When Danny Murphy spoke up on television after the Vetra second leg saying we needed a few more additions, I was a little surprised. Would he have been doing it without Roy’s approval? I was pleased that he talked about the need to kept our best players in his round of post-Pompey interviews and it struck of a strong captain reminding journalists that Fulham gave Brede Hangeland his chance in Premier League football (both Newcastle and Everton – and maybe others – turned him down after a trial).
I wasn’t sure Murphy was the right choice as skipper at the start of last season once McBride departed. Like many people, I assumed the armband would go to Hangeland. But his experience and football brain are exactly what we’ve needed. In his latest interview with the official website, he’s full of common sense. Listen to what he says about the mental toughness of our squad:
We have a squad of lads who are mentally tough; I have been at certain clubs before where certain players wouldn’t play unless they were 100 per cent fit.
I’m safe in saying that our players have turned down the chance of nursing knocks or even more than knocks to play on a Saturday, they were desperate to play and desperate to be part of a successful team. I’m not saying there isn’t luck involved but a strong mentality and good work ethic also helps you get through problems.
I’ve thought about this before too. There’s no doubt that Simon Davies, our most consistent performer in the Great Escape season, had been carrying a serious foot injury for quite some time before he eventually had surgery towards the end of last season. I’d imagine that Clint Dempsey’s playing through the pain of a continuous year of football right now. It shows desire and determination – and deserves to be lauded. It also indications that our key players are hungry to be part of a successful side. They know that, should they miss a few games, someone might come in and impress (as Dempsey did earlier last season in fact), and they could find themselves sitting on the bench for a long time.
Without changing tack after that Vetra interview, Murphy also raises an interesting point about squad size.
You can have the best manager in the world but you can’t keep everyone happy. How do the young lads get their chance if you are forever building squads of 25-30 senior players? It’s good if you have a decent small squad of some quality and young lads chomping at the bit to get in as well.
The young lads chomping at the bit, as Murphy puts it, are the ones that really interest me this season. Over on TIFF, I had a discussion last night about some of our promising prospects from the Academy and we wondered whether the likes of Marsh-Brown, Moscatiello, Hoesen and Trotta would have a shot of breaking into the first team squad in the near future. You’d reckon that Chris Smalling, his talent already recognised by Stuart Pearce, would be in and around it already and Matthew Briggs appears to be devloping nicely. Factor in Robert Milsom, now recovered from that broken leg and ready to go, and Wayne Brown, back from an impressive loan spell in Finland, and you’ve got hungry youngsters fighting for some playing time.
Murphy’s absolutely right that those boys would face no chance if we had another 10-15 professionals on the books. That’s why we had to release so many youngsters in the Coleman and Sanchez eras because they our first-team squad was so vast they never really had a hope of breaking through. While it would be nice to sign a few more quality players, there’s nothing better than seeing a Fulham youth product run out with the first team. The skipper’s spot on.