Take a bow Shuggy
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2009
All being well, Hugh Murray will break St. Mirren's all time league appearance record against Falkirk on Saturday. To mark the occasion, Mirren Mad is taking a brief look back at Shuggy's Saints career.
The combative midfielder made his debut towards the end of the 1996/97 against East Fife, but it was the following season he began to make his mark. He was a regular, scoring goals against Ayr United and Hamilton Accies. There was also another goal, but more of that later.
I can't really remember him doing much the following season apart from getting the Clydebank keeper sent off at Boghead when he tried to round him. This was just after Tom Hendrie had taken charge but his revolution had yet to kick in - we scored the penalty but blew the two goal lead and were clinging on for a draw!
The following season the old Shuggy returned. I'll always remember him delivering the ultimate "get it up ye" to the Scotland under-21s when they decided he wasn't going to be involved one weekend so they let him play for us. He promptly scored two stunners against Airdrie. A few more followed that season, including a memorable keepy-uppy effort against Clydebank, as we charged to the first division title in swashbuckling style.
Most people thought he'd adapt to the rigours of SPL life with ease, but like most of the team he struggled and the less said about that season the better. He was back to somewhere near his best back in the first division, but in 2002 decided to leave, claiming the contract he was being offered was an insult. After failing to land a deal down south, he came back with his tail between his legs - on much less money.
He's seen sense since those silly days and hasn't strayed since. The years that followed saw his tough tackling style in the midfield developing and it was a much poorer place without him during one of his regular suspensions. More honours followed in 2005/06 when he was part of the double winning side that lifted the first division and League Challenge Cup, making him the most successful player in the club's history.
The goals dried up - between 1997 and 2000 he scored eight goals for the club, but he has scored just nine since then. One of the more important ones came in May 2007 when he scored the opener in a crucial game against Dundee United as we battled relegation. We went on to win and stay up. A few months later he had a testimonial game against Derby County. We might have won, but the crowd was pretty poor, considering there may not be a St. Mirren without him, which is why it's a shame he didn't score Love Street's final goal - or even get it's final booking!
That brings me back to where we started. Shuggy's finest moment came in his first full season as a Saints player. As we headed to Stirling on May 2, 1998, relegation was in the air. Loser goes down, winner probably stays up. We'd just been taken over by the current board and relegation could have sent us over the edge of the black financial hole we were peering into. It's one of the few games in which Shuggy hasn't worn his traditional number seven shirt, but it didn't matter. Early in the second half, he cracked in a thunderbolt that turned out to be the game's only goal. Results elsewhere meant we were safe.
The club appearance record of 351 is held by Tony Fitzpatrick, who gave Shuggy his first team debut. A few weeks ago he scored a rare double against Motherwell - can he mark the record being broken with another goal?
Not that it matters. Whatever happens on Saturday, Hugh "Shuggy" Murray is a St. Mirren legend. We salute you.