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luke murphy: “i’ll hit the back of the net, don’t worry about that”

luke murphy: “i’ll hit the back of the net, don’t worry about that”

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Sometimes when a player misses a good chance – no, a great chance – it inspires fury from the terraces. Fans snap, their desperation to win turning into anger and intemperate language.

Other times, you raise your eyes to the heavens, and when you return them to the pitch and see the player wishing the ground would open and swallow him up, you want to go down there with a shovel and help him make his getaway. You’re not angry, or even disappointed. 

It’s a sort of numbness; when you know that nothing you do can change what has just happened, and that the player – in this case it was Luke Murphy, on Saturday against Huddersfield – doesn’t really deserve to be yelled at. You know. He knows. Everybody knows. And there isn’t a damn thing any of us can do about it now.

“I should have scored, 100%,” said Luke. “I was in two minds whether to take a touch or whether to hit it first time. I hit it first time, and I sort of scuffed it – and it’s hit the post and gone wide. I should have scored but you can’t really dwell on it too much. It was a great move and a good over from Matt and, yeah, as simple as that – I should have scored.”

Howard Wilkinson once tried to defend Lee Chapman by saying that good players are the ones who get into positions where you can’t believe they can miss – and that nobody missed as often as Chapman. It was yet another headscratcher from Wilko, but you knew what he meant. The upsides of Murphy’s horror miss were the move down the right between Mowatt, Byram and Austin was gorgeous, and that Murphy was in the right place at the right time. Even if only to miss.

“I thought Rudy would either hang it up or cut it back, so when he cut it back I held out, and I thought Matt was going to hit it with his right foot. But I shouted over, and then, unfortunately, I put it wide.”

Next time?

“I’ll hit the back of the net, don’t worry about that. I’ve been practising a few in training. It’s fine.”

It doesn’t seem like we’ll have long to wait for Murphy to put right what went wrong. A feature of the games against Birmingham and Huddersfield was that, now the team has switched to a 5-3-2 formation, Austin and Murphy were spending a lot more time in and around the opposition’s penalty area, with Austin heading a goal at the back post against Brum. 

“It’s a midfielder’s run, to get into the box, and then when it gets cut back we should be there,” said Luke. He confirmed that Brian McDermott has been telling his midfielders to get into attacking positions. “He wants all the midfielders to be able to get in the box, to be box to box midfielders. You know it always helps if midfield players are chipping in with their fair share of goals, and they’re not going to score if they’re not in the box – that’s what he always says. So Rudy got in the box and scored, and I’m trying to get in the box a little bit more, and I had a chance which I should have scored, so it’s definitely working.”

In League One Murphy scored six goals for Crewe last season, and added another long range strike in the Johnstones Paint Trophy that showed just what he is capable of from midfield. A £1m transfer to Leeds, and then a last minute winner against Brighton on the opening day that was as sweet as any cup final goal, made for an exceptional summer for Murphy.

Since then things have been a bit more difficult for the 24 year old, as he copes with his first season in The Championship, and plays the first games in his career that are not played for Crewe. Murphy missed only half an hour of the first nine league games, but was dropped against Bournemouth and Derby, returning to stake a claim as part of the new look team against Derby.

“It’s just football I think,” said Luke. “It was always going to take a little bit of time to settle in. I was at Crewe for a long period of time and to come to such a big club like Leeds – things weren’t going to happen overnight. After the Birmingham game we were all confident, and we thought that we should have done a little bit better on Saturday. Hopefully we can put that right against Yeovil and then push on, and get ourselves up there where we think we should be.” 

The changing formations of the season so far haven’t helped either Murphy or the team make an impression on The Championship, but while there’s general agreement about where Leeds should be in the table, Luke isn’t as concerned about where he should be on the pitch.

“I’ll play anywhere, and I’ll give my best wherever I play. Whether it’s in the diamond, or what we’re playing at the moment, they both suit me fine. I just need to get in the box and score a few more goals.”

We were speaking in the Made in Leeds x LUFC concept store, newly opened in time for Christmas shopping on Albion Street as part of Trinity Leeds. Towering over us in what must have been a slightly surreal manner for Luke was a 25 foot vinyl graphic of his team-mate Sam Byram’s face.

“It’s a good picture of Sam to be fair,” said Luke. “It’s been airbrushed a little bit I think! But it’s alright, he’s a good lad, Sam. He’s got it on his Instagram so I’m sure he’s aware of it, he loves it! Sam Byram loves the attention, don’t worry.”

Would Luke have loved the attention – to have his face greeting shoppers at the store? “Oh no, definitely not, there’s no jealousy – Sam’s doing a good job there, he’s holding it well. That’s fine by me.”

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