Away From The Numbers

LUKEWARM BOVRIL # 5:

GAVIN MURRAY

Bayview ParkBayview StadiumEast Fife FC #1AFTN Flag38 Cup Winning Squad47 Cup Winning Squad

Gavin Murray, manager. Shudder.
Season 1983/84 may have ended with East Fife as Second Division runners-up, but even as late as mid-March, a promotion place had looked mission impossible, with only one win in the seven League games since defeating Hibs in the Scottish Cup, and trailing second placed Queen of the South by six points with only nine games remaining.

All was transformed, however, with the signing of Bobby Russell on loan from Raith Rovers prior to the away match with Cowdenbeath. "Beastie" scored a hat-trick on his debut at Central Park, in a 5-1 victory, as East Fife started to rocket up the League table, winning eight of those last nine games. Russell was outstanding in the five matches he played in, and the younger players, such as Gordon Durie, certainly benefited from playing alongside him.

East Fife tried to sign Russell permanently, but Raith turned down the "miserly" 4,000 offered and instead accepted Falkirk's 5,000 bid. East Fife turned their striker search to Stenhousemuir and signed Gavin Murray for 5,000 instead, a then club record transfer fee and later described by manager Davie Clarke as being of "Maradona proportions". Unfortunately, the only similarity between Diego and Gavin, was that both their surnames began with the letter 'M'. Had we offered Raith 5,000 for Bobby Russell, we would have had a better centre-forward, and never have had to endure Murray as manager.

Season 84/85 kicked off with a home defeat from Falkirk and Murray wearing the number 9 jersey. Despite consistent mediocre performances, he started all 42 competitive games that season (39 League and 3 Cup), finding the net in only 10 games.

A typical Murray goal would be the one scored at Broomfield on bonfire night. John Martin rushed out of his box, hits his clearance off the on-coming shins, with the ball trickling over the goal-line. Martin blamed his poor performance that night on the hostility he had suffered after he had returned to work at Monktonhall Colliery during the miner's strike.

Gavin Murray - best advice, don't give up your day job
Season 85/86 turned out to be East Fife's best since League reconstruction, finishing only two points behind promoted Falkirk. Murray failed to score in the first thirteen League games, and his form was so poor that he was made to carry the team hamper into the ground, a job usually carried out by a non-playing member of the party, but he still wasn't dropped.

In the Scottish Cup tie against St Mirren at Bayview, he ballooned the ball over an empty goal, minutes from the end, with the score 1-1 prompting the classic "Sunday Post" headline -"If Only Kevin Had Kept His Head", referring to our hero as Kevin Murray!

Incredibly, Murray started all 35 League games. What then followed was one for conspiracy theorists everywhere, as Murray's leg was broken in a training "accident". Paul Hunter was recalled to the team to face champions Hamilton the following night, and celebrated by scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory at Bayview.

Gavin Murray didn't return to the first team until Boxing Day 1986, when he came on as a substitute for the last five minutes of the win against Airdrie. Thankfully that was the last time he would appear in an East Fife jersey in a competitive first team match.

With the team so well placed in the table, the players obviously didn't want to spoil their promotion chance. Conspiracy theorists were awakened once again as Gavin's leg was broken once more in training, after a collision with David Conroy.

Unfortunately, as we know to our cost, that wasn't the end of our Gavin Murray's association with East Fife. The man who made headlines by being involved with a balls up with his insurance claim , when the insurance company claimed that they didn't know that East Fife were a semi-professional side, was soon to get a very surprising offer.

The promotion chance was scuppered when Gavin Murray was appointed manager in 1987 when Davie Clarke and Mike Marshall took the offer of Premier League football with both hands and vacated the Bayview hotseat.

What followed was six years of hell for East Fife supporters! Yes, it was only six!!

Gavin Murray, stripped and ready to go
It was great ammunition for AFTN though who proceeded to fill page after page with Murray abuse. So much so that they were described as having a worryingly "pathological hatred" of the man. That came from that bastion of reason, "Follow Follow", the Rangers fanzine! "Fuck Off Murray" rosettes were printed in their pages, Gavin Murray games were drawn up, there were cartoons featuring unfortunate accidents happening to the guy and a red card campaign was mounted. The shouts of "Murray Must Go" started emanating at pre-season games - even making the papers! There was still no budging him or swaying Jim Baxter's seemingly endless faith in him.

One story of legend was when the fans even had him in tears one time up at Glebe Park, congregating behind the away dugout, shouting "Murray Must Go" whilst banging on top of the dugout as the police and stewards just looked on. Happy days!

It was all over on Tuesday 2nd March 1993. Gavin resigned as East Fife boss (AFTN celebrated by releasing balloons at Bayview with a picture of Murray stuck to them and the phrase "the balloon's gone"). I'm sure that if he hadn't resigned he'd still be there in the hotseat today! With managerial ability even less evident than his footballing ability, Gavin Murray is doubly assured of his place in the Bayview 'hall of shame'.

RITCHIE MALCOLM