Cast your mind back to 2004. Jay Z was struggling with 99 Problems, Shrek 2 was dominating the box office and (coincidentally) in the footballing world an 18-year old prodigy was making a controversial and much publicised move from Everton to Manchester United for £25.6 million.
Wayne Rooney’s four goals at Euro 2004 catapulted him in to footballing superstardom from which he has never since escaped. He was established by the media as the final piece in the puzzle, the crowning jewel to finally lead England’s ‘Golden Generation’ to glory.Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, at two years Rooney’s senior, a 20-year old Glenn Murray bagged three goals in 14 games for Wilmington Hammerheads; earning him a lucrative move to Barrow FC.
Approaching 14 years later, after a brace for the Brighton man in the huge survival clash with Swansea on Saturday, Rooney and Murray are level on 10 Premier League goals. They have arrived to the same destination via the most distant of career paths.
Premier League football isn’t meant to allow the kind of Indian Summer that Glenn Murray is currently experiencing. Whilst the league as a whole has a higher average player age (26yrs 10mths) than most major competitions worldwide, there is very seldom room for a journeyman 34-year old with no reputation for pace, power or skill.
Luckily, there will always be a place for goals.Embed from Getty Images
With 10 games remaining, Murray has already reached his highest top level goal tally. A few penalties haven’t harmed the ratio but his all-round play has seen him become a fixture from the start at the AMEX. He has scored as many goals in all competitions this season as he ever managed for Carlisle United, Stockport County or Rochdale. His slow burning ascent is perhaps unparalleled, reminiscent of Rickie Lambert but coming at an even later age. It is the kind of story that makes modern day football that little bit more appealing to the fans who have seen the Premier League transform over 25 crazy years. Even amongst the billionaire owners and celebrity players the underdog can still find a place.
Brighton & Hove Albion currently sit in 12th with 31 points from 28 games. If the old adage is to be believed, 3 wins from 10 will see them safe. The club showed they mean business by paying a reported £15m for Jurgen Locadia, hoping his goals would steer them to safety. So far the transfer has worked more effectively than the club could have hoped. Locadia scored on both his FA Cup and Premier League debut but perhaps more vitally, Murray seems to have upped his game to rise to the challenge.
Even if he never scores another club goal, the story of Glenn Murray is one that should inspire every striker plying their trade in the lower leagues. Not many can take the Rooney route to success. That doesn’t mean though that they can’t have their moment. Murray’s moment appears to be now.Embed from Getty Images
From 8th place downwards, the Premier League top scorer table reads; Hazard – 11, Morata, Rooney & Murray – 10, Lacazette & Martial – 9. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Alexis Sanchez and Leroy Sane lie further down the list. Whilst he will never achieve the status of these famous peers, the Seagull’s striker has fully earned his place amongst such illustrious company through years of mastering his craft.
And besides, none of them will ever play for Barrow, so who’s the real winner?
Written by Dan Fox.