Adam Murray: We’ve put rocks and platforms in place – but first let’s breathe

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And breathe. After a lurching, swaying stagecoach ride of a season, Eastbourne Borough made it to safety. A few arrows dodged, a couple of wheels wobbling, and some of the baggage falling off the back – but the club can nurse a few bruises and take a deserved rest.

The man who took over the managerial reins – halfway through that eventful journey and with the destination still in doubt – is Adam Murray. With his staff – including a wise and seasoned mentor in Stuart Watkiss – Adam has been strategist, motivator and leader of a group of players who seemed only to have “learned to lose”. He has done it with energy, planning, courage and even a little merciless mickey-taking. And it worked.

Murray is also, incidentally, a reporter’s dream. Your Herald scribe has been fortunate to work with a range of managers – including at least three outstanding Priory Lane predecessors in Wilson, Widdrington and Bloor – and Adam is one of the very best, always ready with information, opinions, football wisdom and a dash of dry humour.

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The nerve-shredding pressure never got to him, and after safety was achieved – actually through a late, late defeat for Taunton Town in deepest Somerset, just before Borough’s final fixture – the Gaffer sat down for a catch-up and a little look-back...

Adam Murray and his players can smile and relax now the season has had a positive outcome - but his thoughts have already turned to next season | Picture: Lydia RedmanAdam Murray and his players can smile and relax now the season has had a positive outcome - but his thoughts have already turned to next season | Picture: Lydia Redman
Adam Murray and his players can smile and relax now the season has had a positive outcome - but his thoughts have already turned to next season | Picture: Lydia Redman

Adam, when we first met, in the New Year, I threw you an instant curve ball: What Three Words? And you caught it deftly and returned it with “ambitious, hard-working, honest”! You’ve just been proving that, haven’t you?

AM: I think we all have done! As a group of people, from myself and my staff, to the players, to everyone involved with the club, we have had a real focus and commitment to do and to be those three things. We’ve earned the right to stay in the league, and I cannot lie: it’s been one of the toughest challenges I’ve ever taken. But I won a league last year (The National North title with AFC Fylde) and that was an unbelievable feeling. This achievement at Borough has given me an even better feeling! That’s how much it means to me.

The first task you had was probably to make the squad your squad? Including in personnel terms?

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AM: Yes, I felt it was missing a few vital parts. We managed to get the right people in – and the guys who came in have been brilliant. But the big thing for me was the guys who were already here, standing up and taking on my ideas, and my mentality. And they did just that – and the credit goes to all of them. There are a lot of young men in that dressing room who have matured, and become proper men, with unbelievable mind-set. And the guys who came in have done what I expected them to do. So all that, put together, has got us to where we are.

And it really went down to the wire! You always reckoned, didn’t you, that it was going to take you that length of time? You had your back-of-an-envelope plan, or actually some much more thorough planning, to progress through to survival?

AM: Sometimes it actually was the back of an envelope! Plans and preparations and things that I had to put on paper. But I always knew it would go to the very end. We had a big turn-around to achieve when I first came in, which was always going to be the biggest challenge. And I said to Simon (Leslie), my boss, that I didn’t want to come out of the bottom four too early! Because I felt it was then a different pressure that we’d have to learn to deal with. These guys had to learn to do everything to win a game of football – we were that far off – and so I didn’t want the kind of pressure that was on the players to change. So I actually didn’t want to come out of those relegation places too early. I’d like to say I planned it this way! But ultimately the timing of coming out of the bottom four was just right!

What about that final day win?

AM: Well, I told the players that I wanted a win at Braintree. We prepared for that one properly, as we have done for every game. I knew we’d have a big following headed for Braintree, and it was really important to put a big performance on for them, because our supporters deserve it. They’ve had a really tough season, and they’ve never stopped supporting the team and myself. So we owed it to them to put a performance on. It was a focus on the three points, on keeping the unbeaten run going.

And at some point you’ll be sitting down with Simon Leslie?

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AM: Yes, we’ve already been speaking of course. I wanted to know, for my own brain, where everything stood, on both scenarios (relegation or survival), and Simon’s been brilliant with me. We’ve spoken about next season, what we are going to do and how we want to do it. We can now continue those chats on the details of it. But we want to be successful, and I think we’ve put in place some real rocks and some platforms to build on. But first and foremost, now we can actually breathe out!

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