Far-travelled defender returns to Scottish roots at Raith

Euan Murray  -  credit- Fife Photo Agency
Euan Murray - credit- Fife Photo Agency

There can’t be too many players in League One who have experience of playing in the Oceania Champions League, but then there aren’t many who’ve plotted a similar career path as recent Raith signing, Euan Murray.

Rovers will be the 23-year-old’s fifth Scottish club, while he spent last year in England with spells at Barrow and Southport.

But it’s his time in the Solomon Islands, playing for Western United that really sticks out, especially considering how few Scottish players ply their trade abroad.

He explained: “I left Motherwell and was maybe a wee bit naive at the time, maybe I should have been more patient, but I wanted to play more games, and I spoke to Barry Ferguson at Clyde.

“It was quite late in the season when I come in and stayed for six months and it was great for me. After that I had a concrete offer from Western United in the Solomon Islands.

“The owner was part-Scottish and he’d seen video clips of me, and he offered me a deal to play in their Champions League, and I just thought I’d go for it. The experience did me the world of good, moving away from home at a young age, and living on my own, I had to mature a bit, but it was another great learning curve.

“Moving abroad isn’t for everyone, but the offer to play in a Champions League, albeit not the European one, was one I couldn’t turn down. It was a decent level, playing against teams like Auckland, who are good. I was maybe in my comfort zone at Motherwell, and heading down there pushed me that little bit more, and helped me grow up.”

Murray returned to Scotland after leaving the South Pacific, and after one season with Stenhousemuir, he was on his travels again, albeit slightly closer to home, signing with English National League side, Barrow, before joining Southport in January. Circumstances dictated that the time was right to come back home though.

“I played the majority of my games at Stenhousemuir, and that was brilliant,” he said. “ I worked with a lot of really good pros, guys like Colin McMenamin and Stuart Malcolm and I learned a lot.

“I think just the exposure to so many first team games, especially as a centre-half was brilliant for me.

“I didn’t get enough of that at Motherwell, and maybe I should have pushed to go on loan, but I felt like a completely different player by the end of that season.

“I enjoyed my time in England, and I think I learned more down there than I’ve ever learned in my life. It’s certainly the most physical league I’ve ever been involved in, which for me was brilliant.

“At Barrow I was kind of in-and-out, as they had a really good team, and the boys ahead of me didn’t pick up any knocks or suspensions, so I only played about ten games, but we were unbeaten for 26 matches,so it was good. I forced a move because I wanted to play football again, and I had a few options, but I knew I’d be defending for my life every week at Southport as they were struggling, so again, I knew that’s where I’d learn more.

“I played centre-half every week, and they made me captain after a couple of weeks and I really enjoyed my spell there. Some folk think I’m mad to come back up as everyone wants to play in England, but myself and my missus, Hollie, have a young son, and he was too young to move away, and obviously I really, really missed him, so when the opportunity to come back and play for Raith came up, I jumped at it.”

Murray has already featured in a couple of positions in pre-season, and while he prefers the centre, he’s no stranger to playing all across the backline, or even further forward.

“I was comfortable enough at left-back, although I’m actually right-sided, so it’s a wee bit unnatural for me, but I don’t mind playing full-back at all,” he said.

“Last season I played right-back, left-back, centre-half and centre-midfield as well, but I’ve played most games as a centre-half, and I think with my strength and the fact I like being aggressive and winning things, I think I’m best suited in there.

“I’m one of those pros who’s happy to play anywhere I’m asked to though.”

Despite only being at the club a few weeks, Murray has already seen enough to be confident about the season ahead.

“I think we’ve got a brilliant squad,” he said.

“The club have kept the majority of a Championship squad, and obviously they had a poor time last time out, but there’s some massive quality in there.

“Benedictus and Davidson at the back, Bobby Barr out wide and Callachan in midfield.

“They’ve added some great signings too, with Buchanan and Spence, so I don’t think there’ll be too many teams in this league with the firepower that we’ve got, because they’re different class at this level.

“We need to be confident, because we’ll be a bit of a scalp to teams this season, but that’s the type of pressure that you want as a professional footballer.”