Raith Rovers: Manager Ian Murray solely focused on making Viaplay Cup progress as he visits old club Hibernian this Sunday

As someone who was a Hibernian ball-boy as a kid and later went on to make 269 senior appearances for his boyhood heroes across 10 years and two spells at Easter Road, facing the Hibees away from home this Sunday in the Viaplay Cup’s second round is an exciting prospect for Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray.
Ian Murray playing for Hibs against Dundee United in September 2011, being tackled by his current Raith Rovers centre back Keith Watson (Pic Bill Murray/SNS Group)Ian Murray playing for Hibs against Dundee United in September 2011, being tackled by his current Raith Rovers centre back Keith Watson (Pic Bill Murray/SNS Group)
Ian Murray playing for Hibs against Dundee United in September 2011, being tackled by his current Raith Rovers centre back Keith Watson (Pic Bill Murray/SNS Group)

Murray, whose considerable contribution to the Leith outfit saw him rewarded with a testimonial match in September 2011, takes his Championship outfit to top flight opposition as he bids to put any sentiment to one side by attempting to get Raith into the last eight of the tournament.

“It’s a good draw for Raith Rovers, myself and the players that’s for sure,” former defender Murray - who served Hibs between 1999 and 2005 and also from 2008 to 2012 - told the Fife Free Press. "Because there’s a lot of games in there where there wasn’t a lot of money in it for us.

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"I think we’ve earned the right to go somewhere like Easter Road and hopefully we can get a good crowd at the game as well.

"It’s a very difficult draw, but we’re just delighted to be in it.

"We know it’s going to be hard but we’ll just go there and try to progress to the next round.”

It was only last season that Raith saw off Scottish Premiership opposition in a major trophy – Motherwell were beaten 3-1 in a Scottish Cup fifth round tie at Stark’s Park on February 11 – but the task of seeing off Lee Johnson’s side this weekend looks tougher on paper as the Steelmen had been really struggling at the time of the Kirkcaldy contest and sacked boss Steven Hammell in the immediate aftermath following a dire run of no league wins in four months.

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Defeating ’Well last term earned Raith a money-spinning quarter-final against Rangers at Ibrox – the Govan giants won 3-0 – and no doubt had some Kirkcaldy supporters dreaming about what it might be like to gain promotion to the top flight and be playing teams like Rangers, Hibs and Motherwell on a regular basis.

Although he’d love to go up this season, either automatically or via the play-offs, Murray, 42, is not a fan of the current Premiership make-up which always looks a ‘two horse race’ between Celtic and Rangers.

"The top league is a wee bit stale,” Murray said. “I understand why teams are so desperate to scrap and stay in it due to finances.

"There is disparity but I think you need to give teams like Livingston and St Johnstone credit for being able to do it, working on very tight budgets.

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"Especially Livingston who went up from the Championship and managed to consolidate themselves. But look it’s a survival fight every year for them. There's not a lot of things they can do outwith that.

“They could win a cup here and there like St Johnstone have but in terms of league positions, these clubs ambitions are just to get in the top six.

"But the top league is a two horse race that can become a one horse race and that’s the reality of it. There must be something we can do to try and freshen it up.

"Expanding the top flight would definitely make it more interesting. Supporters want to see some new teams, for instance we went down to Kilmarnock in the Viaplay Cup and I think they were probably a bit surprised at how good we were.

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"Then there’s other teams like us. I’m not saying they deserve to be in the top league but certainly it would freshen it up a wee bit.

"Even down the ladder, I like to see Airdrie in our league – not just because of the connections I’ve got there – but because it freshens up our league.

“The Championship is a great league. It’s mad, it’s really exciting, it’s got a bit of everything, some really good technical play, crazy moments, crazy scorelines but overall it is the most exciting league in Scotland and certainly the most competitive.”