The dream of most young women footballers is to fly out to the United States to join one of the amazing footballing scholarships on offer in arguably the best country for women’s football, and Christie Murray got to live her dream.
Her passion for football started as young as she can remember, growing up a season ticket holder at Celtic and she used to love watching some of the greats who have passed through Parkhead’s gates, especially Henrik Larsson, who was her ‘absolute hero’.
Speaking about how she got into football, Christie said: “Growing up, I was always playing football whether it be with my younger brother, with the boys in school or playing in the park. It wasn’t really until I got to primary three or four that I could get into the boy’s teams at school. I didn’t actually join a team until I was 11/12 as there wasn’t a lot of girls teams around when I was younger, but luckily a family friend knew of a local team called Baillieston Girls and I played with them all the way up until I was 16.
“It got to the point that my brother played for a boys’ team and I really wanted to join, but they weren’t allowing girls to play at that point. The only reason I actually got into the primary school team was after the headmaster went off on leave after breaking his arm, as he thought I was too small to play and was scared, I would get hurt. The new headmistress said If I am good enough then I can play, and that’s where I gained a lot more confidence. Playing with the boys made me a lot tougher and once they realised you can play; you just became one of them.
“I always wanted to play football but I really didn’t think it would be possible to play professional football.”
Just shortly after her 16th birthday, Murray was offered a life-changing move to Tennessee after being scouted while playing in a Scotland camp down in Bristol.
She said: “When I was younger, I had heard a lot about the scholarships in America and the women’s national which is one of the best in the world. When I got the opportunity to go there, I didn’t think twice and didn’t see age as a barrier. It was an opportunity to play full-time and I’m football daft so it was like a perfect fit.
“When I got out there, I realised that the league was very short. The following semester was only going to have been university work and that was the turning point for me and I knew I had to come home. It was supposed to be a four-year course but I still wanted to be part of the Scotland U’17’s squad and they weren’t willing to fly me back and forth. Scotland has always been the pinnacle for me in terms of my career and wanting to play at the highest level.”
Christie returned home from America much earlier than expected, but thoroughly enjoyed her time overseas stating “My time in Tennessee made me a much better and fitter player as well as showing me exactly how much it took to be a full-time athlete. It was definitely one of the best thing’s I could’ve done, but returning home was also the best thing I done.”
Following her return from the USA, the winger had a one-year spell with Queens Park, before signing for Celtic, where she spent four years. Christie scored twice in the Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup final against Spartans in 2010.
In 2011, she joined Glasgow City, where she helped the club and country make history. They became the first Scottish women’s side to reach the group stages of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
It started with a 5-0 win over Klaksvik in Serbia, which ensured City topped group five, with three wins out of three in the qualifying stages. They were drawn against Icelandic side Valur Reykjavik and despite being held to a draw at home, convincingly beat their Iceland counterparts away from home. The run ended with a humiliating 17-0 aggregate defeat against German champions Turbine Potsdam in the last 16.
There is no doubt that Glasgow City are doing Scotland proud at the moment and Murray was quick to highlight the incredible progress of the Petershill Park side over the years.
“Glasgow City have helped pave the way for Scottish Women’s football, especially in Europe. I played with them earlier in my career for three years and that was a brilliant point in my career as I was playing with a lot of my friends and we were a very good team. I’m sure a lot of the players are playing full-time now and I think that shows the level of football there at the time.”
Two years on, Murray was once again showcasing her talent on the big stage, this time against Shelley Kerr’s Arsenal side. She impressed that much that she was offered a contract with the South London side.
The 30-year-old has spent the last five or six years at a variety of different clubs and has struggled to really get settled at a specific club. She’s had spells with Bristol Academy and Doncaster Rovers Belles, as well as moves back to Celtic and Glasgow City in her native land.
In 2018, Murray was offered a two-year deal with Liverpool and was given the number 10 shirt. Throughout her spell with the Reds, she got to go on a pre-season tour with Jürgen Klopp’s UEFA Champions League winners as well as getting the opportunity to play at Anfield against local rivals Everton, In front of 23,500 people.
Liverpool were relegated at the start of last month after The Football Association decided a sporting outcome of for the WSL based on a points-per game, and that would have undoubtedly been a tough pill to swallow for their fanbase, who’s side secured back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
There were a handful of players who left the club at the expiry of their contracts at the start of June and Scotland international Christie Murray was one of them.
Speaking about her exit and what the future holds, she said: “I didn’t really play much at Liverpool last season and the club felt like that wasn’t going to change, so it felt like for both parties that leaving was the best option as they said they weren’t going to renew my contract. I want to be in an environment where I am enjoying my football again and be playing. I’m very open minded in terms of my next move and I just want to be playing in a full-time environment and want to be playing in a place where I feel valued. I’ve had offers in both England and Scotland.“
There has been a lot of chat recently about how playing women’s games in bigger stadiums is benefiting clubs. There is no doubt that the women’s World Cup boosted attendances, but evidence such as a record crowd of 38,286 back in November between Tottenham and Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium shows that these stadiums are massively beneficial.
Murray said: “It’s definitely helping the women’s game. There was a lot of games last season which were played at big stadiums and they brought in fantastic attendances. It can only push the women’s game forward. I think it can give fans a new experience and try capture them and hopefully they will come back to other games. I imagine next season they will be looking to add more games into these stadiums as it’s a great spectacle and is bringing more exposure to the women’s game.”
It’s just over a year ago now since we were all cheering on the impressive Scotland Women’s side at their first ever Women’s World Cup. The opening two games didn’t go the way of the Scots, with 2-1 defeats against two top 10 sides, England, and Japan. They were sent home in heart-breaking fashion, and one of Scotland’s young stars Erin Cuthbert recently said that it ‘tore her apart’.
Goals from Kim Little, Jen Beattie and Erin Cuthbert appeared to have all but assured Scotland would qualify for the last 16 but three goals in 20 minutes from Argentina- the last one arriving through two VAR decisions near the death – ended Scotland’s campaign in dramatic circumstances.
Looking back on the memories of the World Cup, Murray said: “It was literally a dream come true and being part of the first Scottish Women’s World Cup squad is definitely the highlight of my career. You could see how big a reaction we got while we were out there and the support was amazing from everybody at home and the people who came out to support us. I hope we can qualify for the Euros in 2022 and continue to try and help push the game forward in Scotland. In every tournament we have played in I feel like we have grown and I hope we can grow again.”
“We knew we were going out to face some really tough opponents. I think like two out of the three teams were in the top 10 in the world and has all previously been at World Cup’s so it definitely wasn’t going to be easy. I think we definitely showed that we can compete with the world’s best.”
It is clear that Murray is ‘football daft’ in her own words, so it’s no surprise to see her wanting to stay in the game after she decides to hang her boots up.
“I love football, I definitely see my being involved in it I just don’t know to what capacity. During the Coronavirus pandemic I’ve been working on my A-license through the Scottish FA. It felt like the right time to do it, so when I do decide to stop playing, I’m well prepared to go into coaching, management or director academy, but I do see my future in football.”