Date: 23rd August 2016 at 3:32pm
Written by:

When Gus Poyet took over from Russell Slade in November 2009, Brighton and Hove Albion were languishing just outside the League One relegation zone, playing in front of 7,000 fans at a converted athletics track and training at a local university. 

When he left just under four years later, he and chairman Tony Bloom had helped to create a side that had won the League One title at a canter, one that established themselves in the Championship as they reached the play-offs in the second season, one that moved into the 30,000 capacity Amex Stadium and one that laid down the plans for a Category One standard training ground in Lancing (which they have since moved to).

Sometimes even the best leaders make pivotal mistakes, a pertinent example being when Sir Alex Ferguson allowed Paul Pogba to move to Juventus for a reported £1.5m fee – only for him to re-sign just four years later for a world record fee of £89m.

For Poyet, his came in the form of allowing 23-goal top goalscorer Glenn Murray to move on a free transfer to rivals Crystal Palace.

The Cumbrian-born striker had enjoyed a successful, albeit injury plagued, career on the south coast where he averaged just under a goal every two games following his £300k move from Rochdale back in January 2008.

Yet in the final season at the Withdean Stadium, he and fellow strikers Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood were almost unplayable as the Seagulls clinched promotion with five games to spare.

Murray, at the time was 27 and had a young family, understandably wanted financial stability in the form of a three-year-deal with a substantial, but justified, wage increase as the Seagulls entered English football’s second-tier.

However, Poyet was unconvinced.

The former FA Cup winner with Chelsea was unsure about Murray’s long-term fitness and ability in a higher division.

His lack of movement was also highlighted as Poyet was set on a system which would revolve around an energetic forward who was able to drop off deep and run in behind to compliment Albion’s slick, yet conservative, passing build-up play.

Murray rejected a two-year deal at the Albion, plus an offer from then Championship side Millwall, to move up the A23 and sign for Palace – while Poyet netted his ideal striker in Craig Mackail-Smith, who had scored 27 goals for Peterborough United that season, the highest in the division.

 Argyle - Brighton's Glenn Murray celebrates his opening goal - Photo: Alan Crowhurst / Offside.

Murray celebrating scoring against Plymouth Argyle during his first spell at Brighton back in February 2011 – Photo: Alan Crowhurst / Offside.

The deal for an initial £2.5m, rising to £3.25m, was a record for Brighton, but a move that would eventually be deemed a failure as Mackail-Smith was eventually released in April 2015, where he joined League Two side Luton Town – having scored 24 goals in 122 games.

Murray, deemed a ‘Judas’ for swapping blue and white for red and blue, went from strength to strength as he helped Palace gain promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs after finishing the campaign as top goalscorer with 30 strikes.

Before beating Watford in the final at Wembley Stadium, Murray suffered a serious knee injury as Palace hosted Brighton at Selhurst Park in a goalless draw in the play-off semi-final first-leg, before a Murray-less Palace ran out 2-0 winners at the Amex three days later.

In the interim season before promotion and leaving the Albion, Murray managed to score as Palace ran out 3-1 winners at the Amex, which was his first of five goals that he would score against his former club.

However, he consistently refused to celebrate and continued to show respect whether he was scoring for Palace, or on loan at Reading, against the Albion.

Now an AFC Bournemouth player after the Cherries paid £4m to bring him to the Vitality Stadium, Murray has already shown this season the ability and form which saw him score 30 goals in this division.

Just like his first home debut on February 2, 2008, against Crewe Alexandra, Murray netted a brace against Nottingham Forest before scoring against Rotherham United four days later to move his tally to three goals in four games as August draws to a close.

Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

Ex-Seagulls striker Ulloa won the Premier League title with Leicester last season – Photo: Marc Atkins / Offside.

The most a striker has scored in a season since Murray’s departure was 17 by Tomer Hemed last season, while Leo Ulloa’s 14 strikes in the 2013/14 season earnt him a £8m move to Leicester City which eventually saw him become a Premier League champion.

Although the Argentinian forward did replace the one-time Workington Reds striker, his fleeting year and a half on the south coast felt like it was over before it had really begun; such was the short nature of his time at the club.

Without doubt Murray can score 25 goals this season, but a large contributing factor will be whether Chris Hughton can retain the services of Anthony Knockaert and add to his creativity in midfield – with Gillingham’s Bradley Dack being linked.

 
Brought to you by Shoot!