GRANT Murray ended last season leading Raith Rovers on the field as club captain and expected to return for the new campaign to fulfil the same role.
Now, though, with the departure of John McGlynn to Hearts, the 36-year-old defender has a whole new set of responsibilities after being appointed as the Rovers’ new player-manager.
It’s a role he’s been working towards and preparing for by taking his coaching badges, but when it finally happened it still came as surprise.
However, together with Laurie Ellis, who has been appointed first-team coach, he is relishing the challenge.
“Everything has been surreal,” he admitted. “With the manager leaving, this opportunity has come along quite quickly, but we are grateful to the board for giving us this opportunity.
“Moving from player to player-manager is a great opportunity for myself. I’m looking forward to working with Laurie and Paul Smith – his role is going to be the same, he’ll continue as assistant manager as he was under John – and all the backroom staff. We’re looking forward to working with them all.”
Murray added, “Both Laurie and I have been involved in full-time football since we left school.
‘’Laurie and I have been on our coaching badges together. I think that was a big thing.
‘‘We’ve done our B licence together and we’ve done our A licence together, so that is something the board would have taken into consideration.
“Also, working under John for three years here – and I knew him from my time at Hearts as well – we’ve learned so much from him.
“What John has achieved at this club got him his move and I can only wish him every success at Hearts. Obviously, there’s a disappointment that the manager who brought me to the club has departed. That’s a disappointment as a player.
“On the flip side it has given me this great opportunity and I’m grateful to the board for this chance.”
Murray moved to Stark’s Park from Kilmarnock three years ago, having previously enjoyed spells at Partick Thistle, St Johnstone and Hearts.
He believes that being established at the club was an important factor in him being appointed to his new role, and feels the experience of Ellis will also benefit the club.
“I think continuity was important to the board when they made their decision.
“Myself, I’ve been at the club for three years as a player, and Laurie has been at the club 10 years, so right away we know how the club works and we know all the players.
“All the players who are already here under contract have been tremendous, and even the guys who have just come in at the start of pre-season, they’ve fitted in magnificently.
‘‘We are looking forward to working with each and every one of them.”
Murray accepts there is greater responsibility on his shoulders this season, but fully intends continuing to play on as long as possible.
“Certainly that the intention,” he said.
“Before any of this happened I was still under contract here as a player for another year so that hasn’t changed.
‘‘And the board have made it clear that my role is player-manager, so I’m going to be available for selection. I hope and look to play.
“The responsibility, though, does change. I was captain at the club, so I had a responsibility in the changing room and for the rest of the players, but now, as backroom staff, we are responsible for all the players and what happens at the club is up to us. That is our job now.
“On a day to day basis, we’re still going to be training and going to be involved with the players. I don’t want it to be awkward. I’m still going to be one of them, there still has to be a relationship there. We’re here to help them and get the best out of all of them.”
For Ellis, it’s been quite a summer, planning his testimonial against Hearts on Saturday, July 14, and being appointed first-team coach.
He said: “As Grant says the last week since the manager left has been a bit of a blur.
‘‘There’s been a lot to deal with, and I must say the way the players have trained and the application they have shown even when we were standing in has been brilliant.
‘‘One thing we can be sure of is the players will give us 100 per cent commitment.”