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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Sunday, April 11th 2021

The Big Interview: Life on the road – Scott Murray’s kit manager story

The 2011/12 season was coming to a close and for Scott Murray it meant he would soon swap kicking balls for pumping them up instead.

It all started with a phone call from then City manager Derek McInnes, who saw the Robins legend as the ideal kit manager to replace the departing Matt Pratt.

Murray was working in the commercial department at Ashton Gate while playing his football down the road at Bath City, but the winger explained it was a well-timed call.

Nine seasons later he hasn’t looked back.

Many long days have followed and certainly thousands of miles clocked up as the club’s kit manager helps the team prepare for every home and away matchday throughout the season – all 50 or so of them!

If you thought it was about hanging up a few shirts in the changing room…think again.

How it started

“I was driving the Academy kids over at St George’s to help with the coaching and I got a random phone call from the gaffer, Derek McInnes. I had a panic because, when the manager phones you, you’re either in trouble or they want something from you!

“He more or less said the then-kit manager (Pratt) was leaving at the end of the season and he thought I’d be perfect for the job. I think we’re just pretty crazy by nature and we all like a laugh and a joke, most kit managers have a decent bit of banter about them and they need to because otherwise the lads will be all over you.

“I had a bit of time to think about it when I got home. It was in April so I was just finishing the season with Bath and I was about to turn 37. I was playing games on a Saturday but my body was telling not to come the Thursday, so it seemed like the ideal opportunity.

“I told Bath manager Adie Britton, which I think saved him a job as he probably would’ve released me anyway, then I phoned the gaffer the next morning to say I was more than happy to do it.”

Learning on the job

“The job was a shock to start with. I think people don’t realise how much planning goes on being a kit mananager so that first season was a bit of a blur. I was flat out and away games are always a bit of a panic anyway because if you’ve forgotten something there isn’t much you can do about it.

“The amount of times I’ve had to call the media department on a Friday night or early Saturday morning to bring something up, people have helped me out a few times! Once you get used to it, the main thing is staying ahead of the game. If you can do that it’s an enjoyable job.

“I had to tell Lisa Fillingham and the girls in the commercial department I was leaving them and they were obviously devastated! I came back in the June for pre-season and it was a baptism of fire -  I was chucked straight in!

“I had no idea what it was about, you certainly don’t get any badges for that. The good thing was because I had played a bit so you know roughly what’s what but it doesn’t help when you’ve got to print match kits, training kits, then there’s pre-season….yeah it was carnage!

“As I said, that first year helped me more than anything, I just didn’t realise how tough a gig it would be.”

The day-to-day

“Every morning I’m pumping up 50 balls, I’m helping the staff get the equipment out for training, bring it back in and there’s kits to be washed. On a normal day without Covid Tracey and Jo would be washing the kit and I’m actually lucky to have them. Some clubs don’t have that help and without them I dread to think how much longer the days would be. But I look forward to coming into work every morning and if you’ve got that then you’re doing something right.

“A Monday usually starts with unloading the van after a Saturday game because nine times out of ten it’s late if we’ve had a long drive back to Bristol on the weekend. It’s a big van and it’s packed so Liam Tovey (club massage therapist) and I come in and unload it first thing on Monday morning. Everything that needs to be at the Robins High Performance Centre stays here and then I’ll take other stuff down to Ashton Gate.

“Then I’m back up to the RHPC for 9.30am where I’ll find Pat Mountain the Goalkeeping Coach and see what equipment he needs on the pitches. I’ll help the staff move the goals and get the equipment ready. Kev Cooper, who is the Under-23s kit manager, is around to help too, so it means I can get the boots cleaned and the balls pumped up in time as well. There are 50 balls per sessions so that’s great fun!

“The laundry facilities haven’t moved up yet but once they do it will make our lives a lot easier. I’m driving up and down between here and Ashton Gate maybe three times a day and I’m used to it.”

Favourite thing about the job

“I’m supporting my team! I’m watching my team every Saturday and midweek. It’s class and you can’t beat a matchday. The last year has been horrendous without fans so I’m looking forward to having them back in soon. Nothing beats coming to Ashton Gate with 25,000 fans there getting behind the team. As a former player I can tell you that the lads are looking forward to that more than anything.”

Long days behind the wheel

“The van is on 120,000 miles and I’ve only had it three years! We’ve been unlucky this season because we’ve had both Norwich City and Middlesbrough to play in midweek. When the fixture list comes out I’m immediately looking for Boxing Day because if I’m at home then I can see the kids, but the last game of the season is massive too because you want to be at home. After that it’s the midweek games because you don’t want Norwich or Middlesbrough in midweek because you won’t get home until 4am - it’s a long drive. I won’t be leaving a ground until 11pm and I’ve also been there early to set the kit up.

“Usually for a midweek game I’d get to the stadium about 2pm…so there will be 16-hour days or so quite easily, but after a win the drive home is actually quite enjoyable. I’ll chuck some podcasts on or listen to the cheesy 80s music that I like.

“I like the High Performance Podcast and the Three Peas in a Pod. Any with ex-players in are great because they’re former teammates and mates as well. It’s funny because I can’t remember half of the stories they tell. Those are great and when a podcast finishes, I’m not far from home usually so they pass the time.”

Favourite and worst away days

“I like Fulham, Craven Cottage is a class old ground. Everyone is super helpful there and I love it. We always take a big crowd there and it’s not too far. Brentford is another one as well which is close. It’s wherever we take big crowds to because they’re always enjoyable and we build a good atmosphere. Oh 100% my least favourite away trip is because of how far away it is.

“Norwich and Middlesbrough have some of the nicest kitmen though, as do Cardiff and Swansea. I’m in a kit manager's group chat and that helps so much. There are a few lively ones on there. We double check with each other that we’ve all printed the right badges on to kits, that I haven’t forgotten a short sponsor or something like that. Having that helps us to be ahead of the game.

“Jim Paul, who sadly has passed away, was my first kit manager at Aston Villa. He was such a barrel of laughs and he was the same as any kit manager in that they will help you with anything. I’m always at the end of the phone and he was exactly the same. Sometimes you might have to moan at some of the players or they’ll moan at you and I enjoy that!” 

Coaching or kits?

I did my UEFA B Licence about six years ago. I did a lot of Zoom calls during lockdown and in one of those I promised to take a session for a kids team. I really enjoy that because none of them chat back to you and none of them will have a go at you! I do enjoy those sessions. As I say I did my UEFA B Licence but it’s not something I fancy doing.”

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