Bristol City may be back in League One for the first time since 2007 but as manager Sean O’Driscoll plans a repeat of his promotion from the division with Doncaster Rovers he has a club legend in the ranks to play much more of a role than his current job title suggests.
Former winger Scott Murray made a return to Ashton Gate last year as the Robins’ kitman having cemented his status as the firmest of fan favourites while representing the club in two separate spells. The Scot made well over 400 appearances and scored more than 90 times for City but there are even stronger reasons why the supporters have been able to take to him so well over the years.
Clubs can sometimes be guilty of detaching themselves from the people who are the very lifeblood – the fans. As any Red will wholeheartedly confirm though, former Aston Villa youngster Scott is the kind of person who makes sure that gap is bridged. Having such a personality around the playing personnel and staff, and Bristol City as a whole, can be absolutely invaluable and Scott is certainly right amongst it. There is a lot he can pass on to the players at the club, especially those making their first steps in the professional game, and there may be some up-and-coming prospects who could use some guidance with their pre-game sound choices for a start!
“We’ve got Liam Fontaine who’s big into Drake – I can’t get my head around Drake at all! In the dressing room one of the young kids will put their iPod on and chuck shuffle on.
“Half of the songs haven’t even got lyrics though so that’s not for me!”
Defender Liam Fontaine has been through the Reds’ ups and downs in recent years and is one of the most experienced names in the squad. When you hear Scott’s own musical preferences however it is not difficult to see why there is a bit of a sound clash with the 27-year-old and some of the aforementioned youngsters!
“I’m one of the lads who likes the cheesy 80s and 90s stuff, but when I was a kid I was a big fan of Freddie Mercury, I thought he was absolutely brilliant. I was into Oasis and Blur back then but with more up-to-date stuff I like Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia.
“We’ve just been to Ibiza and last year we saw Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, and I think Annie Mac was there. I’ve seen Take That, and Robbie Williams, but I’ve not been to a proper festival yet.”
Scott has been many City fans’ favourite player in the past and his outstanding tally of 27 goals in 2002/03 won him the club’s Player of the Year award. Almost every supporter seems to have a story about him but perhaps there are some who may not be aware of how he used to spend part of his weekends long before he pulled on that Robins shirt, which he brings up when discussing the first record he bought.
“It was The Police ‘Message In A Bottle’ and I was probably younger than 10. I always remember on Sundays from 4 to 7 sitting and recording the chart show on my tape deck, so that was the highlight of my Sunday when I was a kid!”
The start of what City hope will be the return to the Championship following last season’s relegation takes place at home to Capital One Cup finalists Bradford City this Saturday. Pre-season preparations this summer have included a training camp in Spain and manager Sean O’Driscoll revealed that there was the customary singing initiation for the new recruits. Scott turned out for five English league clubs as well as Fraserburgh back home in Aberdeenshire, and Bath City where he brought the curtain down on his career in 2012. With that in mind, has he ever given teammates a rendition of those Scottish vocals?
“Yeah I’ve done it quite a lot. Just recently in Spain for the pre-season camp we all did it, even the manager, I think his was a song I’d never heard of though!
“I did The Proclaimers ‘(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles’ but usually on karaoke I do Vanilla Ice ‘Ice Ice Baby’.”
In the 2006/2007 season, Scott scored nine goals as Gary Johnson guided the club to 2nd place in League One. The return to the second tier the following year very nearly led to promotion to the top flight but City were beaten by Hull in the play-off final by a goal to nil at Wembley. One of the new signings that season had been a Swansea City hero who scored a vital goal for the Robins in the semi-final second leg win over Crystal Palace. Scott, who also gave a mention to club stalwart Louis Carey’s Wurzels effort, explains how the striker swapped Scouse for Scottish when he arrived!
“Lee Trundle came in and did Lulu ‘Shout’ and he was unbelievable. One of the funniest I’ve seen definitely.”
Scott came to England as a £35,000 signing for Premier League Aston Villa from Fraserburgh in Scotland’s Highland League. Ron Atkinson was Villa manager at the time before being replaced by Brian Little and Scott played four times before a December 1997 switch to Bristol City. His assured finishing ability was one of the hallmarks of a player who was well-loved by the Reds faithful and a loss was felt when he joined Reading for £650,000 in 2003.
After being signed by Alan Pardew, Scott made some notable contributions with a match-winning double in a 3-2 win at Derby and the only goal to defeat Nottingham Forest at The City Ground. Pardew had taken over at West Ham United and Scott was less integral to new boss Steve Coppell’s plans, grasping the chance to return to City in March 2004. While with Reading he had returned to Bristol whenever he got the opportunity, so it was little surprise he fitted right back in.
At the end of that season came a very memorable game against Hartlepool United in the play-off semi-final second leg. In the May 2004 clash at Ashton Gate, City were 2-1 down on aggregate after Pools’ Anthony Sweeney’s opener on the night. Heading into the closing minutes, Marc Goodfellow got the leveller to set the stage for an unforgettable finale. Christian Roberts evaded two challenges to slot the ball past Jim Provett and spark some absolutely frenetic celebrations.
In Roberts’ book ‘Life Is A Game Of Inches’ he describes it as the greatest rush he has ever had and also how psychologist Brian Jones put together a DVD of the players’ best moments of the season for them to watch before kick-off that night. The footage was accompanied by Al Pacino’s rousing speech in ‘Any Given Sunday’, followed by a song that hit every spot the City players needed in that moment, as Scott recalls.
“Eminem was someone we listened to quite a lot and I think it was before the play-off semi-final we had him on. We were there with the towels over the head getting ready and we had ‘Lose Yourself’ on.
“We just sat and listened to the lyrics and it was incredible.”
Early last year, I had one of the members of that team, striker Lee Peacock, on the site. Defender Danny Coles and frontman Lee Miller have also featured on here from that group and Lee Peacock described how he thought they could play some superb football but be guilty of overdoing it with the passing when a shot was the better option. Scott, who won the LDV Vans Trophy with City in 2003 as they beat Carlisle United at the Millennium Stadium, agrees with his ex-teammate and maybe it is a lesson for the 2013/14 side to keep in mind.
“I think they were definitely my best years, especially when we had people like Lee Peacock, Lee Matthews, Colesy (Danny Coles). We had one of the most talented group of players I’ve seen but for some reason we just couldn’t get out of that division.
“I think, like Lee Peacock said, we used to pass it around well but we did it too much at times. When you’re going away to some of the places in the league you can’t start popping it around because it’s about having a different approach when you need it.”
Of course promotion was ultimately gained in 2007 but in the years before there had been plenty of pulsating moments to enjoy. One that sticks in the mind is the 5-4 win at Mansfield Town in November 2002, a day on which Scott scored. City were 4-2 down with a few minutes to go before future manager Brian Tinnion, a teenage Leroy Lita, and that man again Christian Roberts sealed an astonishing turnaround. One of Scott’s best career goals was the fantastic effort over Mark Schwarzer in the 2007 FA Cup fourth round draw with top flight Middlesbrough and he always said he would be back at the club when his playing days were over.
He played this weekend in a charity match for Breast Cancer Care, leading ‘Scott’s All-Stars’ to victory against a Smart Sports Coaching side at Bristol Manor Farm. Scott has also recently taken part in the 56-mile Great Weston Ride, cycling in aid of Prostate Cancer UK. It is difficult to imagine Bristol City without him around and although he originates far from the West Country there is a bond between him and the club that has long been non-negotiable.
There were no specific individual opponents he picked out as relishing the battles against on the pitch but the games with the added fierce edge and intensity naturally stood out. Some Bristol Rovers supporters will admit their grudging respect for him, others maybe not, but Scott is a character that has loved the exchanges with rival fans over the years, which he also discusses.
“I just enjoyed it all, games with Cardiff and Bristol Rovers were always big obviously and created a great atmosphere. The city itself is beautiful and I’m one of the lads who’s lucky enough to be well-received by both sets of fans.
“If there’s any opposition fans who give a bit of stick they know they’ll get it back. I like to think I’m approachable, I’ve got time for everybody and I’m a believer in treating people how you want to be treated yourself.”
Leaving the club for a second time as a player in 2009, Scott played for Yeovil Town and Bath City to wrap up his career having also been on loan with Cheltenham Town in 2008. At 39, his role as kitman may be quite different from when he took to the field but he brings an irrepressible charisma and good nature to Bristol City. Here is the advice he would offer to anyone making their way in football today.
“I had a job driving a forklift truck at the start of my career so it stood me in good stead. As a footballer you can’t take it for granted.
“If you think some of the double training sessions are tough then try working a 12-hour day and you’ll soon realise how lucky you are. Listen to your coaches and managers because they’re trying to help you, that’s something I always tried to do.”
We all have these characters who give us a lift, whether in sport, work or life in general, and as a football fan you want to feel that those players who are out there representing your team grasp what it really means to you. Players who understand the club and the people can be very tough to find and they are worth holding on to. For all the goals and memorable performances it is these personal qualities that made Scott stand out that bit more and he continues to make an impression on so many City supporters. It is easy for players to fake their strength of feeling for a team but if wholly genuine it will shine through. Scott’s love for the club and the days he spent as a Reds player is in evidence for one last time in this interview as he selects a 5-a-side line-up of his best career teammates. The question requires him to pick four alongside himself and each one took to the Ashton Gate pitch with him.
“I’d pick Louis Carey for a start (defence) – really good at reading the game, passing, and I think he’s popped up with a few goals as well. Doc in central midfield, Tommy Doherty, I’ve got to stick him in because he’s just horrible!
“He got sent off for Exeter the other night against Yeovil and I think he’d kick his own nan if he had to! In goal I’d have Billy Mercer – he only played here for a year but that season he was different class.
“For a striker, Tony Thorpe – he was never the quickest but his brain was second to none. The amount of times he set me up for a goal or cross proved it.”