The introduction of Mario Suarez, a high-class Spain international midfielder, should take things up a notch or two in Watford’s already high-class, high intensity training sessions. Some players will be keen to impress the former Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina midfielder while the incumbent midfielders will want to show they are not about to give up their place lightly.
Sean Murray knows his days, at least in the short term, at Watford are numbered but he, to his huge credit, has embraced the step up in quality on the fields of the London Colney training ground and in the gym. It’s manifested itself in his trim appearance and his attitude in the Herts Senior Challenge Cup game with Boreham Wood on Tuesday night.
Murray was easily the best player on the pitch at Meadow Park and so, we hear you say, he damn well should be. Well, we’ve seen plenty of players who are not in the first-team picture not try a leg, as they say in football circles. Not Murray, however. He looked leaner than he has done in a while, took up some clever positions, showed an impressive range of passing, put his foot in where necessary and looked the visitors’ most likely source of a goal. Most impressively, the 1-0 defeat hurt him.
“You take from these games what you want,” Murray said when speaking to us exclusively after the game at Meadow Park. “You could just get 90 minutes and have a little jog around but I wanted to get something out of it. I wanted to win the game and it was disappointing not to win. If we had another 15-20 mins we would have won the game because they were out on their legs and we were still going.”
Murray, 22, was leading the charge, sprinting to the touchline in the dying minutes to hurriedly take a throw in as Watford sought an equaliser. It didn’t look like there were any scouts in the sparse crowd but if there were, they could only have been impressed by his work rate and application. It was simply an extension of the work he’s been doing at Watford’s training HQ since returning a month early from Wigan Athletic.
I had to grow up a little bit
“I’ve been trying to keep up with the other lads,” said Murray. “If you can’t do that in matches then you’ve just got to try and replicate it in training and the gym. The boys at Watford have helped me do that. All credit to the fitness staff for realising that I still need to be working hard and that I need to be ready when I do get a chance. The first team have played a lot of games so the days they are playing I’m in training, doing gym work and not letting myself rest while I’m not playing. It’s a chance to improve phsycially. If I’m not playing I don’t need the recovery days so I can push on even more.”
Murray heads into the training ground on the morning of a first-team game to do his extras and again on a Sunday when Quique Sanchez Flores’ matchday squad may, or may not, be in for a recovery session. The Abbots Langley reared midfielder is just glad to be back in the bosom of the Watford family after a disappointing loan spell at Wigan. He started only two league games under Gary Caldwell and in both of those Wigan came from two goals down after he had gone off, claiming a draw against Chesterfield and all three against Millwall.
“That was just my luck,” Murray said wryly. “I came off with ten minutes to go [against Chesterfield] and Wigan scored three times. It says a lot about how it was going. It was just bad luck. Well, I hope it was anyway.”
Murray played just once thereafter, in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy romp over Blackpool when Caldwell virtually changed the entire XI. Murray scored but he never featured again and was sent back a month early, despite the fact the Latics were committed to paying a percentage of his wages until January 16.
“It was just one of those things,” he said. “I didn’t really play where I wanted to play – I was played holding midfield. I like to play a bit more forward, that’s where my game is – setting up goals and scoring goals. Wigan are a good team with a good squad and hopefully they will get up into the Championship.”
Now all the boys call me Mooray, so thanks Quique
Murray is your archetypal home boy and moving up north, to Wigan, was a steep learning curve.
“It was tough,” he said. “I had six weeks in a hotel on my own but the staff helped me out and let me go home for the weekend if I wasn’t in the squad. I eventually got a place and my girlfriend moved up, but it was my first time away from home so it was a bit strange. At the start it was hard. I had to grow up a little bit as it makes you realise you can’t live off your mum and your dad. You’ve got to fend for yourself.”
Murray’s new-found maturity was reflected in our interview with him post match. He’s moved into a new house in the Dacorum area and is realistic and hopeful about his next move, which will be a loan providing the club can find a suitor to pay the percentage of his wages they would like.
“I want to get a good run of 15-20 games before the season ends,” he said. “That will be perfect for me. That’s why I play in games like this [against Boreham Wood] so I can be ready when the chance comes.”
Sanchez Flores is such a decent bloke that he does not disregard anyone who is not in his plans, not when the window is shut anyway. The head coach often talks about wanting to find new homes for players as “they deserve to play”. He seems to have a soft spot for Murray, or ‘Mooray’ as he first called him in pre-season.
“He hasn’t changed and now all the boys call me Mooray, so thanks Quique,” he joked.