The first player to score 100 goals for Brighton was a fellow called Tommy Cook. He served in two world wars, played cricket for Sussex and is honoured in a museum in his home village of Cuckfield.
The second player to reach the milestone — more than 90 years later — is Glenn Murray. Since he scored his landmark goal against Wolves, the 35-year-old has become acquainted with the story of the man who passed before him.
‘Yeah, I know all about him now,’ Murray smiled. ‘He was a cricket all-rounder, wasn’t he? See, he is already better than me. I must be rubbish as I can only play one sport.’
Glenn Murray scored his landmark goal against Wolves and has learned about Tommy Cook
Murray doesn’t act like a superstar as he describes himself as ‘ just a normal bloke’
Murray does self-deprecation rather well. Cook played in an era before footballers were superstars and Murray doesn’t wish to be one either. ‘I am just a normal bloke,’ he said. ‘I take my kids to parties, put the bins out.’
It would be unwise, however, to be deceived by Murray’s commitment to being normal or his gentle Cumbrian accent.
The Brighton centre forward has finally established himself as a Premier League striker of repute thanks to a determined and ever-changing commitment to his craft that is combined with a hard edge that sits beneath the surface, but not by much.
The Brighton centre forward has finally established himself as a Premier League striker
The 35-year-old said ‘scoring a goal is the best thing in the world’ and likened it to a drug
‘Scoring a goal is the best thing in the world because it’s the only thing you can’t control or predict,’ he explained. ‘Most things in life you can work for or buy. But I can’t guarantee a goal, can I?
‘And when it comes I can’t give that feeling to anyone. Only I can feel it and know it. I want my children, my wife and people close to me to have that feeling. Really I do. Because it’s like a drug. But I can never give them that. That’s the only way I can explain it.’
Murray has been described as a throwback and it’s easy to see why. He has worked up from modest beginnings that featured early rejection and time spent in non-League. Also, he plays a little like a traditional English goalscorer.
However, that is to undersell him. A cruciate knee injury playing for Crystal Palace in the Championship when he was 29 seemed to signal the end of his Premier League ambitions but subsequent changes in lifestyle, diet and mental approach enabled him to arrive late at this career staging post in the best condition of his life.
One example. When his team-mates gather in the canteen for breakfast at Brighton’s smart training ground, Murray heads down the corridor.
Murray has worked up from modest beginnings that included time spent at non-League
Murray scored 12 Premier League goals last season and has seven already this time around
‘I get straight to the gym,’ he revealed. ‘In previous seasons, you get in there, have your beans and toast, it’s warm, you have your cup of tea and all the lads come in for the craic. There is a huge spread and you think, “That looks nice, that looks good”. So you have another slice of toast and then yoghurt and then you feel terrible and have run out of time to do what you actually need to do. For me, it’s better just to get right to work.’
This season, the work has paid off. Now in his second spell at the club, he scored 12 Premier League goals last season and has seven already this time.
His most recent came in the 1-1 draw at home to Leicester last weekend. For a player who talks of the drug of scoring, he didn’t look overly thrilled.
‘It was at the away end and in that moment it’s nice to see their faces and how much hate they are sending your way,’ he explained. ‘You just suck all that in because they are giving me dog’s abuse, aren’t they? That negative energy boosts me up.
A cruciate knee injury playing for Crystal Palace seemed to signal the end of his ambitions
Changes in lifestyle, diet and mental approach helped him to be in the best condition of his life
‘All goals are amazing. But scoring away from home, if I am honest, is extra special. I feel every time I score I prove people wrong. People doubt me all the time. They do that to all players but for me it’s, “He’s too slow, he’s too old”. It annoys those people every time I score and it drives me on.’
Sitting in a lovely coffee shop — The Flour Pot — on Brighton sea front, Murray has come to help promote his club’s ‘Shop Small’ campaign. It encourages consumers to support local retailers and seems appropriate for him. He has lived in the area since first coming to the club in 2008 and it feels like home now.
Murray arrives in the middle of a downpour but bang on time. He is generous, enthusiastic company and clearly intensely driven.
Perhaps the most endearing thing about him is that he knows exactly what he is. He is part of what he has previously called the ‘show’ of the Premier League but also part of the undercard, one of those punching determinedly at the league’s glass ceiling.
Asked if he feels some central defenders may be pleased that it is him they are facing and not Aguero, Kane or Salah, he replied without pause: ‘Yeah, 100 per cent. You are talking about world-class players. Top end. Who isn’t gonna be scared of them?
The Brighton striker’s most recent goal came in the 1-1 draw at home to Leicester last weekend
‘But then, you know, I feel it against top-end defenders. I think, “Blimey, I am up against this fella today. Maybe I can’t get the better of him as easily as I did that other guy last week”. But do I feel disrespected about what other players may think of me? Not at all, no. I know I can score and maybe they do too now.’
Murray is a fast, intense talker but is coy on this particular subject. Maybe he is careful not to name names for fear of winding opponents up. But he did admit that some defenders don’t always like it when Brighton’s No 17 starts to make life uncomfortable.
‘Some of them do grumble,’ he nodded. ‘Defenders more than ever like to play football. So when they are not given as much time as they like on the ball then they don’t like it.’
Do they complain to the referee about you? ‘Maybe.’
Do they complain directly to you? ‘Yeah.’
Is it just part of the warfare? ‘Yeah, and always has been at every level. Lower down, defenders say, “I’m gonna come through the back of you”. You don’t get that in the Premier League.
Murray said some defenders don’t like it when Brighton’s No 17 makes life uncomfortable
‘Listen. I think that you like playing against certain people and there will be people out there who like playing against me. They will get a good feel.
‘Others will think, “Maybe not today”.’
That Murray feels he is constantly proving people wrong is understandable because part of his story has been about proving himself wrong, too.
Rejected by Carlisle at 16, Murray played non-League for Workington and Barrow while living with his parents and working as a plasterer. He also had a brief spell in America.
‘I wasn’t even allowed to put the plaster on the walls,’ he laughed. ‘I just mixed it in the bucket. But that was life for me or so I thought. Working, playing at the weekend. I was happy but didn’t think I would ever go higher in football.’
It was Carlisle who eventually handed him a route into the professional game and his first goal came at Christmas 2004 against Aldershot, in front of the same Warwick Road terracing he used to stand on with his mates.
Rejected by Carlisle at 16, Murray played non-League for Workington and Barrow
‘It was only the Conference but for me it was the stuff of dreams,’ said Murray, born in the coastal outpost of Maryport. ‘That helped me believe maybe I was good enough. At that point it was the best moment of my life.’
A successful move to Rochdale was to follow. It was progression of sorts. ‘God, the weather was horrific up there . . . and I come from Cumbria,’ he laughed.
‘We used to train at Manchester United’s old place but one day it was frozen so we went to the local JJB Soccerdome to train indoors.
‘When we got there, we realised Stockport, Oldham and Bury were all there too. None of us had anywhere to train.’
These days, after spells at Reading, Bournemouth and Palace — for whom he played his first Premier League football — Murray is where he thought he would never be.
Married to Stacey with a young family, Murray doesn’t watch much football at home. Having struggled with over-thinking the game in the past — ‘It used to leave me exhausted by kick-off’ — he now tries hardly to think of it at all.
Carlisle handed him a route into the professional game and his first goal came in 2004
Asked if he is now the best he has ever been, he struggled to answer. ‘I am not sure but this is certainly the most plaudits I have ever had,’ he said.
For a man who would appear to feed off scepticism, it is tempting to wonder how well the compliments really sit.
‘There is always negative energy out there,’ he added and maybe this works as Murray’s best motivating tool.
The conversation about his 100 goals was a short one, as it turned out. Like many who have gone before him, he is only focused on the next one.
Tommy Cook did play for England. Just once. Recently Murray’s team-mate Lewis Dunk became only the fourth Brighton player to ever do so. Murray has also been mentioned in international dispatches. There is, it would appear, at least one more thing to aim for.
Glenn Murray was speaking to The Mail as part of American Express Shop Small campaign which encourages consumers to support their local independent retailers and runs from 1st to 16th December. For more information visit amexshopsmall.co.uk