Fit as a fiddle and raring to go
Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date online: 31 January 2013
AS he took off his compression top to ready himself for our photographer, Paul Murray couldn't resist it.
"Not bad for a 36-year-old," he laughed, tensing his top half for effect at the entrance to the pitch before slipping on his Athletic jersey.
He was right. Murray may be in the twilight years of his playing career, but he still looks as fit as the proverbial butcher's dog: just as enthusiastic, too.
Expecting the former Athletic darling of a decade ago to replicate his barnstorming, box-to-box efforts that almost single-handedly saved the club from relegation would be unjust.
The legs haven't gone, but his energy is spent in different ways. Now, the Carlisle-born midfield man is a steadying influence in central third of the pitch.
"I am professional and set standards in training both for myself and other lads," said the former skipper, whose new manager Paul Dickov says will provide "invaluable" know-how to the club's younger players.
Athletic supporters remember Murray's huge influence in 2003-04. Six of his goals came in his final 13 appearances. The club lost only one of those games. On the final day of the season at Notts County, fans sang the former England 'B' international's name non-stop.
Athletic wanted him to stay, but Murray opted to soak up the sunshine in Portugal.
"It is nice walking in the place again, seeing everyone and getting a good reaction from people," said Murray, who has spent the last three seasons in the North East. “I am just pleased to be back."
Murray was at Boundary Park to watch the Liverpool game and is now and will be concentrating on taking similar form into the final 17 league games.
"All the elements are there. Millions of people have seen that Oldham can do it. It is a case now of getting the mental side right and bringing that form to the league, which is so important.
"It was the spirit that really impressed me against Liverpool. If you can carry that on, it can win you games at this level.”
Have Your Say