AT THE BEST OF TIMES, football – and supporting the Albion specifically – can have a habit of spitefully treating you like the first love of your life. Whether it’s been the Casanova, the love-rat, the unrequited two-timer, football knows just when to wrench your heart-strings at the most uncalled-for of times.
On a day when we could finally get to gloat, blow raspberries and stick two fingers up at relegation-threatened Leeds United for ‘stealing their player’, we also say ‘goodbye’ – not for the first time – to our talisman, our striker, our spokesman and our all-round dude, Glenn Murray.
Muzzer, he of the 111 first-team goals (a Brighton & Hove Albion post-war record, and a tantalisingly-close second only to Tommy Cook) in 287 matches, is heading to the Championship to join Watford on a season-long loan.
This will upset many Brighton fans on several levels.
One, we won’t get to see Glenn’s *cough* electrifying pace any longer. We won’t get to see the textbook backing into a lump of a central defender in the (oft-forlorn) hope of winning a free kick. Nor will we see him any longer bellowing out at the wingers when the ball doesn’t come in. Nor, and this is the key, will we see Glenn shows the youngsters how to do it – to be in the right place at the right time.
But, and arguably most importably, we know we almost certainly won’t get the opportunity to offer up the same tear-stained, hearty send-off of gratitude to our fish-foreheaded hero as we afforded El Capitan Bruno last year.
And that is a pity. Worse… it’s a tragedy.
We first encountered Glenn Murray in 2007. He looked tall, keen and sharp enough to fit the bill of what we needed and, guided by the wily Nicky Forster, he learned every trick – and more – in the art of the centre-forward.
His zeitgeist came in the 2010/11 season when under Gus Poyet, Murray positively shined, scoring some belters in amongst his tally of 22 goals, each one replete with that fish thing on his forehead.
And then… GUS, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING…?
As a result of Poyet’s mad left turn in his thinking, Glenn was persona non grata, and Craig Mackhail-Smith the new boy around town. So, even though he stayed living in the city of Brighton & Hove, Glenn went to play for Crystal Palace, and started scoring. And scoring. And scoring. Even at the Amex, he scored. And he became, to some, a Quisling for our times.
Murray’s return in 2016 was welcome, well-timed and a perfect fit. Had AFC Bournemouth not seen fit to keep Glenn back for no other purpose than spite, Brighton might have been promoted a year earlier. Imagine – Bobby Zamora and Glenn Murray in the same team… Wow.
Thankfully, he picked up where he left off. And in so doing became the first player to score 20 goals in a promotion season twice. And, just as importantly, he won over the insulted, the peeved and the unsures, and became a hero all over again.
Even his lack of pace, his often clumsy first touch or careless lay-off mean little to Brighton fans. Glenn did what we expect our strikers to do – score goals.
Now, three weeks shy of his 37th birthday, it looks as though this season-long loan will bring the curtain down on Murray’s Brighton career.
For my part, at times I found him maddening (see above), at other times I’ve found him to be the saviour of a team needing to pull its weight and looking somewhere – anywhere – for a leader. Point in case was his very last goal for Brighton, scored at the London Stadium, with his equaliser (originally ruled out for handball) against West Ham. He came off the bench, led the line and saved the day.
So THANK YOU Glenn for all your efforts, and everything you achieved for and with us. And but for Gus’ dreadful decision in Summer 2011 (he didn’t get too much wrong – but this decision was a stinker), you might have been Brighton’s all-time leading goalscorer a long time ago. Even so, your place in the Brighton & Hove Albion Parthenon (should it ever get built) is assured, alongside all the other club legends.
See you back here soon…
Just one act left now – for Glenn to fulfil his role as a music presenter on radio. Watch this space…