The bookmakers’ favourites for the job are, as well as Murray, former Huddersfield Town boss Jan Siewert and American Steve Cherundolo. The two previous head coaches, Jose Morais and Stendel, were both surprise appointments after barely featuring in the betting and the Chronicle understands that the majority of the coaches contacted by the board so far have not been mentioned. Most of the candidates are overseas coaches.
German Stendel was relieved of his duties last week, with the Reds second-bottom in the Championship and two points adrift of safety with six from 11 games. Murray – who came to the club as under 18s coach last year – is expected to be in charge for at least tomorrow’s match against Swansea City.
The 38-year-old was last a first team manager for National League North club Boston United in 2017, having previously spent two years in charge of League Two outfit Mansfield Town. He was part of Stendel’s first team staff last season, analysing the opposition, while he has been at every game this season after being promoted in the summer to a permanent first team role as well as continuing his duties with the under 18s.
He said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for me, even if it’s for just three days or a week. Even though I have done quite a lot at a young age, I still class myself as a young coach so anything I can learn is really good. I have learned a lot already, working in the Championship and working with Daniel.
“At the start of last week, this (being made caretaker) was the last thing on my mind. It has been a whirlwind. But we have to come to terms with it and crack on. I think the players were shocked (by Stendel leaving) even though the majority have been in football a long time, despite being young.
“We have all seen it before and what it comes down to is results and, if your results aren’t good enough, the bottom line is what happened last week. It was a few hours after (Stendel left) that we had a meeting as staff and we were told how we would be taking things forward to steady the ship. We had to get our heads together and get the players focused.”
Asked if he would like the job on a full-time basis, Murray said: “I haven’t had time to put one eye on that. My job is to make the lads feel good and re-align their focus after what has happened. I understand what it’s like as a young footballer after you’ve taken a couple of punches on the chin, it’s tough to come back and build your confidence.
“I want to be part of this football club for the long-term. I feel at home at this club, it has the same ideas as me. My job is to coach and prepare and make sure the next manager comes into a really good environment. The games will decide what happens, but I love coaching and improving human beings so whether I’m manager or coach doesn’t matter.”
Murray is now working with Dale Tonge, who was Stendel’s assistant, as well as German coach Chris Stern who moved to England with Stendel. Murray said: “They are both a massive part of what has gone on in recent times and that will continue to be the case as far as I am concerned. Ultimately I will pick the team but we have had some really good discussions as a coaching staff. We are really close and have done everything together for the last few months.”
Barnsley, winless in ten games, face two sides in the top four in Swansea and Tuesday’s hosts West Bromwich Albion before a busy week is completed with a trip to fourth-bottom local rivals Huddersfield Town. The players have been doing two training sessions per day under Murray during the international break as he looks to improve their fitness.
He said: “It’s a huge time of the season. Every game brings pressure whether you are trying to go top or keep your head above water. It’s important that we focus on our situation, make the players structured and have the belief in the players which is the biggest thing. We have seen last season and at times this season that, when these players fulfil their potential, it is exciting to watch.
“A win would do everybody the world of good but the biggest thing is the process. That can be frustrating but we need a little bit of patience. It’s not about changing much, more about improving certain bits. This club has a philosophy and DNA which won’t change, whether it’s me in charge or when the new manager comes in.
“We will tweak bits and bobs but nothing major. It’s more about making the players believe in how good they are. We just want to put a little bit more organisation into the amazing work that has gone on in the last 18 months.
“Do we expect to see 100 per cent improvement on Saturday? Obviously not, because that’s not the way the game works, but we want to see some improvement. It’s made it smoother that I know the players and I have been analysing them all season so I know the little bits we need to improve.
“Like any young footballer, the players have had a lot of questions of their own performances and team questions of why it’s going wrong. The biggest word we’ve used is clarity. Everybody knows their roles which makes their job a lot easier and they can play off instinct without being worried. When we get them playing with confidence, some of them can go on and have very big careers. We just need to take the weight off their shoulders. There is a very positive vibe and renewed energy in the camp.”