Steve Murray is a former international soccer player with a distinguished career, having played over 300 games in the top flight of Scottish soccer, captaining Dundee, Aberdeen and Celtic FC, who were one of the top teams in Europe at the time.
He has also coached at the highest level, developing several players from youth to full internationals, who have gone on to play in European finals, represent their countries and command transfer fees of millions of dollars. Some of the players Steve coached are now regarded as some of the best coaches in the EPL, Alan Irvine (Everton F.C. Academy Manager) and Billy Mckinley (Fulham F.C. Reserve Team Manager). As an annual visitor to San Clemente United we draw on his professional experience to help shape our soccer development model.
Steve recently took time to answer a few questions which helps explain his experiences, philosophy and his contribution to San Clemente United over recent years.
“I have a photo of the Scottish team who played Belgium in 1971/2 in my office, this is when Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool manager) made his debut and Steve is in it. When people ask me re players I played with, I always tell them Steve was the best all round player. He had a great engine, good technique, a good passer and could win balls in a very fair way, he was a pleasure to have on the team.”
Bobby Clarke-former Stanford and current head coach at Notre Dame University
What is your relationship with San Clemente United ?
I tend to come over to San Clemente each year to visit my family (my son is the director of coaching) and help with all aspects of the club- training sessions, games, mentoring the younger coaches etc..
Can you share some of the highlights of your career ?
Captaining Dundee at age 20 and playing in a UEFA cup semi final with them, captaining Aberdeen FC and winning major honours with Celtic FC. The best year of my career would have to be 1973/4 with Celtic, where we won 9 league titles in a row (which was a world record) played in the European Cup (Champions League) semi final and won the Scottish Cup. I played the most games at the club that season and scored 17 goals, which is a great return for a midfield player.
What was the proudest moment of your career?
When Eddie Turnbull and Jock Stein signed me for record transfer fees at the time, both commanded a great deal of respect in the game, particularly Stein who was regarded by many as one of the greatest coaches in the world at the time.
Scoring the winning goal in the Champions league quarter final against FC Basle was also a special feeling because of what it meant to the club.
You spent years at the highest level of European soccer, can you explain your playing and coaching philosophy ?
My philosophy is possession with purpose which requires a ‘pass and move’ mind set from the team. It is the movement of the player off the ball which makes a pass possible, whether it be a short pass of say 5 yards or a longer 30 yard pass, which is more decisive.
To master the skill of keeping possession, a player has to be constantly thinking about where and to whom to he/she will pass the ball next, while he/she is waiting to receive the ball.
Two or three short passes while in possession may seem to lack value but the third or fourth pass may be the decisive pass that leads to a goal, or a strike on goal. At it’s best it’s executed as a ‘one touch’ high tempo, pass and move game as played by the top teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal etc…
I was brought up from an early age playing 3 vs 3, one touch/two touch football, it was high tempo soccer and you had to learn quickly to pass and move, constantly making angles to enable you to become a successful possession player.
I signed for Dundee professionally when I was 16, at this age it was extremely unusual as I was both small and light (weighed 140 pounds) but these physical attributes didn’t matter, it was all about how well I could pass, move and keep possession, this was the main reason I played at the highest level possible under the top coaches in Europe.
I believe all teams/players should become competent in one/two touch as it improves ‘game vision’ in that it develops awareness of the other players around you and thus encourages the passing decisions in a player before the ball arrives.
Secondly, particularly playing one touch soccer, developed me to think quicker and make better early decisions. This is particularly important to any young soccer player as soccer is basically ‘a game of decisions.’
Thirdly, one/two touch soccer made me realize that the ball moves faster than the player and by moving the ball quickly and constantly changing the point of attack you often catch the opposition players out by the sheer speed and movement off the ball.
Finally, the short sharp movements involved and at such a high tempo over a period of 4 years made me an exceptionally fit player which turned out to be another reason I achieved what I did in soccer. For this reason I believe training sessions in general should be conducted at the highest tempo possible and each player who wants to be successful must also commit to training with their team and on their own at the same level.
You’ve scouted young players professionally, what do you look for in potential talent ?
Competence in technique, skill, game vision, game understanding, fitness, attitude and discipline
You played under some of the best coaches in Europe, what did you learn from playing under them ?
Shankly, Turnbull and Stein were all respected and successful managers. They all taught me the same thing :
1.Keep tactics simple
2.The key to success is the ability to blend eleven players into an attractive winning team and put a team together based on the balance of skill, strength, defensive and attacking qualities, passing and dribbling qualities, equal amount of left and right footed players etc..who played as one unit. The blend was always more important than the system.