Everyone’s dream as a professional footballer is to make it to the big-time and in England that means the Premier League. But just because you’re a pro a few divisions down the pyramid, it doesn’t mean that you no longer strive to play against the best.
There are only a few examples of players who have begun in the lowly depths of English football that have had success in the Premier League later on in their careers.
Everyone’s favourite Jimmy Bullard started off at Ebbsfleet United, Rickie Lambert has scored in all four tiers of professional English football and – blast from the recent past – Steve Finnan started out at Welling United before making a Champions League final appearance for Liverpool.
So when a player, whose name is common with the 200 blokes who scream at their local team’s barely professional side, makes it to the big-time – it’s considered pretty surprising.
If we look at Glenn Murray, it wasn’t just starting out at someone unheard of in the States, but it was also being shunned when he thought he had finally made it.
He has enjoyed a run in the first-team of late, and it’s difficult to think of anyone who is more deserving.
Under new-ish gaffer Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace have won eight out of their last 13 games. And despite being out on loan for the first half of the season at Reading, Murray has been central to their jump up the table.
His career, like aforementioned, began in the unknown. Starting out at Workington Reds, who are currently play-off contenders in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League – the seventh tier of English football – Murray decided to chance his arm and move across the pond.
It seemed to work; after scoring a few goals for Wilmington Hammerheads, a third-tier side, he moved back to blighty – to Barrow. Seven in seven meant another transfer. This time Carlisle, and he helped them gain play-off promotion from the Conference, and the League Two title a year later.
Next came two loan spells at Stockport County and then more importantly Rochdale, where he made a name for himself; one goal every two league games. Brighton came calling.
Four successful seasons in League One, scoring almost 60 goals meant Championship side Palace were interested. It didn’t click in his first season at Selhurst Park, but in his second he scored 31 in 45 games, and Palace were promoted.
At most of his teams down the years, it’s obvious that if the 31-year-old plays well, then so does his team. He’s integral to anything his club does.
He finally made it to the summit. The Premier League. However one successful season in the Championship didn’t mean he’d smash it in the Premier League. Nine years ago he was in the Conference, surely it would be too far to climb?
In his first season it showed. Injured for the first half of the season, Murray was shown faith. But a solitary goal in 14 games didn’t show much promise. Shunned – sent on loan to Reading at the start of this season. But it was a blessing in disguise and reignited his goalscoring touch, grabbing eight in 18.
So why am I saying all this? Well now Murray has been shown faith, once again, by a rejuvenated Palace. Under Pardew, Murray has featured in nine of the silver fox’s 13 games. Of those nine, seven have been wins, and in his last four games, Murray has scored four times.
A good return for someone who never thought he’d be playing and scoring against Arsenal.
He’s vital to The Eagles. Playing as the spearhead of a front three, he uses his old-fashioned centre-forward aerial ability to knock the ball down; a trait becoming rarer and rarer in the top flight, and therefore perhaps more valuable, and so it seems.
Having the pace of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie on either side of Murray means that as soon as he has won his header, he knows that they’re going to take on the full-back, and he needs to be in the box. As well as scoring goals, Murray has become a target man, the biggest and most influential cog in the Palace counter-attack.
He’s crucial to the Premier League side. He’s achieved what so many others down the English football pyramid dream of; finally reaping the benefits of more than a decade of hard-work, willingness and unquestionable desire, despite a few hiccups along the way.