Glenn Murray retirement: Brighton legend deserves a 'propper Amex send-off'

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Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:11 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:12 pm

Talk about a way to ruin a Bank Holiday. The sun was shining, you could sit in a pub garden for the first time without it feeling colder than a Siberian gulag in December and there was a feast of Champions League and playoff final drama to watch on the television.

And then, Glenn Murray went and announced his immediate retirement from professional football. Whilst it did not come as a surprise, the sadness of thinking that we will never see the greatest striker Brighton & Hove Albion have ever had lace up his boots again was profound.

It also felt like the end of an era, even if Murray has scarcely featured since the summer of 2019 when Graham Potter decided he did not fancy the veteran as a player. If Tony Bloom is the man who has dragged Brighton from League One to the Premier League off the pitch, then Murray is the man who was the chairman’s equal on it.

Nobody else played such a huge role in the Albion’s rise through the divisions. In terms of managers, two men were needed to get from third tier to top. Gus Poyet blitzed League One and established Brighton as a top six Championship side before his fall from grace. Chris Hughton then continued the good work, taking the Albion into the top flight and keeping the club there.

Player wise, numerous individuals were associated with one of those promotions but none of them two. Inigo Calderon, Liam Bridcutt, Gordon Greer and Elliott Bennett were the stars alongside Murray of the 2010-11 champions. The baton then passed to the likes of Bruno, Lewis Dunk, Anthony Knockaert and Dale Stephens to take the Albion into the Premier League.

Murray is the only one to have played a central role in both promotions and then keeping the club in the top flight. 22 goals under Poyet in 2010-11 was followed by five years away, including that goal-laden spell with Crystal Palace in which that lot up the road pipped the Albion to a place in the top flight.

When Brighton missed out on runners up spot in the Championship at the end of the 2015-16 season by two goals, Hughton turned to Murray. It seems mad now, but at the time there were a large number of Albion supporters who did not want Glenn to return. His time as an Eagle coupled with him being 33-years-old left many Brighton fans questioning what he could bring to the club.

Glenn Murray's goals fired Albion to the Premier League and kept them there
Glenn Murray's goals fired Albion to the Premier League and kept them there

The answer of course was 23 goals in 2016-17 and a place in the Premier League. Remarkably, Murray became even more important once Brighton took their place amongst the elite. He scored 36 percent of the Albion’s goals in their first two seasons in the top flight – no club has ever been so reliant on one man to notch for them since Sky Sports invented football in 1992 as Brighton were on Murray. It is no exaggeration to say that without him, the Premier League dream would have come to an early end.

With his retirement, we can finally assess where Murray stands in the pecking order of Albion strikers. You may have spotted in paragraph two that Murray has been hailed here as the greatest, a controversial statement perhaps as there is some pretty mean competition for that accolade.

No Brighton striker has scored more goals than Tommy Cook, a player who was capped by England despite playing in the modern-day equivalent of League One at the time. That takes some doing, but unless you are a tortoise from the Galapagos Islands, then you will not have been able to watch Cook’s feats, even via video.

Kit Napier hit 99 goals for the Albion, leaving him third in the all-time scoring charts after Cook and Murray. Then we come to Peter Ward and Bobby Zamora, two players who played for England and scored in excess of 30 goals in single seasons, both helping the Albion to two promotions as Murray did.

For all their abilities, none of those players though had the impact of Murray and his 111 Brighton goals. Imagine where the Albion would be if Dean Wilkins had never paid £300,000 to Rochdale for Murray’s services in January 2008? Or if Hughton had never sought to re-sign a striker whose best days a lot of people thought were behind him?

You do not need to imagine actually, because I can tell you. No League One title in 2011, possibly no Championship football when the Amex opened, arguably no promotion to the Premier League in 2017 and certainly no survival at the highest level beyond that first season when Murray’s goals single-handedly kept Brighton afloat.

And that is why Murray must be regarded as the greatest Brighton striker ever. It is highly unlikely we will ever see a centre forward surpass 100 goals for the club again – it took the best part of 90 years for Murray to join Cook in the centurion’s club – and his achievements will stand the test of time.

Someone wise once said “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Thanks for the memories Glenn, and good luck in wherever life takes you next.

Hopefully that will be back to the Amex for a proper send off in the not-too-distant future.