'We were dead and buried': Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray remembers miraculously saving part-time Dumbarton from relegation as a 31-year-old rookie gaffer

Despite being only 42, it is now over 11 years since Raith Rovers gaffer Ian Murray first cut his teeth in football management, when he hung up his playing boots to become player/boss of then Scottish Championship outfit Dumbarton in November 2012.
Ian Murray currently has Raith Rovers challenging for the Scottish Championship title (Pic Dave Johnston)Ian Murray currently has Raith Rovers challenging for the Scottish Championship title (Pic Dave Johnston)
Ian Murray currently has Raith Rovers challenging for the Scottish Championship title (Pic Dave Johnston)

Murray quickly showed his dugout credentials by saving the Sons from relegation that first season – ending just below the promotion play-off positions – and they also reached the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, all while training on a quarter of a pitch in Glasgow!

"It was great,” he told the Fife Free Press. “I went to Dumbarton who were really struggling at the time, part-time in a really, really hard league and they were toiling.

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"So there were pros and cons of it. First of all you have to try and get confidence up, you have to try and realise the situation you're in.

"But I always think when you go into these sort of situations there's so much scope for improvement. And there was very, very little pressure on me in terms of they were dead and buried when I went in.

"Everybody expected us to be relegated. But then we managed to win the first few games which gave everybody a wee help.

"And then after that expectations went up when I managed to keep them up.

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"People think that upward trajectory is going to be of the same level every single season and it's not because it's very, very hard. Dumbarton was slightly different. It was tough, but again, it gave me so much of a learning curve.

"We had a quarter pitch to train on, we were training in Glasgow, boys were part-time, so we just tried to make the best of what we had, we tried to professionalise it a bit and we were fairly successful.”

Murray, who bossed Dumbarton for three years and also managed St Mirren (2015) and Airdrieonians (2018 to 2022) before taking over at Raith in summer 2022, said that, subconsciously, he had always wanted to do football management.

He added: "I think I got into it earlier than I anticipated at Dumbarton and at a higher level than I anticipated. I know now that some guys are going in at fairly high levels in their first job, but back then it wasn't really the sort of thing.

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"But I always felt that was probably my natural progression. It's one thing thinking it but it's another thing going into it, to be given the opportunity to manage in the Championship at that age.

"I went straight from the dressing room into the other side and I think if anyone says they know what they're doing at 31, then they are probably telling porkies.

"That was certainly not the case for me. I remember my first day at Dumbarton, sitting in the office and thinking it was great that I'd got this opportunity in this job but what's next? What do we do now?

"And then you find your way, you learn on your feet type thing. I wasn't one of those boys that went into the youth team coaching and the reserves, all that stuff.

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"You probably learn a lot doing that. I didn't get that so I had to learn really quickly.

"I think my organisation was always a strong point. I was very fortunate to learn from and work with really good managers which definitely helps.

"Obviously you go through so many different scenarios as a player or you're involved in different experiences, good and bad. And you try and take little bits and bobs from that."

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