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Murphy believes Rovers can make a promotion impact
FOR a man who has made more than 400 appearances in a top flight career spanning 15 years, the suggestion of dropping into football’s second tier could easily be seen as insult.
After all we are not talking about a player who is past it here. Danny Murphy was still one of the Premier League’s most creative midfielders as Fulham skipper last campaign, despite his 35 years of age.
It is no surprise then that eyebrows were raised when the former England and Liverpool man turned his back on several top flight offers to join a Championship outfit. They were raised even higher, when it turned out his new club were last year’s laughing stock Blackburn Rovers.
Why would a player still capable of playing at the highest level opt to move to a club who experienced such turmoil last time round?
A lucrative two-year contract certainly helped but,after a lengthy chat with Murphy, it is obvious there is far more driving him on than money.
He said: “At this stage of my career it is maybe something that I didn’t expect. I have always liked a challenge and it is about playing football for me.
“Playing in the Championship was obviously a factor I had to consider. I was initially a little bit reluctant in that respect but then I thought about it and the more influence I thought I could have.
“It is a fresh challenge. I don’t think I have anything to prove in my career. I have had a good career, so my ego was initially what I worried about but I have nothing to prove. This is another challenge and one I am looking forward to.
“I took my time in making the right choice and although I did have other options the fact I would be playing every game and having a bigger influence was a big factor.
“The fact I am 35 and they offered me a two-year contract was also a big factor. It means no matter what, I have two years football in me and if things go well, it means I have a last year in the Premier League, which is what I believe will happen now.
“Initially I have to admit the ego was a big part of it. I went to Liverpool in 97 and apart from one three month loan spell at Crewe, I have spent the whole time in the Premier League.
“That is quite a proud achievement. People were saying ‘you shouldn’t be playing in the Championship’ but the more I thought about it, the more I thought ‘what have I got to prove? What about what I want not what others want?’”
Fulham’s hesitation this summer has certainly appeared to be to Rovers’ advantage as they made the most of the Cottagers’ dallying to make their statement of intent to their Championship rivals.
Murphy is the first admit things could have been very different had Fulham offered him a contract extension earlier in the summer, but now believes it has all worked out for the best.
He said: “It didn’t hurt. It is reality. My only thing was the offer of a one year contract became a bit elongated. It was almost as though it was automatic that I was going to sign.
“That is fine. It could have been done earlier but it opened up new things so it was a blessing. It is not a negative on their part.
“When people started showing a bit of interest I started to think ‘ I am still okay’. It is like going to a disco and a girl is giving you a bit of interest. You are thinking ‘I’ve still got it’.
“Fulham are a great club, we have had such a fantastic time. Me and Martin Jol get on fine, and they wanted to keep me.
“There came a point where they had to look for someone to take my place and do what I do. I believe in myself and trust my own ability but sometimes it is nice to feel really wanted.
“You can call that egotistical, you can call it what you want. But anywhere it is nice for someone to say ‘we really value you and can you come and help us? Even though my five years at Fulham will live with me, it was time for a new challenge.”
Murphy’s CV can’t be faulted. An FA Cup and a UEFA Cup winners medal and a Premier League runners up medal sit proudly in his trophy cabinet – as do nine England caps.
The cynics among the Ewood Park faithful will question whether Murphy still ‘has it’ in his legs. At 35, the extra games and high intensity nature of the Championship are not a place for someone looking to wind down his career.
“The amount of games is more difficult in the Championship but that is even more reason why you need more quality and strength in depth,” said Murphy. “I have thought about that and for the past few seasons I have played Europa League with Fulham as well.
“I have not got a problem with that, in fact I am better when I am playing more games. The Championship is a tough league, there is no doubt about that.
“You saw that with West Ham last year, who were the favourites, had the best squad and they got there in the end. That is down to Steve and the club to make sure the squad improves enough to have a successful season.
“I am at the stage of my career where I know what I can do, I know what I am good at. I know how the best way to help the players around me is.
“Whether that be on the training field or the pitch. I don’t do that consciously , it is in me now because of the years of experience and learning from great players.
“It has become something that is important. It helps wins games, it sees games out. I helped some of the Fulham lads go through the prozone stats, the videos and that type of thing.
“It is not just about what you bring playing wise. It is what you bring off the pitch and that is maybe why Steve looked at me as an option.”
Murphy’s arrival could be questioned for another reason. He was the player who hit out at Rovers style of football under Sam Allardyce – accusing them of going into tackles without brains.
“Anyone who saw the entirety of that interview would not have got overly upset by it,” said Murphy. “It was actually attributed to a few games we played in the weeks leading up to it.
“It was about a one off game. It wasn’t about Blackburn Rovers, it was about things that had gone in games that I didn’t particularly agree with. I also said after that ‘it is fine for teams to do what they want to win a game, it is just not what I think.
“Why would I criticise a club, when it is not the club or the fans who decide what goes on on the pitch. It got blown out of proportion. I thought that might come up but I would think anyone who saw the whole thing would think differently.”