Midfield magician who is happy to hang up his boots on 99

Lochs midfielder Andy Murray believes it is unlikely he will play for his club again after a horror ankle injury.
Lochs midfielder Andy Murray believes it is unlikely he will play for his club again after a horror ankle injury.

IF a football fan’s life flashed before their eyes there would be some scenes which would be ingrained onto their memory.

Like being there for the birth of your kids. Getting married. Seeing the Twin Towers collapsing. Staring in open-mouthed wonder at the first Sunday sailing into Lewis.

And for Lochs fans; add the moment Andy Murray pulled the ball out of the Dingwall sky and volleyed Lochs into glorious paradise.

It was a goal worthy of winning any match and the fact it happened in the final of the biggest game of the year, and for many their footballing lives, only made it more special.

Murray was so far out as the ball flew over his shoulder there was no inkling of the magic about to happen when, suddenly, it hit the net beyond the Avoch keeper.

For a split second, the travelling hordes of the Lochies army didn’t react until hundreds suddenly went berserk in unison as they returned to the promised land of top-dogs in Highland football through the pearly gates of the prestigious Highland Amateur Cup.

In a Highland Amateur Cup run to the final as epic and impressive as climbing Everest in flip-flops, Lochs grew into a tight-knit yet superbly gelled machine – culminating in a deserved final victory lit up with Murray’s magic.

A broad smile breaks out across his face when he recalls the game, and the goal, which sealed Lochs second Highland Amateur Cup win.

“Definitely the final in 2005 was my highlight,” he grinned, leaning back in his chair and recalling the afternoon Lochs dominated a much fancied Avoch side at Ross County’s Victoria Park.

“Not just for the goals and the game as it was a brilliant day out too. We had a big crowd on the ferry and we took up most of the stand too.

“I remember it was 0-0 at half-time but we all felt good, quite fit and confident and we believed we had the legs on them. We took the lead but then made a sub and Ross Jack scored a header to equalise for them.

“But straight away we went up the park and I played a one-two with ‘Nomie’ and just hit it and it was one of those ones which flew straight in off the bar. I still remember it very clearly but I do wish it had been filmed.

“To be honest we should have won the Highland Amateur Cup more than we did though as we lost too many semi-finals. It didn’t help us that we had to travel away all the time,” he added.

When the maverick midfield genius netted his 99th Lochs goal in a home win over Stornoway United on Monday, May 2, he was playing at the peak of his powers and was eagerly anticipating join the ‘100-club’ – where only six players had passed the ton for the Maroons – sooner rather than later.

But just two-weeks later disaster struck in a Jock Stein Cup match against Back when he was left seriously injured. The injury was instantly recognised as severe, so much so that the match was abandoned, and Murray’s Lochs, and local football career was over.

His ankle was left in pieces and despite reconstructive surgery he himself doesn’t expect to kick a competitive ball again. It means he will probably never reach the magic century of goals mark but Murray is content to reflect on a career which brought him far more highs than lows, and more mementoes than he ever expected.

“The most frustrating thing is not having the option of when to quit myself but it doesn’t look like I’ll get that option now,” reflected Murray.

“I’m also on 99-goals which is a bit disappointing but it doesn’t bother me that much.

“I’m happy with 99 and the number sounds good. I remember scoring that goal as ‘Nomie’ was on 96 at the time and we were having a wee contest to see who would get to 100 first. He finished the season on 99 himself so we are still level, although he will reach 100 next season.”

He continued: “I actually watched my injury on video the other night. It wasn’t difficult to watch really for me as you couldn’t see what happened clearly. My own memories of it were I knew it was a bad one before I even saw my leg. The pain didn’t last long but I was concerned if I was holding it the right way as I knew it was a bad injury.

“I broke my ankle where I now have a plate in it but it is still fractured. It went to bits but I’m waiting for that to gel together before I can get the pins out. Since then I’ve had an operation and a bit of hydro therapy in the pool.

“I don’t think I will play for Lochs again but if I did I’d have to be 100 per cent fit and sure my leg was ok but not worth it if I’m going to end up with another injury like I suffered but if I can play indoor five-a-sides then I’ll be happy with that.”

Andy’s Lochs journey began in the under-14 ranks with pals Macmillan and Morrison with whom he formed a midfield axis which would go on to dominate at both junior and senior level – something he says he always believed would happen.

“When we started at under-14 level we were winning everything and even doing well at the same time in the age groups above,” he explained.

“So when we reached senior level we were all confident we could do well having won so much at junior level. A number of us were going to be away in university but we still had a strong team and it wasn’t until 2001 when we won our first senior trophy together when we won the Acres Cup.

“From then we thought we had a good chance of doing well. We were only around 19 or 20 and I remember winning the final against Back after coming home from uni for the game.

“From then we genuinely believed it would only be a matter of time before we won the league. At that time Ness, Point, Harris and Back were all very strong but I felt that once we got a wee bit bigger and stronger we had a great chance.

“We had our spine which came all the way through the ranks together which definitely helped. John, David and myself were together in midfield for the whole of it pretty much and we always had Don up front and Graeme and Ally at the back. As long as we had that spine we were fine and there were plenty other good players too.

“We all had the same football mentality and wanted to win and could grind out results too when we needed to. We could play wing-backs because of players like David Martin, Danny and Andrew Dunn,” he went on.

“I’ve got lots of great memories, pictures and trophies but 2003 holds a lot of especially good memories for me as it was the last year of the Creagan Dubh. I remember beating Back there 2-1 which really set us up to win the league. It was a good home pitch for us but I’ll never play on it again now.

“Another great year for us was 2005. We had ‘Lally’ (Mackay) and ‘Nomie’ Macdonald then as Harris hadn’t entered a team in the league the year before so had signed for us so they added to our strength. I remember we scored 175-goals with four or five of us scoring more than 30-goals and we played in every game possible that season as we reached every single cup final and won them all expect the Co-op Cup which we lost.

“I think we had a really tough run to the Highland Amateur Cup final and to be honest I think our toughest two runs ever were both years we won it.”

In full flight the Lochs side were electrifying and one which will go down in local football folklore but will we ever see their likes again? Murray isn’t sure.

“I don’t know if there will be a team like Lochs again,” he added. “At the school there aren’t anywhere near as many boys coming through as there used to be. A lot are playing other sports so it will be a lot harder for a team to stay together and grow together like we did.”