If internet forums and local scuttlebutt are to be believed, Grant Munro has left Ross County to join a growing band of former SPFL players at Brora. The Highland league club, clearly with one eye on future expansion into a pyramid system, have reached out in recent seasons to sign a number of former Ross County and ICT players. Quite how they can afford to do this is one thing, but at the very least Brora now have a first eleven which is more than a match for many League 1 and 2 teams. And, with this recent signing of Munro, they might just have signed their best recruit so far.
He was never blessed with pace, big Granty, but what speed he once had went the same way of his flowing blond locks. Now a member of the skinhead division, his presence, if anything was enhanced by the shaved head – much in the same way that nobody can really remember what Ross Tokely looked like with hair. And he stands only six feet tall. Same height as this writer, but the difference being Munro is about six feet wide too. Which always made him look like a giant.
It was something of a surprise when the otherwise beyond reproach ICT manager Terry Butcher announced Munro’s departure. He had been a regular in the Inverness team for ten seasons, had been approaching his testimonial (the odd spectacle of seeing him line
up in an ICT shirt as a Ross County player with nary a grumble would later speak volumes about the standing Munro has within both sets of supporters) and was captain of the side.
But released he was, and Derek Adams couldn’t believe his luck.
The reception was markedly positive. The County/Caley derby, slightly artificial as it may be for older supporters, has always retained a sense of dignity and humour sadly missing from the Edinburgh version. Fans jest, they don’t berate. Physical violence is a nonstarter.
Police don’t need to segregate the hostelries on match days. Twee? Perhaps, to some, but a hell of a lot more enjoyable to most. But this isn’t to say it is superficial. John Rankin, the articulate and amiable midfielder who was a standout in the not-much-missed Alex Smith era, has never quite overcome the revisionism which followed his decision to move over the bridge. Ross County fans generally choose to ignore the couple of years spent by Don Cowie in the Highland capital. And so on. The signing of Ross Tokely was met by nothing short of exasperation by fans, who would be later proved correct. But Grant Munro was always a different case, a player respected by both sets of supporters simultaneously, and there was barely a dissenting voice to those who saw the defender as a vital signing by Derek Adams, as ever on the ball.
This was, you will recall, the summer prior to the rather ridiculous 40-in-a-row stretch. Munro on the left, Boyd on the right, a virtual ever-present co-operative in the heart of the Ross County defence. Clearly, the two clicked as the team strolled through the division.
Munro was a contender for player of the year; it made Butcher’s decision even harder to comprehend. A first division player he was not.
And so it was proven, last season, as Ross County relied on that same central defensive pairing in their debut top flight campaign. The result – a top six finish and universal plaudits – was to most beyond all expectation. But, in the end, it was hardly a fluke. To this writer’s mind, the highlight – the real “we belong here” moment was a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Celtic. Steffen Wohlfarth scored the winner, in injury time, literally running straight through Fraser Forster, but that game witness Munro’s finest goal for many a year – a deft curling left foot volley from 20 yards into the top corner. It showed poise,
technique and power. It was Grant Munro at his combative best.
In retrospect, and even at the time, I always felt Grant Munro should have played at a higher level than he did. He had the composure, the temperament and the ability. After all, left-footed centre halves are hardly ten-a-penny. Perhaps a lack of pace just held him back. This, however, will hardly do as a fond farewell to a genuine Ross County stalwart.
Grant Munro played in virtually every one of those forty unbeaten games. This is not coincidental. If reports are true that he has indeed cashed his cheque and left for the wilds of Brora, he leaves with the respect of every Ross County fan, and, dare I say it, every Caley Thistle fan as well.