Gus Poyet did a lot of good things for Brighton and Hove Albion. He brought the club into the 21st century on the pitch, helped turn us into a professionally run outfit and delivered one of the most memorable seasons we’ve had when lifting the League One title in 2011.
Yet his legacy will always be tarnished by two words. Not “Luis Suarez” and the way he’d always rush to defend his fellow Uruguayan. Not “petulant child” for the constant tantrums we’d witness about not having any money despite having arguably the best squad in the Championship at his disposal in 2012/13. Not even “Crystal Palace” for that play-off semi-final defeat when his Albion side completely blew it to a vastly inferior Palace side.
No, the two words are “Glenn Murray”. Ever since Murray’s return to the Amex two years ago, each passing game has made Poyet’s decision not to keep him even more insane. Releasing Murray and paying £3.5m for Craig Mackail-Smith as a replacement is akin to breaking up with Taylor Swift to go out with that dinner lady you had at school who had a moustache.
Murray’s brace against Fulham at the weekend took him onto 97 goals for the Albion and above the great Peter Ward into third on the all-time top scorers list in peacetime football. Three more takes him past Kit Napier, who sits second on 99. Tommy Cook leads the way with 123.
Could Murray yet become the greatest Albion goal scorer? 27 goals will do it. If he equals last season's total of 14 by netting 11 more in the remainder of the 2018-19 season, then he’ll need to find another 16. Age doesn’t seem to be slowing Murray down at all, largely because he has never relied on pace and so probably can’t actually be slowed down. If anything, he seems to be getting better with age.
Of course, the question of Murray overhauling Cook’s record total wouldn’t even be a question were it not for Poyet. Had Murray had an extra, oh I don’t know, five seasons at the Amex rather than plying his trade with Palace, Reading and Bournemouth, then he’d be well past Cook.
In those five years when we were sadly separated, Murray scored 47 times for Palace, eight times for the Royals and four for the Cherries for a total of 59 goals. If those 59 goals had taken place in a Brighton shirt, he’d currently be sitting pretty on 156.
In a parallel universe in which Poyet was able to recognise a good striker if he was stood in front of him wearing a number 17 shirt, Murray would be on 156 Albion goals and I’d be writing this column questioning whether he could achieve the unthinkable and overhaul Bert Stephens' total of 174. Outscoring a player whose goals mainly came in wartime football would have been a phenomenal achievement.
Poyet’s decision has cost more than the chance for Murray to be statistically recognised as Brighton’s best ever striker.
Bar Leonardo Ulloa’s first 18 month spell with the club, the Albion never really replaced Murray until signing…. Glenn Murray.
How much sooner could we have been playing Premier League football had he have been retained? Imagine that 2012/13 side with Murray at it’s head. Wayne Bridge, Bruno, Will Buckley, David Lopez, Andrea Orlandi and Vicente all supplying Murray. We certainly wouldn’t have had a seven season wait between winning promotion to League One and entering the Premier League.
For all the good that Poyet did, he’ll always be remembered as the man who cost us five years of Murray.
Five glorious years in which anything could’ve been possible. Murray might not be able to overhaul Cook to sit at the top of the charts, but we can all see what Poyet couldn’t – that Glenn Murray is the greatest striker Brighton have ever had.
HAVE YOU READ?