In years to come, the Geordie faithful will probably not mutter the name Daryl Murphy too often and children won’t kick cans around streets with his name emblazoned on their shirts! His short stint at the club would appear on paper to be a relatively insignificant one.
However, if you dig deeper, you will see that his signing shows Rafa Benitez’s vision for this club and his lack of fear in making signings that many fans will question. Rafa Benitez sees Newcastle United as his purest footballing challenge; a chance to awaken a sleeping giant, the chance to overturn years of mismanagement, a chance to utilise his broadest of managerial skills to date, to take Newcastle United forward.
Rafa knows that success at Newcastle can bring both personal and public accolades far beyond the already lofty expectations of Liverpool and Madrid, and believe it or not, Daryl Murphy played his part in that unique challenge.
The signing of Murphy hardly set the world of social media alight. It didn’t make back pages. Many questioned the signing, many more Sunderland fans guffawed at the signing. A 33-year-old player who – despite scoring 60 goals in nearly 200 appearances for Ipswich Town – was hardly a household name.
However, the signing of Murphy will be remembered as a mini stroke of genius. I would argue that there were few players signed last season who were scrutinised so intensely as Murphy, and yet come the end of the year I think his signing was justified more so than any other player (Clark aside.)
Why did Rafa sign Daryl Murphy? Unlike his predecessors, Rafa is a stickler for detail and cover. So many times in years gone by we have seen players played out of position due to lack of investment in second or even third choice cover.
Rafa knew he was signing a player that, given his age and experience, would be comfortable sitting on the bench, would be a leader and a voice of advice in the dressing room.
But with Gayle injured and the frustrating Mitrovic fluffing his lines or visibly ignoring orders from Rafa, the experienced Irishman was given much more responsibility on the pitch.
5 goals in 14 appearances is not a stat that makes headlines, but the presence of Murphy was crucial in other ways also. On the 2nd of January, Newcastle were sitting 2nd in the league and fielded Mitrovic and Murphy in the FA Cup tie against Birmingham.
Murphy scored after six minutes and Mitrovic suffered an horrendous cut to the knee. Suddenly, he was our second choice striker going forward. The next fixture was Brentford away, a significant moment in the season and a game that justified Rafa’s insistence in buying Murphy more so than ever.
The game took the route of many games that had proceeded it that season. Gayle put Newcastle 1-0 up after 20 minutes only to get injured and be replaced by Murphy on 28 minutes, and then Brentford equalised.
However, an exquisite outside of the foot cross from Perez and a glancing header from Murphy in the 58th minute gave Newcastle the three points and sent United top.
From that point, Murphy scored and opened the floodgates in a 4-0 win against Rotherham. Arguably his best performance for the club came against the pesky Huddersfield in a week that fortunately went on to prove crucial to our season.
He scored the second after Ritchie had put Newcastle 2-0 up, the goal epitomising Murphy; hard work to shut down the keeper only to receive the ball and score with a cute finish from an incredible angle. Murphy led the line that day in a way that many fans had hoped Mitrovic would.
It was probably thereafter that both Newcastle’s and Murphy’s performances dwindled. Other than a consolation goal against a Fulham battering at home, both club and player stumbled towards the bright lights of the Premier League.
For me, Murphy signifies to both fans and the Newcastle board that sometimes character, experience, attitude and squad depth are so much more important than having a paper thin squad filled with foreign imports with huge sell on potential.
With any of the great clubs through history, even the “you’ll win nothing with kids” Manchester United side of ’94, there was a blend of experience and youth. Murphy epitomised that leadership and professionalism that Newcastle sides of late had so lacked.
He was a signing that filled a need, fulfilled on a short term job only to be moved on to pastures new after having contributed well to our promotion. Murphy would have known this though; Rafa conducts himself with integrity and honesty.
Some would call it ruthless, others would say he is a man who carries out a plan and constantly evolves his squad, tinkering and upgrading where budgets will allow. Murphy will not be the first player to prove highly valuable and be moved on and he sure as hell won’t be the last.
Daryl Murphy will leave with his head held high, with the memories of a packed St.James, with the memory of screaming at the away fans at Huddersfield. I thank him for all that he did last year, not just the goals, his presence on the training field, his influence in the dressing room. Good luck at Forest!