In his first day in the job Adam Murray was already discussing pitch dimensions at the Jakemans Stadium.
“As soon as I walked in I thought, ‘this is a tight pitch’,” the 35-year-old told The Standard on Monday, as he sat surounded by high-vis jackets and walkie talkies in the club’s control room, his current office during the week.
“I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to dimensions of the pitch and stuff like that.
“We had the smallest pitch in the league at Mansfield, and I’ll go as far as to say we’ll have the smallest pitch in this division as well.”
Although Murray self-depricatingly describes himself as a ‘weirdo’, it is this attention to detail which convinced Pilgrims chairman David Newton that he was the right man to help carry out his vision of creating a side playing at a level to befit the Quadrant, the out-of-town stadium they hope to be moving into in the coming years.
Of course, having the smallest playing surface in the National League North isn’t just a quirk, it is very much a useful tool for a team Murray hopes will play in the same combative mould he did as a midfielder during his years at clubs such as Burton Albion, Luton Town and Oxford United.
“That brings strengths,” he added, looking out towards the turf. “It makes it intense for teams coming here, and as tight as the ground is we need to make it a fortress.”
While a smaller pitch allows his players to get in the faces of their opponents, it is just one example of the overhaul Murray wants to implement at the Jakemans, explaining that this part-time club needs a professional outlook from top to bottom.
There was mention of match analysts and strength and conditioning experts joining the team – which will include Martyn Bunce, the assistant to Dennis Greene over the past three-plus years – additional training sessions and a swing in ethos.
“I looked into it and the possibility of it being more of a project than a job, that’s what pulled me to it,” he said of applying for the job after recently leaving the Mansfield Town dug-out, where the team were just three points out of the play-off zone.
“People were saying ‘hang on a little bit, you’ve done enough of a job to stay in the league’.
“But speaking to the chairman about the steps he wants to take, it made my mind up that it would be a good place to build something.
“There needs to be a few tweaks and changes.
“From a football side, it’s looked upon as a part-time club, and there are certain things run in that way.
“I’ll be looking to tweak that as much as we can and try to put it in a more professional bracket.
“We’ve got to get it right on the pitch, that’s the first and foremost priority.
“But I look at the club and we need to put a bit more pride and passion into it, try to get that care back in to the club.”
Murray admits he doesn’t like cliches and, instead of wheeling out the old lines expected of a manager at a new club, he preferred to point out that actions, not words, are what will bring success.
“The one thing I won’t get sucked into is saying ‘it’s a massive club, they shouldn’t be at that level and it’s a sleeping giant’, and all of that.
“The club’s at the level it’s at for a reason, so there must be things missing.
“Part of my conversation with the chairman was ‘what’s missing?’
“It’s alright wanting to achieve and having ambitions, but you’ve got to know how to do it.
“I’ve got my own thoughts about what we need and how to do it.”
Murray will take charge of the team for the first time at FC United on Saturday (KO 3pm), followed by his first home game on Tuesday evening, when Curzon Ashton are the visitors (KO 7.45pm).
The last Pilgrims bosses to begin their United careers away at FC United went on to win promotion via the play-offs that season, Rob Scott and Paul Hurst in 2009-10.
While dragging this team up from 15th to the National League in less than 25 matches is a big ask, Murray isn’t ruling anything out.
“Our first and foremost target is to win games of football,” he said. “Between us and 10th there’s a points bridge and we need to look at that as quick as we can.
“Once you get into that top 10 then you look to the play-offs. When you break that top 10 it’s much of a muchness.
“We need to get some consiStency and continuity in.
“If you get the players believing in what they’re being told then it helps build belief.
“We need to hit the ground running, but we’re not magicians, the players need to stand up now.
“They might need a little bit of guidance and bit of help, but there are a lot of games to play and points up for grabs.
“I’m not writing this season off.”
Welcoming the new manager to York Street, chairman Newton said: “We went through a thorough process to find the right person for the job and we are delighted to unveil Adam as our new first team manager.
“Adam was the outstanding candidate and certainly impressed during the interview process.
“Despite being relatively young in managerial terms, Adam has impressed at Mansfield Town and we are extremely pleased to have him on board.
“He will get started straight away in a bid to engineer a climb up the table and we will give him every support possible.”