Football: Murray keen for another season

Otago United striker Aaron Burgess shows his frustration after a missed opportunity against Manawatu at Forsyth Barr Stadium in November. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Otago United striker Aaron Burgess shows his frustration after a missed opportunity against Manawatu at Forsyth Barr Stadium in November. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Richard Murray is looking forward to a break but hopes he will get another opportunity to coach Otago United.

Murray's role will inevitably come under the spotlight after another disappointing season in the ASB Premiership. Otago won two games and lost 14, and avoided the wooden spoon only through goal difference.

But the second-year coach is adamant - although the results do not show it - his young team has made progress.

''We were unlucky in some games, and because we didn't get consistent results, we didn't really build our confidence,'' Murray said yesterday.

''I thought we were playing better football, just not getting the results. It's frustrating. The boys have definitely improved but we're not scoring enough goals and we're still making silly mistakes.''

Murray said he could not hide behind the facts. Five wins from 28 games over two seasons was a poor record.

But he felt he and assistant coach Andy Duncan had worked hard to develop younger players on Otago's strict budget, andthe team was starting to play some good football.

A board review will consider the coaching positions, and Murray hopes he will get backing for a third season.

''After our last game, I said that was probably me. But I do want to stay on. It was always going to be difficult. The players and I have stepped up to a different level, and I'm learning all the time.

''I want to build on what we've done. The board have been supportive over this season. Hopefully, we'll continue to head in the same direction and get results to back it up.

''The reality is there is not much money around and we have to focus on developing our young guys and playing for each other. This was always going to be a two, three, four-year project. It takes some time to build experience from within.''

Murray does not regret encouraging a team philosophy to chase games, rather than sit back and be satisfied with a narrow defeat. More than once, Otago was in spitting distance late, only to concede another goal or two.

''It's hard when you look back at a scoreline and see 4-1, and you don't think that reflects the game. But I'd rather we push on and try to get a result and take some risks.''

He acknowledged the side was missing some grunt and experience. Injuries and losing players to northern teams had not helped.

Closing the gap even to the mid-level teams, let alone to giants Auckland and Waitakere, seems difficult without a serious injection of capital - and that is not going to happen - but Murray is optimistic.

''It's going to take time. We're playing against teams with greater resources, and teams with vastly experienced guys.

''At some stage, we'll close the gap. We're not that far off Hawkes Bay and Canterbury. We just need to get our heads around beating them.

''It might not look like it looking at the table, but we're not that far away. We can get results against those teams.''

Between Otago United and club side Caversham, Murray has coached four seasons, back-to-back. He intends to step back from club coaching, letting veteran Tim Horner take charge. That will allow Murray to refresh and prepare for next season, presuming he retains the Otago role.