The Daryl dilemma – will Murphy stay or will he go?

Ipswich Town striker Daryl Murphy. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ipswich Town striker Daryl Murphy. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town face something of a dilemma this summer when it comes to star striker Daryl Murphy. STUART WATSON takes a look at the various factors to be considered.

WAS LAST SEASON A ONE OFF?

Daryl Murphy has often been typecast as a target man that unselfishly holds the ball up, links up play and generally roughs up opposition defences.

There even was a time when Paul Jewell deployed him as a left midfielder so that the team could target him with diagonal balls.

So to say that last season caught everyone by surprise is an understatement.

The Irishman finished as the Championship’s leading scorer with 27 goals – there were rockets from outside the box, powerful headers, looping headers, deft near-post finishes, scrambled efforts, cool one-on-one conversions, some with his left foot, some with his right.

The big question now is whether something has suddenly clicked and the Indian summer can continue or whether he’ll return to be an important, if not prolific, front man.

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HIS AGE / CONTRACT

Murphy is now 32 years old, he’ll turn 33 in March next year.

His current Blues contract is set to expire this time next year, but the club will then have the option to extend it by a further year – on the same terms – meaning he is effectively tied to the Suffolk outfit until the summer of 2017.

By that time, Murphy will be 34 and very much in the twilight of his career. Half a yard of pace may have been lost, his body will take longer to recover from the bumps and bruises suffered as a result of his physical style of play and Town’s manager – whoever that may be at the time – will inevitably be looking for a younger model.

TOWN’S FINANCES / AMBITION

Ipswich owner Marcus Evans, having seen millions squandered by Roy Keane and Paul Jewell, decided it was time to drastically tighten the purse strings. Since the summer of 2012, every penny has been counted at Portman Road.

Blues boss Mick McCarthy has worked minor miracles turning a team that was facing the threat of relegation into one that finished sixth before putting in a gallant effort against big-spending rivals Norwich City in the play-off semi-finals. His first team squad cost just £110,000 in transfer fees last season.

With apathy having grown over a forgettable decade of mediocrity, Town supporters are finally falling back in love with their club again. You get the feeling that all that hard work could quickly become undone if no clear ambition to really kick-on is shown this summer.

McCarthy has issued a hands-off warning over his key players, while Evans has vowed to ‘strive to match market conditions’. We understand, however, that the transfer policy this summer will be very much the same – free transfers, Bosmans and a few loanees.

The only way that would change is if a player was sold. Every player has their price, as they say, which leads to the question – how much would Town want for Murphy? Two, three, four million pounds?

MURPHY’S PERSONAL DILEMMA

Around the turn of the year, rising young stars such as Teddy Bishop and Tyrone Mings were handed new, improved, longer-term contracts. The more senior Murphy was not – despite his red-hot goalscoring at the time.

The Irishman gave a candid interview to this newspaper leading into the play-off semi-finals against Norwich City in which he revealed the secrets to his success.

Following a hugely unsettled time at Celtic, he finally felt wanted again at Ipswich Town. Having played in the goldfish bowl cities of Sunderland and Glasgow, he – as well his wife and children, aged seven and 10 – was loving the quiet Suffolk life, something that he compared to his upbringing in the unassuming Waterford, Ireland.

Manager Mick McCarthy filled him with confidence by handing him the number nine shirt and the responsibility of leading the line. Assistant boss Terry Connor’s innovative shooting sessions took his finishing to a new level, many of the goals that he scored – from late near-post runs or using the defender as a shield – coming straight off the training pitch.

There are so many reasons to stay, but football careers are short and, at the age of 32, Murphy will be acutely aware that he needs to get the most out of his last big contract before the reality of retirement sets in.

A slightly improved two-year contract at another Championship club would be unlikely to tempt him. Three years just might. Middlesbrough are very keen, while Cardiff’s interest is cooling.

There are not only financial matters to consider, but also career ambitions too. The chance to play in the Premier League one more time would be a big lure and with the likes of Stoke, Leicester, West Brom and – dare we say it – Norwich all understood to be interested, such a move could be too good to turn down. Playing at the highest level will only maximise his chances of being a potential key man for the Republic of Ireland in next summer’s European Championships.

HOW WOULD THE FANS REACT?

That would all depend on how much money Ipswich got for Murphy and how they reinvested it.

Selling the division’s leading scorer would be a bitter blow, but it would probably be begrudgingly accepted if he went to a Premier League club for £3m+ and those funds were then used to strengthen other areas of the squad.

David McGoldrick will hopefully rediscover his talismanic form of 2013/14 following an injury-hit campaign, while January recruit Freddie Sears has proved a big hit. Replacing a 20+ goals a season striker on the cheap is nigh on impossible, but unearthing a hidden gem or two as back-up to the aforementioned duo would not.

That would allow the majority of the Murphy money to be spent on the glaring weakness in McCarthy’s squad – midfield goals and creativity. Town will not be able to take a step forwards if they continue with their policy of hard-working, but limited players in the wide roles.

McCarthy has searched and searched for a quick, tricky winger or two in the mould of Matt Jarvis and Michael Kightly – the exciting duo he had when winning the Championship title at Wolves – but the likes of Cameron Stewart, Alex Henshall, Jordan Graham and Jack Doherty haven’t worked out thus far.

One thing is for certain, if Town do sell Murphy and then fail to reinvest, the mood could quickly turn sour in the stands and even McCarthy, who has always said ‘he knew the gig’ when taking over, may begin to hint at his frustration.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL KNOCK-ON EFFECTS?

Would in-demand players such as Teddy Bishop and Tyrone Mings see it as a sign of a lack of ambition and, as a result, consider their own futures? Would transfer targets also interpret it the same way and look to other clubs as a result?

There are many factors for both club and player to consider over the coming weeks.

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