Glenn Murray on Brighton’s Premier League preparations, Bundesliga relegation six-pointers and playing at empty stadiums: “I don’t care who’s there as long as I score!”
After the Premier League announced it will return on June 17th, BTSport.com spoke with Brighton forward Glenn Murray over Zoom to get his thoughts on the return to action.
In a career that has seen him progress from the English eighth tier to the Premier League via a stint in America, Glenn Murray has experienced his fair share of the ups and downs associated with his profession.
Yet his 17th season in the game was turned completely upside down, just like everyone else’s, when on March 13 the Premier League was suspended as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. It was the first time since the outbreak of World War II that the English top-flight was halted.
Last week the Premier League announced that fixtures would resume behind closed doors beginning on June 17, but while the Brighton forward is undoubtedly excited about getting back to business, the bigger picture is not lost on him.
“We understand what the world, and us in the U.K. have been through,” Murray told BTSport.com. “We understand that football supporters just cannot be in the stadiums at the moment and that’s just the way it is.”
Murray was one of a handful of Premier League players, including Tottenham’s Danny Rose and Watford’s Troy Deeney, who voiced concerns over the rush to return so quickly.
“Football is certainly not a necessity,” he told television reporters last month. “Why can’t we wait to see what happens, rather than start an unnecessary sport when people are dying?”
Yet speaking a month on, Murray has been encouraged by the protocols put in place by the Premier League and believes players have been made to feel as comfortable as possible about the impending return.
“Yes, I was one of the players that raised concerns before we started the return to training protocols,” he said.
“But I feel as though the Premier League have worked with both the players and the clubs to make us feel as comfortable as possible and get to this point of getting back to contact training.”
Even before the return to training, part of that process has included regular video meetings with the squad, calls from Brighton boss Graham Potter and fitness training over Zoom.
“They’ve been in constant contact with us because as far as we were concerned the season wasn’t over and it could be resumed at any point – as we’ve been proven right!” Murray said.
“The gaffer has made the effort to call everyone in the first-team squad to see how they and their families are.
“We’ve also been doing Zoom meetings where we’ve all worked out together which is good for motivation and then given our data to a sports scientist.”
The striker, now in his second spell at The Amex, added: “In the beginning the sessions were more fitness-based but towards the end we had a couple of tactics meetings about how we are going to approach the last nine games.”
As for Brighton’s first match back, the second-oldest outfield player in the Premier League is relishing the return to action and a chance to get back to the familiarity of football.
“Anticipation is building,” Murray said. “When the date was announced it gave us a focal point… a target to work towards.
“Everyone [in the Brighton squad] is happy to get back to some normality, play some football and just be with other people! We are looking forward to finishing the Premier League as it should be – in a fair way.”
The Bundesliga became the first major European league to return three weeks ago when BT Sport broadcast Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 hammering of Ruhr derby rivals Schalke on May 16.
Yet rather than see Dortmund or Bayern Munich in action, Murray took the time out to watch a far less glamorous game from Germany’s top-flight and gave his take on football without fans.
“I watched the glamorous tie of Fortuna Dusseldorf 0-0 Paderborn. It was obviously strange… and it’s a bit eerie playing in a big empty stadium.
“But it does have some positives. Coaching staff can get their messages onto the field – so you can’t pretend not to hear what they are shouting now!
“And from a defensive perspective, I noticed pressure builds up less. When Dusseldorf hit the post a couple of times the pressure didn’t build on Paderborn because there wasn’t 50,000 people willing the ball into the net and that’s when you can feel it getting on top of you.
“Those moments seemed to pass and the game seemed to just continue.”
However Murray was keen to highlight the differences between the English and German situations when considering how things will go on our shores - both on and off the field
“I’m not an expert on Bundesliga, but from the Premier League’s perspective we have to take into consideration that it’ll be a lot warmer in these summer months and that might take some of the intensity out of our league.”
He added. “It’s been great to see how well it’s gone in Germany but they are worlds apart in this pandemic.
“They seemed to handle it better with fewer cases and fewer deaths thankfully for them. So to compare us to them – it’s hard.”
When Brighton do return to action, they resume from a precarious position in the Premier League as they teeter just two points clear of the relegation zone.
And forward Murray, who has featured in 17 of Brighton’s 29 matches so far this campaign, is desperate to add to his solitary goal this season and help put some daylight between The Seagulls and the bottom three.
“I don’t care whose there as long as I score!” Murray laughs, when asked about celebrating a goal with no supporters.
“It will be different but as long as we score goals, we will be happy and it will be caught on TV so we can always watch it back on the highlights.”
In regard to the long-term future, Murray is optimistic. “Hopefully this will all blow over eventually and we can welcome the supporters back with open arms and enjoy a really good atmosphere when that does eventually happen.”