FEATURE | City Striker Seeks One More Shot
National Premier Leagues leading goal scorer Antonio Murray is turning heads across Queensland with a raft of impressive early season performances, but the former Scottish Premier League player admits he hasn’t given up hope of a return to professional football just yet.
The Brisbane City striker played for some of Britain’s more famous football clubs, including a youth stint with current European Champions Chelsea, but a family connection to the Newmarket-based City has afforded the 28-year-old a new lease on life in the Queensland capital.
Murray sits jointly atop the NPL goalscoring charts with eight goals from only three appearances this season, including a leading role in his side’s fourth round demolition of CQFC Energy, where he netted five goals and played the final ball for a further two.
The stand out performance came a week after Murray lodged an early contender for goal of the season, craftily chipping experienced ‘keeper David Chambers to open accounts in a 5-3 home loss to Brisbane Strikers.
Cambridge-born Murray found his way to Brisbane City in 2011 after bad luck hampered earlier trials with Queensland A-League clubs Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United.
“My trial at Roar ended after a week when I injured my groin,” Murray explained. “Later I trialled at Gold Coast and did quite well - I was invited back for a full preseason – then two weeks later that club folded.”
A family friendship with City’s former NSL goalkeeper Frank Monteverde, brother of well-regarded Queensland football journalist Marco Monteverde, then provided Murray the opportunity to ply his trade at Spencer Park.
Murray hasn’t looked back since he donned the famous sky blue kit and is full of praise for his current club, “It’s a really close knit community and the people at the club are great. It truly is a good club with lots of potential.”
“City is one of the bigger clubs in Brisbane, so that potential is definitely there and I hope we can continue to grow together as a club.”
However, Murray admits his competitive instincts mean he hasn’t given up hopes of appearing in the A-League just yet and that he misses aspects of playing regular professional football.
“I always enjoyed the pressure that level of football brought with the fans and being in the papers; being in the spotlight, that constant pressure, it drives you to do better.”
Murray has been turning heads since he was a young teen in his home town, prompting Chelsea to pay approximately £50000 to secure his services for their youth programme when Murray was a mere thirteen years of age.
After several years with the London club he left another set of Blues, switching to then Premiership club Ipswich Town in search of first team opportunities; however, after making his debut against Derby County, injuries hampered his stint in East Anglia.
A move to Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League beckoned, where following a string of impressive early performances injury once again cut his season short and ultimately saw Murray released on a free transfer.
A series of stints with lower league clubs closer to home proved frustrating for Murray, before he made the trip to Queensland and being resoundedly welcomed by the Brisbane City brains trust.
Brisbane City club secretary Steve Grice describes himself as Murray’s biggest fan and the well-versed football journeyman, who played for Heidelberg in the old National Soccer League and Seattle Sounders in the United States, believes Murray can still mix it at the higher level.
“Quality number nine’s are hard to find,” Grice stated, “You look at pretty well every team in the A-League and at best they’ve got one, and some don’t even have that.”
“I’ve noticed Antonio very rarely over-hits the ball. He’s always very composed, and he’s just absolutely ruthless in front of goal,” Grice continued.
“I think that if a club says they are looking for number nine and is not considering him, well then they aren’t really looking.”
“Antonio is also good value,” Grice concluded, “No one’s looked at him for a little while and he wants to play more challenging football.”
City head coach Glen Volker added weight to Grice’s assessment, “I think anyone who has seen Antonio over the past year and a bit knows he’s got a lot of pedigree.”
“As any coach knows, you want to have a striker that can find the back of the net, and Antonio has proven in his time in Brisbane as well as before that in the UK that he can do that.”
Volker also made mention of Murray’s versatility, a by-product of Murray’s younger days as a midfielder before being shifted further up the park.
“He can play a number of roles and that is what is so good about him - he plays well in the wide areas, plays well in behind the strikers; he’s dangerous when he’s able to look up and get at goal but also capable of getting in behind the line.”
A descendent of mixed Scottish and Italian heritage, Murray suffered few culture shocks in moving to Australia and City, although he admits he was pleasantly surprised by the popularity of football upon his arrival.
“In England, you don’t really associate Australia with football,” Murray explained, “But driving around the town in the first weeks after I came here I saw more football posts than rugby posts – I was truly surprised by that.”
Murray is also a fan of the city he now calls home, enthusing “I truly love Brisbane - it’s a real nice city.”
“It can be a quiet city when you want it to be but it can also be lively if you want it to be as well. Then you have the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast only an hour away. It really is a brilliant place to be.”
Words: Michael Flynn (Football Queensland)