Matt Murray reveals how ‘racist old man’ ref left him in tears and almost ended football career aged just eight

FORMER Wolves goalie and Sky TV pundit Matt Murray has revealed how his love of football was almost killed at birth by the ignorance and blind prejudice of a grassroots REFEREE – when he was only eight!

Murray went on to become a Molineux legend before injury forced him to retire when he was just 29.

Former Wolves star Matt Murray has detailed the racism he experienced as a child from a ref

But in a moving interview to mark Black History Month, he revealed how he was almost lost to the game as a mixed race kid growing up in the Midlands. 

“I will never forget my first ever game of proper football, for Lichfield Colts under-9s, away at Cannock,” he told Wolves website.

“We were in the first couple of minutes and I slid and collected the ball. It was in my hands. Then their player just ran and tripped over me. To this day I can see this old, grey-haired referee, coming over and awarding a penalty.

“I heard people on the sidelines saying, ‘We know why you’ve given that’. But I didn’t really understand at first.  Penalties were rarely given at that age anyway but I actually had the ball in my hands and the boy ran over me.

“I can close my eyes and still see that referee even now – a racist old man. I was eight years old, it completely spoiled it all and I was taken off for crying, I was so upset.”

Sadly, Murray says that sort of racism was not uncommon during his childhood but says it has made him all the more determined to fight for more diversity and tolerance in the modern game. 

“There were many examples like that,” he said. “I remember a kid stamping on my foot and telling me that his dad had said if he kicked ‘one of you’ he’d get two points.

“I had issues around racism and discrimination from different sides when I was growing up. I am from a unique background, as my biological dad was Nigerian and my biological mum English, but I was adopted from birth by a white couple.

“As a kid, I would be around black people and they would realise that culturally I was different to them. Sometimes in football the black lads would call me a coconut, black on the outside and white on the inside. That would hurt.

“Then I would have issues from white people because I was mixed race and a lot of bad stuff would get said to me. 

“The other kids wouldn’t let me join in football games because of my colour. There were times when I would be warned that people were waiting to beat me up and so I would go a different way which took an hour rather than the more direct five minutes.

“I’d be crying, and saying that I didn’t want to be black anymore because of the treatment I was getting.”

Murray graduated from Wolves Academy and went on to play a century of games for the Molineux club, earning his place in Wolves folklore when he saved a penalty from Sheffield United’s Michael Brown, to inspire the old gold to promotion in the 2003 Play-off final at Wembley.

Even then his celebrations were soured by racism and he revealed: “After Wolves won the Play-Offs, and I was Man of the Match, I bumped into one of the guys who had given me so much grief when I was a kid. 

Murray now works as a pundit for Sky

“He came over to congratulate me, and asked me if I remembered him. I shook his hand, and said I hoped he had changed. It was like he couldn’t even remember it, or didn’t realise the damage he had done.

“The problem is still around though. I have received racism on Twitter when I have talked about the issue on Sky. I have been told where Heathrow is and that I am a guest in the country.”

Murray says Sky Sports’ recent decision to axe some of their popular pundits on Jeff Stelling’s  Soccer Saturday programme proved to him racism remains a blight on our national game even in 2020.

“The black people were somehow getting blamed for other pundits losing their jobs,” he said. “Yet I have been employed by Sky for ten years, and I would like to think that is because I have learned the job and I know what I am doing.

“I always turn up on time, I always do my research, I give an opinion, I ask for feedback, I work hard. I used to do the radio, driving back from QPR in the snow and so on, for a fee which didn’t even cover my petro because I wanted to learn. 

“Anyone who would criticise me for getting a job I would think back to that nine-year-old giving away a penalty on the park and what I have dealt with since – nobody really knows my journey.”


By: Anthony Chapman
Title: Matt Murray reveals how ‘racist old man’ ref left him in tears and almost ended football career aged just eight
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Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 18:07:27 +0000

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