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Sport Graeme Murty on the Rangers job that wasn't his and the Steven Gerrard 'damn' moment that will never leave him

10:29  26 december  2021
10:29  26 december  2021 Source:   dailyrecord.co.uk

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Graeme Murty was Rangers manager twice. But not once did he feel in complete charge.

Murty left his role as head of elite academy development last month after five years.

Yet supporters will always remember two tumultuous caretaker cracks at the first team job.

Sackings of Mark Warburton then Pedro Caixinha dragged Murty into the unforgiving glare.

He always knew, however, he was only keeping the Ibrox hotseat warm for someone else.

That was never more true than on the biggest dugout day of his career in March 2018.

Rangers rode momentum of nine wins in 10 from the winter break into the visit of all-conquering Celtic.

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He could’ve closed to within three points of Brendan Rodgers but twice let leads slip to go down 3-2.

Watching Murty from the main stand was Steven Gerrard, lined up to be saviour of struggling Gers.

Rodgers claimed the Ibrox hierarchy’s treatment of Murty had thrown him to the garbage.

However, speaking for the first time since departing, Murty reflects only with fondness on being part of the journey and helping Rangers when needed.

Dad Eddie’s Celtic-supporting side of the family might not be impressed but Murty insists: “Wherever I go and whatever I do, I’ll always be a Bluenose.

“We’ll forever have that connection with the club. It’s been all-consuming.”

Murty became a contender in then chairman Dave King’s mind following rejection by Derek McInnes and pleasing results around the turn of the 2017/18 season.

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Yet the 47-year-old admits never realistically considering himself as such.

And he reflects that not being able to command full authority was probably felt by players who fell short.

“I talked to a really experienced manager recently who’d had a hard time,” said Murty. “He detailed to me how he led the club through it.

“And he said, ‘Graeme, you were never the leader of that (Rangers). Because it was never YOURS.

“There was always another manager in the background, you were always waiting for the next best thing to come along.

  Graeme Murty on the Rangers job that wasn't his and the Steven Gerrard 'damn' moment that will never leave him © SNS Group

“We’d started playing some really good stuff after the winter break in America.

“But I don’t think there was ever a point I felt the job was mine. Did that get to the players? Possibly.

“Danny Wilson told me he had to think of his long term future in taking the opportunity in America.

“Although he would’ve loved to stay, he didn’t want to be fourth choice centre half for my replacement. That brings it home.

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“As much as I wanted to say, ‘I’m telling you we want you to sign this contract’ he’s looking at me going, ‘Mmmm....’

“Even though you’re doing the job, you’ve no ultimate authority. I don’t think that’s in question, really, I feel that’s accurate.

“I’m not in any way moaning. That was just the situation. If I was under consideration, that shows at some point I showed potential to hit the club’s aspirations.

“But you need to carry it on. The 3-2 game showed we were close to Celtic but emphasised they were still ahead.

“I’m a Liverpool fan. My wife was in the stand and said: You missed Steven Gerrard. I was like: Damn, I wish I’d shown him a win.

“You always wonder if THAT’S why he was there. It wouldn’t have surprised me if they’d brought him in that week.

“You delude yourself as manager if you don’t think plans are made for your replacement - even when doing well.”

  Graeme Murty on the Rangers job that wasn't his and the Steven Gerrard 'damn' moment that will never leave him © SNS Group

Murty was initially thrust into the spotlight when taking an emergency call from Ibrox at a Friday night Glasgow Warriors game in February 2017.

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Six months after leaving the serenity of Norwich’s academy and previously employed at Southampton, he was centre stage for six games in the wake of Warburton.

“A win at the other clubs is to progress kids through and maximise their potential,” said Murty.

“To go from having that to understanding the culture of Rangers was an absolute shock.

“I wasn’t ready for that - at all - coming in as a youth coach, never mind a first team guy.”

The Reading legend navigated two Scottish Cup rounds, was mocked for a touchline handstand at Dundee but put a spring in every Rangers step at Celtic Park.

With dud-in-waiting Caixinha watching, he schemed a shock draw thanks to Clint Hill’s late leveller.

He recalled: “I remember driving away, seeing Rangers fans pouring out of pubs and clapping the team bus – because we got a 1-1 draw.

“I said to David McCallum, ‘Whoever wins the league for Rangers, they’re going to be legendary - and this place is going to be absolutely amazing’.

“The fans were so hungry, desperate to win again. The expectation, pressure, angst.

“You had to appreciate where that came from and not necessarily take it personally, although that’s hard.

“I understood what it meant to be Rangers or Celtic, from my old man. But there was a young lad no older than seven, in early at Parkhead, booing me every time I walked out the tunnel.

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“I thought, ‘He can’t do it EVERY time’. Lo and behold he did. Stewards looked at me, laughing. It was par for the course. And eye-opening.

“No one in England understands fundamentally what that rivalry means. To get a result, though, the overall feeling of vindication was amazing.

“Walking back into the changing room, looking at Clint’s face, seeing a bit of belief kindle.

“I said to them, ‘Guys, it’s been an honour and privilege to work with you. I hope you kick on from because no one gives you a chance - and everyone wants to give you a kicking’.”

  Graeme Murty on the Rangers job that wasn't his and the Steven Gerrard 'damn' moment that will never leave him © REUTERS

Murty managed another unexpected Parkhead point in his second spell, a Christmas stalemate.

But the kickings returned with a vengeance in the final days. A 4-0 Scottish Cup thumping was infamous for Andy Halliday’s rant and a post-match row spelling the end for Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller.

A fortnight later, Celtic clinched the title with a 5-0 thrashing and Murty was removed from the role.

“Hampden was the worst one,” he admits. “I tried something slightly different with formation and we never really got to grips with the occasion.

“The last one was against a team in their pomp playing with all the confidence in the world.

“Two days later, journalists phoned me as I drove away from the training ground knowing I’d been relieved before I’d the chance to call my wife.

“A photographer waited for me as I got out my car to go into my house. The feeling my wife had not feeling safe in her home because of intrusive photographers trying to snatch stuff was difficult.”

Murty, who helped Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour through the ranks, hasn’t been put off remaining in Glasgow and is considering job enquiries near and far.

“There are a few options on the table, which is quite exciting,” he said.

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