Raith Rovers: Manager Ian Murray reveals the challenges and learning curves he experienced during 20-month spell working in Norway

From Abba to A-Ha, fjords to forests, Volvos to Viking history and meatballs to gravadlax, Scandinavia is famous for many things, but Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray’s abiding memories of his time working in Norway are of its relative calm and positive approach to problem-solving.
Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray has revealed he gained a lot of valuable knowledge during 20-month stint working in Norway (Pic Roddy Scott/SNS Group)Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray has revealed he gained a lot of valuable knowledge during 20-month stint working in Norway (Pic Roddy Scott/SNS Group)
Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray has revealed he gained a lot of valuable knowledge during 20-month stint working in Norway (Pic Roddy Scott/SNS Group)

That 20-month stint as assistant boss to Kirkcaldy-born ex-Raith Rovers and Hibernian defensive midfielder Kevin Nicol at Asker from January 2017, followed six months in charge at St Mirren in 2015 concluding with Murray’s resignation following a 1-0 loss to former club Dumbarton.

“I had played with Kevin in the Hibs youth team,” Murray told the Fife Free Press.

“Hibs once signed him from Raith.

Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray watching his side's Viaplay Cup group-stage match at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park in July (Photo: Roddy Scott/SNS Group)Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray watching his side's Viaplay Cup group-stage match at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park in July (Photo: Roddy Scott/SNS Group)
Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray watching his side's Viaplay Cup group-stage match at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park in July (Photo: Roddy Scott/SNS Group)
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“We were on the pro licence course together and he was looking for an assistant. There wasn’t a lot happening back here, so he offered me the opportunity to go out.

“Obviously it was a different calendar season in Norway, so we started our pre-season in the January.

“When I arrived there, it was really cold with loads of snow. We stayed in a place just outside Oslo.

“It was a really long pre-season as well, a 14-week pre-season over there, and then we started the league in the April.

St Mirren manager Ian Murray after seeing the Paisley team lose 1-0 at Dumbarton in December 2015 (Pic: Garry Williamson/SNS Group)St Mirren manager Ian Murray after seeing the Paisley team lose 1-0 at Dumbarton in December 2015 (Pic: Garry Williamson/SNS Group)
St Mirren manager Ian Murray after seeing the Paisley team lose 1-0 at Dumbarton in December 2015 (Pic: Garry Williamson/SNS Group)
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“It was really hard for me to get used to but it was actually really beneficial.

“I had a little apartment I stayed in. It was a really, really lovely place.

“I was quite lucky in the respect that Oslo was only 15 minutes away on the train and the airport was handy.

“Edinburgh to Oslo is not a long flight – it’s about an hour and ten minutes – so I was pretty lucky because if I had been up in the north of Norway, for example, you can feel like you’re in a different country.

Kevin Nicol in action for Raith Rovers in 2001 (Pic: SNS Group)Kevin Nicol in action for Raith Rovers in 2001 (Pic: SNS Group)
Kevin Nicol in action for Raith Rovers in 2001 (Pic: SNS Group)
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“How often I came back to Scotland really depended on our games. I’d typically get back to Edinburgh once every five or six weeks and sometimes I’d be able to get back for longer, sometimes not.

“When the season finished, we were off at Christmas so that was nice. I used to get December and the start of January off and a couple of weeks in the summer.

“I was quite lucky in terms of the calendar and location because it could have been a lot different.”

According to Murray, the biggest difference between football the other side of the North Sea and here is the relative calmness accompanying the game there.

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“I think over there it’s a different mentality. It’s very calm,” he said.

“It’s not as crazy as here. I wouldn’t say it’s not as demanding, but it’s demanding in different ways.

“You still have to work incredibly hard and they’ve got a great work ethic.

“I wouldn’t say they’re fragile – they just don’t go into chastising people too much. They try to find solutions rather than take the easy way out and criticise.

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“It taught me that I just had to go away, think about things a little bit and try to explain things in better detail to players and staff.

“I think you have to adapt to where you are. I think I’m a bit more balanced than I used to be.

“You still have to have that bit between your teeth and let people know when something’s not acceptable, but you also have to try and help them a lot more because without help you’re never going to improve.”

During Nicol and Murray’s time working together at Asker, the club were competing in the Norwegian second division, the third tier in the country’s football pyramid.

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The former Hibs youth team colleagues led Asker to respective finishes of third and fourth in 2017 and 2018, with the league seasons running between April and November.

Murray’s time in Norway ended in October 2018 when he returned to Scottish football to manage Airdrieonians.

After four years as gaffer at the North Lanarkshire club, Murray took over as boss at Raith Rovers on a two-year contract in May 2022.