Renaissance man

Matthew Penn sat down with striker Glenn Murray to discuss life in the Premier League, playing for Chris Hughton and the highlights of what has so far been a memorable season

Glenn Murray looked calm and assured as we sat in a sun-kissed foyer overlooking Brighton’s state-of-the-art football performance centre. A sterling season so far from the striker has almost sealed Premier League safety for his side. When we met they sat in 11th place and were awaiting a tough FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford.

“It’s shaping up to be a good season for us,” Murray says. “A few more wins and we’ll be safe. Add that to getting to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and I think that it’s going to be a successful one.”

That has certainly been the case for Murray. Brighton’s leading scorer has grabbed 13 goals in all competitions so far this season, including 11 in the Premier League. The only English players in the division with more are Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy. Quizzed on the possibility of an England call-up and with the World Cup looming, the 34-year-old remains coy.

“I haven’t really thought about it, not until I heard the speculation anyway. It’s out of my hands. I’ve just got to try and concentrate on trying to score goals for Brighton and we will have to see what comes off the back of that.”

It has been a somewhat different campaign for Murray, having spent most of his career playing for teams comprising mainly English talent. This is the first time he has played in and around a fresh, foreign influx of players. Albion had an impressive summer transfer window, signing Jose Izquierdo, Ezequeil Schelotto, Davy Propper, Markus Suttner, Maty Ryan and Pascal Gross for a combined total of £44 million.

The last of those players, Germany’s Gross, has had a huge impact for Brighton, scoring five goals and providing eight assists – half of which have been of benefit to Murray.

“He’s very different to anyone I’ve ever played with before, he’s more of a creative player. He takes great joy in creating goals and chances and he’s got a very different outlook on football.

“A lot of people are in it for the glory and the goals, but if he sees a teammate in a better position, he’d offer to pass it and to make a better chance for someone else.”

Glory is something that Murray and the rest of his teammates have had in doses this season, especially at home. They have only lost three times at the Amex Stadium: to Liverpool, Chelsea and  unaway leaders Manchester City. Added to this, only five teams have lost fewer times at home – City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Speaking of Brighton’s impressive home record, Murray said: “It’s very important, when you go up a division to make your home stadium a fortress. With other teams that have been promoted in the past, their stadiums maybe aren’t as nice or as big as our stadium. Selhurst Park is a little bit older, the changing rooms aren’t as welcoming. Then you look at Bournemouth, it’s a lot smaller – when the big clubs come down it is almost like an FA Cup fixture. The Amex Stadium is a beautiful place to visit unfortunately for us.”

For all of Brighton’s success this season, it has not all been plain sailing. While they have perhaps momentarily escaped the relegation places, they have flirted with the not-so attractive prospect of a battle for survival in the Premier League.

Six and seven-game winless runs this season have seen them dwindle towards the bottom, but some impressive unbeaten runs have kept them out of trouble. Murray admits that he would have  iked his team to end some of those winless runs a little earlier to put them in some better situations.

“I think we would like to end those runs without winning a bit earlier,” Murray admits.

“I think it is part and parcel of life in the Premier League. If you go six or seven without a win in the Championship it’s a bad time, but it is a lot different in the Premier League.

“It’s about staying up, not winning something. We’ve been humbled by some very good teams in Chelsea and Liverpool especially. They took us to the cleaners on those afternoons.”

Chris Hughton, the Brighton manager, won the Premier League’s manager of the month for February with two wins at home against West Ham and Swansea bolstering their survival chances.

Murray puts the team’s good fortune down to Hughton sticking with his ways and not changing anything, even in times where others would panic.

“The gaffer hasn’t changed his philosophy from when we were in the Championship. He remains very level-headed whether we’re in the middle of a winning streak and heading for promotion or if we are in a bit of bother. He’ll continue to do the same thing over and over again; he won’t ever change his ways.”

Murray then goes on to talk about his favourite moment of what has been a rollercoaster season for  the Seagulls so far.

“West Ham away earlier in the season,” he says adamantly. “To go away to an established Premier League team and win in a comfortable fashion – it did nothing but give us confidence and belief that we do belong at this level.”

Those last words remain pertinent. If Brighton and Murray continue their fine run of form, they will certainly have proved they belong. For now, though, the city can simply enjoy the ride.

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