By Colin Byiers
Tommy Muir recently moved to Stranraer from fellow League 2 side Stenhousemuir, and it was third time lucky for The Blues manager Stevie Farrell, as he finally gets is man. Muir has a glowing reputation with managers in the Scottish Lower Leagues and has had to make difficult phone calls to reputable managers to tell them that he would not be joining them.
I had the chance to speak with Tommy following his move as we spoke about the ambitions for the new season, his time as Annan, Stenny and Dalbeattie Star, as well as the prospect of playing in front of fans again.
Firstly Tommy, how pleased are you that you have joined Stranraer and got the deal done early?
I’m really pleased. It’s something has been on the pipeline for a bit now. I spoke to the Stranraer manager (Stevie Farrell) the last two pre-seasons about joining the club but for various reasons it hasn’t come off. When I spoke to him this year it was really positive, and I know a couple of the boys that are there. They had a really positive season so hopefully we can go one step further and achieve promotion back into League 1.
What does it do for you as a player and personally knowing that you are going to be playing for a manager who has been chasing you for 2 years?
It gives you a really big confidence boost especially after having quite a frustrating season myself, with a couple of injuries and it being quite stop/start, so for him to still come in for me this year is a big confidence boost. He obviously like me and likes the way I play. If I go out and play my normal, that’s the reason he’s signed me, so if I do what I do normally and what I’ve before, he’ll be happy.
You mentioned that things didn’t work out previously when Stranraer came in for you, so what was the difference this time round?
The first time Stranraer came in for me, they were in League 1 and I just had my first season at Annan, scoring 15 goals. I was on holiday when the manager contacted me, but I just felt like I had just got started at Annan, off the back of a good season, and I was really happy at Annan. I felt I didn’t need to move, and I was happy there and wanted to play there for a second season. Last year, I had spoken to Stenhousemuir and it was pretty much a done deal before Stranraer came in, and I didn’t want to go back on my word with Stenny. This season, I had a couple of options, but the Stranraer option was the one that appealed to me the most. There wasn’t much to think about once the manager spoke with me and I just had a gut feeling it was the right place to go. I couldn’t say no three times in a row to be fair! It was an option I hoped would come up. Hopefully I can repay the managers faith and get a few goals and be a positive signing for the club.
For those who may not know your career to date so far, tell me about your time at Dalbeattie Star, where you started your career.
I was top scorer there for 2 years in a row. I grew up in Dalbeattie and I was training with them while I was still at the school, but it was Paul McGinley and Raymond Gallacher who took me in. Sometimes for the training I was in goals if they didn’t have a keeper. I collected the balls, collected the cones and things. I just started doing things like that while still playing local youth football. Dalbeattie were in the Lowland League when it started and had a really strong, so I dipped in and out of training depending on what game was coming up at the weekend. After my youth football finished, they took me in for the season and the original plan was to put me out on loan, but I had a positive preseason and they kept me. I made the bench and made a few appearances and scored a couple of goals. There was a bit of uncertainty when the manager left and the new one came in, but he, (Darren Kerr), played me as first choice striker even at the age of 17. I ended up playing a fair few games and scored a few goals too, so that’s how it all started really.
Annan was your next club, where you enjoyed another couple of good seasons.
Yeah, it was off the back of a good season with Dalbeattie. They were fighting relegation and I scored 15 goals, and we finished second bottom and stayed up on the last day of the season. I had already signed up with Dalbeattie for the following season, but the manager phoned me saying that they had Annan wanting me to go in there for a trial. It wasn’t an easy thing to do because I had a good couple of seasons with Dalbeattie and they had been really good with me, and I still stayed there, but trying League football was a big thing for me. I had a decent trail period at Annan and obviously offered me a deal. Dalbeattie were good enough not to step in the way and released me; never took a fee for me or anything. So, a big credit to Dalbeattie Star for doing that, especially after being their top goal scorer.
My first season at Annan was excellent. I was lucky to make my debut against Hamilton in the BetFred Cup as the striker was injured and I started the game. I had a good game and it set the tone for the rest of the season. In my second season, I scored my first hat trick against Cove Rangers in November down at Galabank. It was actually our team night out in Newcastle that night, and I don’t know what happened, but we somehow managed to beat Cove 6-1! It was a mad day that was followed by a mad night as well! That was one of my highlights at Annan, beating Cove 6-1. It was quite a shock to people and even for us.
Last year, you moved to Stenhousemuir and joined another manager who had been watching you for a while, as manager Davie Irons admitted he had been keeping tabs on you for 18 months.
Davie is local to my area too, so I had spoken to a few boys and asked how he was, and nobody could have spoken about him any higher than they did. Nobody had a bad word to say about him and they thought he could improve me as a player. I was delighted to go into Stenny, because they are a decent sized club. I’m just disappointed by the kind of season it was between Covid and injuries and the season being stopped. With Covid, I never played in front of the supporters, and you don’t meet as many people from the board as you normally would. It was just a funny season to be there to be honest. It’s a pity that we never got a proper full season at it. I’d be lucky if I had played 20 games, so it was definitely a short stint at Stenny.
What was it like linking up with Mark McGuigan?
What a guy Mark is! Before you talk about how good a footballer he is, he’s a great guy, really professional and doesn’t let anything get to him either. He went through a spell when I first joined where he wasn’t in the picture really, but he trained hard, turned up on time and his attitude was excellent. It’s the first time I had seen someone almost get shut out, but his attitude was brilliant. Credit to him for that. Once he did come into the team, he was someone I liked playing with. He liked playing as a two. He wasn’t selfish. He made runs that helped me and vice versa. I enjoyed playing up front with him and I learned a bit from him as well. He’s a big player and will be a big lose to Stenny this year. He’ll go into League 1 and do well and might even push East Fife into the play-offs.
Your new manager, Stevie Farrell, spoke of his disappointment at losing in the Play-offs. Is that the target again for the club, to be in the Play-off’s again?
100%. I was disappointed to see that as I had already signed, so was hoping to see them get into League 1, but it wasn’t meant to be. The season coming up, we’ve got to be looking at the play-off’s, but it’s going to be a very strong league. League 2 is becoming a league where there are no games you are expected to win any more. Every game is competitive, and anyone can take points from anyone. Albion Rovers struggled for a spell and then went on a massive run and scored 5 away from home at Elgin.
After the disappointment of last season, what’s your personal goals or aims?
It’s about trying to get as many games as I can and get as many goals as I can, plus shack off a few niggling injuries that have come from impacts, so it’s been quite unfortunate really. I mean, I had a kick to the foot and fractured my metatarsal, and then got pulled down from a corner and my own defender has landed on me and done my MCL in my knee. So, silly things like that. Hopefully I can get a season where I don’t get suspensions or injuries. With the strikers that Stevie has had at Stranraer, he likes to rotate them, so that probably helps keep you fresh. So, going into this season, it’s about getting into the play-offs, staying injury free, playing as many games as possible and scoring as many goals as I can.
Are you looking forward to the prospect of playing in front of fans again?
It’s massive. The fans are brilliant! Even the away fans. The best bit about football is the supporters. It’s not been the same at all this year, it’s like training games. Not that it should affect you, but even just a couple of hundred fans gives you that extra buzz and then you have away fans giving you abuse: it’s brilliant! That’s football and that’s how it should be. It’s been tough without the fans to be honest. I think they will bring the standard of the games up and bring the competitiveness up as well. Obviously, if you are losing then they will be on your back, or if you are winning, they will be encouraging you to push on. Supporters back in the grounds will be massive and I hope it happens soon.
Thanks to Tommy for taking part in the Q&A and good luck for the season ahead.