hindsight, but one that was praised at the time.

We don’t know the ins and outs of this contract - and what clauses may or may not be included - but the likelihood is that any decision to replace him now would result in a hefty pay-off, and no guarantee that results would improve.

That’s a tough position for any board, particularly one that has worked wonders to bring the club back from the brink of administration to running a profit in recent years.

That does not mean, however, that they should look beyond what is in the best interests of the club.

If results don’t improve, then what is the bigger risk? Allow things to continue to wither on the park at the risk of alienating fans and possible relegation, or pay off the manager, put the club’s finances in jeopardy, and pray that whoever takes over can turn things around?

It didn’t work for Morton last season, although it must be said that their position at this stage was significantly worse.

For now, the club has backed the boss - against the wishes of a significant proportion fans - but it’s important that those fans continue to back the team.

Protesting and shouting abuse during games is futile, and unhelpful.

When a team goes 4-0 down at home it can expect to be booed, but all it takes is for Rovers to lose the first goal, sometimes even just the first few attempts on goal, and the atmosphere turns volatile.

Fans pay good money and are entitled to cheer or boo as they like, but for some, it seems that the campaign to oust the manager has become the be all and end all of their ‘support’ for the club.

Ask yourself what you want most – Grant Murray to be sacked, or Raith to win on Saturday? If things have got so bad that you’d rather see the team lose, then you may be better off showing your disapproval by staying at home.

Rovers may be in decline but they are still in middle ground - seven points off fourth and seven points ahead of ninth.

Results have not been good enough, but it’s still not too late for Murray to turn things around and win back some support.

That’s the best thing that can happen for the club going forward.