Ex-Gala Fairydean Rovers striker Zander Murray now setting sights on helping get Bonnyrigg Rose off bottom of League 2

Zander Murray playing for Gala Fairydean Rovers versus East Kilbride in December (Pic: Thomas Brown)Zander Murray playing for Gala Fairydean Rovers versus East Kilbride in December (Pic: Thomas Brown)
Zander Murray playing for Gala Fairydean Rovers versus East Kilbride in December (Pic: Thomas Brown)
Striker Zander Murray has left Gala Fairydean Rovers to join League 2’s Bonnyrigg Rose, describing it as a move years in the making.

The 31-year-old, the only professional Scottish footballer to have come out as gay, joined the Galashiels club in September 2019 after spells with Broxburn and Pumpherston, having started out his sporting career at Motherwell and Airdrie’s youth academies.

Murray racked up a club record 25 goals in the 2021/22 season and has scored nine goals in 17 appearances this campaign, hitting the 100-goal mark for the Scottish Lowland Football League outfit during a Scottish Cup tie versus Sauchie Juniors in September.

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He’s now looking forward to seeing how he fares one level up in the Scottish Professional Football League, though Rose, promoted from the fifth tier at the end of last season, are only 11 places higher up than Gala in Scottish football’s standings and at risk of heading straight back down, being three points adrift at the bottom of League 2 at the moment, on 20 points from 19 games.

A trip to sixth-placed Annan Athletic tomorrow, January 21, with kick-off at 3pm, is likely to see him make his debut for his new side.

Murray revealed that manager Robbie Horn’s Midlothian side had expressed an interest in his services before but all such approaches had come to nothing until now, a one-and-a-half-year deal having lured him away from the Borders.

“I had a few offers at the top of the Lowland League, but I've played against Bonnyrigg quite a few times over the years, so I know most of the team, and to play in front of a big crowd week in, week out, it was an easy decision,” he told our sister paper the Edinburgh Evening News.

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“The club are used to winning, and I know we are sitting bottom just now, but if you win a couple of games, then you can be in the play-off spots.

“We’ve tried a couple of times in the past to strike a deal but, for one reason or another, it hasn’t worked out, so I’m delighted to finally sign.

“Robbie’s a top manager, a good guy, and is well respected in the Scottish game.

“I’ll go out and give the club absolutely everything and that’s the bare minimum that a club like Bonnyrigg expect.

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“I’ve had a few training sessions now and there’s real top quality in the squad, so I have no doubt once we get going, we’ll jump up the table.

“I’ve taken a step up the leagues, so I have to be equipped to handle it. I want to help the team get results and that’s my number one goal."

Murray hit headlines in September when he became the first current senior footballer in Scotland to reveal he is gay, late ex-Heart of Midlothian striker Justin Fashanu being the last to do so over 30 years ago, and coming out still feels like a weight lifted off his shoulders, he says.

“I’m not living a double life anymore,” he explained. “I’m now being true to myself, which is translating onto the pitch.

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“I don’t need to hide things in the changing room and all that stuff.

“The reason I did do it is I wanted to help the younger generation in breaking the stigma and helping other players.

“When I first came out publicly, I had no idea it was going to attract so much media attention, but my focus is football and nothing else.

“Everyone knows I am not a quiet lad and I love the chat. My new team-mates are just the same as at Gala. Everyone’s up for banter and that’s what I want.

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“I do hope I can maybe change people’s perceptions but nobody has come up to me face to face and given me any gyp.

“Obviously, you've got some Twitter trolls, but that’s only a small percentage who will send something. In general, I’ve not had any direct homophobic abuse.

“I’m currently involved in a BBC documentary talking about homophobia and that’s been really interesting.

“I am still surprised how much interest there has been because I’m just being myself, but on the flip side, I can see the positivity that has come from it with messages I’ve received and the people that I am helping. It’s nice to see.”

Horn added: “Zander is a player we’ve admired for a long time now. We have actually tried to sign him before.

“He’s desperate for a crack at senior football and this is probably his last chance.”