Danny Murphy: Was ex-Liverpool midfielder and Old Trafford hero underrated?

As the Englishman turns 44, nostalgia writer JAMES NOBLE wonders why his Liverpool contributions are not better remembered.

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A Crewe Alexandra academy graduate, Danny Murphy won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup – and also scored three winners at Manchester United – in his seven years as a Red between 1997 and 2004.

Born in Chester on March 18, 1977, Murphy had already chalked up 132 Football League appearances for Crewe by the time Roy Evans brought the then 20-year-old to Anfield for £1.5m in July 1997.

Seen from a young age as a highly intelligent footballer – who regularly operated as a second-striker of sorts for The Railwaymen – it did take a while for Murphy to genuinely establish himself on Merseyside. He would, nonetheless, eventually go on to make 249 appearances and score 44 goals for the club.


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After making his Liverpool debut on August 9, 1997, as a 67th-minute substitute for Stig Inge Bjørnebye in the opening Premiership game of the season – a 1-1 draw at Wimbledon – he had to wait a little over two years to score his first Reds goal. That arrived on September 14, 1999, in a 5-1 League Cup win at Hull City. Two more strikes swiftly followed for Murphy, as he struck in both the 10th and 30th minute against The Tigers.

Tellingly, though – within that two-year gap between first game and first goal – lack of opportunities had seen him return to Crewe on-loan in February 1999. During this stint he would help his former club avoid relegation from the Championship, but it was evident that he was on the periphery at Anfield.

There seemed a relatively clear intention to sell Murphy in the later months of 1999 but an apparent lack of takers at the time led manager Gérard Houllier – who had taken overall charge in November 1998 – to offer him further opportunities. To his great credit, Murphy took them.

After making a combined 21 appearances in all competitions across his first two seasons at the club, he made 27 in 1999/2000 and 47 in 2000/01. It was in the latter campaign where he truly began to make his mark. His 43rd-minute winner, from a 20-yard free kick, marked his first Old Trafford decider in a 1-0 victory in December 2000 – one of 10 goals he scored that season.

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After missing the February League Cup final triumph through injury, he also started both the FA Cup final and UEFA Cup final successes in May, as Liverpool secured a treble – another key marker of his value to the side at the time.

56 appearances followed in both 2001/02 – which saw the Reds secure the Community Shield, Super Cup and a second-placed league finish behind Arsenal – and 2002/03, which proved less successful in the Premiership but did produce another League Cup victory. Murphy, on this occasion, started the final.

There were a further eight and 12 goals respectively across those two campaigns – and the first of nine England caps in November 2001 – as he continued to display an impressive goal threat from midfield. This was most often from either the centre of the park or the left flank – versatility which further reflected his natural footballing intelligence.

Within the eight scored in 2001/02, was his second Old Trafford winner – and arguably his best one. In the 84th minute of the January 2002 meeting, Steven Gerrard’s superbly directed pass into the box allowed Murphy to lift a clever first-time volleyed finish over goalkeeper Fabien Barthez into the vacant net – much to the delight of the travelling Reds faithful at the other end of the ground.

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His final season at the club, 2003/04, saw him play 42 more times and score another eight goals – which included that third and final winner at Manchester United in April 2004. This time, it came from the penalty spot after Gerrard had been brought down in the box by Gary Neville.

This was also the final season of the Houllier era. In the minds of most, it came to a slightly underwhelming end – although still an end that saw Liverpool secure a fourth-placed finish and a spot in the following season’s Champions League play-offs.

Rafael Benítez and co would make excellent use of that spot, of course. Unfortunately, though, the Spanish boss seemingly did not view 27-year-old Murphy as part of his plans. That cued a move to Charlton Athletic that summer. After a season-and-a-half there, he joined Tottenham Hotspur in January 2006 – where he remained for a similar length of time. It was at Fulham where he truly found his mojo again, however.

After signing in August 2007, Murphy was a key player for his five seasons at Craven Cottage and played a major role in the club’s breathtaking run to the 2010 Europa League final in Hamburg, where they lost 2-1 to Atlético Madrid, who had themselves overcome Liverpool in the semi-finals. That was achieved under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson – who was a matter of weeks away from taking the Anfield hotseat.

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After leaving Fulham in the summer of 2012, Murphy spent a season in the Championship with Blackburn Rovers before he brought the curtain down on his career, announcing his retirement on October 10, 2013.

Since hanging up his boots, he has become a prominent figure within football media – primarily with the BBC and Talksport – as both a pundit and a co-commentator, to which he has taken to with ease showing key insight that his experiences at Anfield will have contributed to.

His role within some of Liverpool’s best achievements in the early 2000s was doubtlessly significant. It may not have always been the most obvious, but his technical ability and intelligence on the pitch proved a key factor in shaping some of the best moments of Houllier’s time at the helm.


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