A version of Glenn Murray came round on the pitch a few minutes after being knocked unconscious in a horrific clash of heads with Newcastle United defender Federico Fernandez.
He had swallowed his tongue, and Brighton players looked on in anguish as their striker was prone on the St James’ Park pitch, receiving treatment for eight minutes before being carried from the field on a stretcher requiring oxygen through a mask.
According to Brighton’s medical staff his eyes were open and he was responsive. But Murray actually woke up in hospital, an hour-and-a-half later.
Consciousness is a divisive issue amongst those who take an interest in the subject – some believing conscious sensations – pain, for example – don’t actually exist, while others, at the other end of the spectrum, claim plants and trees share consciousness, too, at a certain level.
Consciousness cannot be observed, except from within, and is not physical, so it is difficult to study, which some think should be left to philosophers.
‘I can’t be scared’
On that afternoon two weeks ago today, one Glenn Murray woke up on the football pitch, and the other spoke to i last week.
“I can’t remember the impact which I’m quite happy about because I can’t be scared about going into another challenge and getting that feeling again,” Murray says at the club’s lovely training ground in Lancing, a village just outside Brighton.
“All I remember are the opening prongs of the game, but I can’t remember going up for the header itself. I woke up on the pitch, but I personally came round in the hospital.
“It was two athletes genuinely attempting to both win the ball. Unfortunately I came worse off in that challenge. Fernandez text me after the game and wished me well. It was just one of those unfortunate outcomes.”
Murray was discharged from hospital after scans and spent the week taking concussion tests at Brighton’s training ground with their doctor.
He would be told to remember five words, keep repeating them back, then repeat them back 30 minutes later. He was asked to recall the months of the years backwards.
He would be given a set of numbers and had to repeat them back to the doctor in a different sequence to before. They spent time getting the blood flowing around his body a bit faster, to check how he would cope, then introduced physical contact before, the following Friday, heading the ball for the first time.
The Football Association allow a minimum six days before playing again following concussion and Murray was back just in time to face Wolves.
Getting back on the pitch
“I was happy to get back out there as soon as possible rather than possibly play on it for a week or two and maybe start to worry after all,” Murray, who has been knocked out twice before in his career but never to that severity, says.
“They say the best remedy is to get back on the bike after you’ve fallen off and that’s exactly what I wanted to do, I wanted to get back out there and play football and get into some physical contact and some aerial contact. I felt the sooner I did that the better.”
Back in the side against Wolves and a sixth goal in nine games, the potentially traumatic events of the week before all but forgotten. Murray is surprisingly softly spoken and more slender than you might imagine for someone often known as a more traditional, burly English centre forward.
A throwback, thrown forward into modern times. You see it a lot more now; Harry Kane is considered the archetypal No 9, yet he, too, while tall and imposing, remains lean and trim, preferring a touch more agility to a few more pounds of power.
Good shape for an ‘old’ man
There are, Murray says, no secrets to how he has kept in remarkable shape — for an 18-year-old, let alone a man of 35 — just a constant daily grind: training ground work, yoga, gym, good diet, ice baths.
“At the end of the day I go home and hopefully get a half-decent night’s sleep if the kids don’t keep me up,” he says.
Brighton’s younger players will occasionally give Murray and veteran defender Bruno, 38, stick about their age.
Murray laughs when it is pointed out that he and Bruno became the oldest pair to combine for a goal in the Premier League when he struck against Wolves, their combined 73 years and 57 days beating Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs’s record of 72 years and 168 set when they netted against Newcastle in 2010.
In that match he also became only the second Brighton player to reach 100 goals. “I celebrated with a cup of Horlicks and an ice bath,” he jokes. “Sometimes after two or three days off we might be a bit stiffer than the younger boys, but it’s all in good humour and there’s a lot of respect there.”
Rise through the leagues
Murray is a player who has diligently climbed the football pyramid his entire career and is still managing to keep up with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, at the top of the Premier League scoring charts with seven, sitting alongside Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, on six.
Three players in clubs competing for the Champions League places and, Arsenal aside, the Premier League title. His memory is tested further when he recalls how much Brighton, currently mid-table after three wins in a row, have changed since the club he joined for a first four-year spell a decade ago.
He signed for them in League One, jumping a division from Rochdale, when they would use Brighton University’s facilities to train, not even having first dibs on which of the poor pitches they could use. “We were behind the uni boys,” he recalls. “Now, it’s pretty incomparable to when I joined the club before. You couldn’t fit the whole squad in the changing rooms so we’d split into three groups. The pitches were boggy in winter. The brand new training facility we have now is state of the art and up there with any in England.”
They were still playing at the 8,000-seater Withdean Stadium while the Amex Stadium was being built. “It had a running track around the pitch and no roof, so the fans got wet when it rained. The new stadium is light years ahead.”
While many observers believe he is currently in the form of his life, Murray can remember better runs and thinks he is just being noticed more, especially when he is being talked about in the same breath as Hazard, Aubameyang and Aguero.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t stop now,” he says. “It’s continual for the rest of the season. It’s a very hard job to keep up with those players. They’re world class players who play in teams that create a lot of opportunities. It’s nice to be there now, but it’s about trying to stay with them for as long as possible.”
Winning the golden boot is not even a notion he can entertain at the moment, a quarter of the way into the season. But goal-scoring is not necessarily a young man’s game: Dimitar Berbatov and Robin Van Persie were 30 when they won it, and Didier Drogba was 32.
Entering his best period?
“As far as early 30s, I think that can often be a striker’s best period,” Murray says.
“You know yourself. You know your game. You know your body. Drogba played in the Chelsea team for a long time, his team-mates knew him, they knew his attributes, the best things about him and they played to those and he benefited off the back of that.
“I’ve always been addicted to scoring goals. It’s one of my favourite things to do in the world. I suppose you do take that extra second to enjoy the moment now.
“Retirement crosses my mind all the time. At the minute it’s about focussing on what I’m doing. It’s taken everything out of me and it’s what I enjoy doing and I want to do it as long as possible. I feel if I take my eye off and start looking at other avenues and planning retirement it might be detrimental to my form now.
“I want to keep scoring. It’s what I’ll continue to do until I can’t lace up my boots any more.”
At which point he can look back on a career full of memories, bar an hour-and-a-half at Newcastle.
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