Jonathan Wilson’s one of the best football writers around. He has a nifty turn of phrase but doesn’t restrict himself to describing the beauty of pass, instead searching deeper for meaning. This thoughtful piece for the Guardian’s website starts with the thought-provoking premise that television’s harming the game and includes some praise for Fulham’s very own Danny Murphy in this passage:
The danger is that players become focused on their showreels at the expense of the game itself, or that young players learn how to flick the ball over their heads rather than learning about the shape of the game (and shape isn’t just a concern of defenders: I went to interview Samuel Eto’o once and found him watching what appeared to be a Middle Eastern league game on television. I asked what it was, to which he replied that he didn’t know, but that he would watch any football to study the pattern).
The focus on tricks is a trend only likely to be accentuated by programmes such as Wayne Rooney’s Street Striker, and the danger is that football produces a generation of posturing show ponies incapable of producing the incisive pass or making the right run. All young players should remember the example of Sonny Pike, who joined Ajax in 1996 at the age of seven, heralded by numerous clips of him performing complicated keepie-up routines, but never kicked a ball in league football. It is tempting, too, to wonder whether a player such as, say, Danny Murphy has suffered the opposite effect, never quite enjoying the recognition he deserves because he is not flashy enough.
Murphy got the opposite of praise on Tuesday night after enduring a trying evening in the Potteries. Talk of dropping him is absurd, though. His game has never been about pace and he’s a far better defensive shield than you might appreciate. His range of passing is excellent, but he’s an intelligent football, confident enough to keep the ball moving because he trusts his ability to pick the moment to play the forward pass.
People have talked about Murphy being on the wane for years. The messageboards were full of suggestions that Sanchez had blundered in bringing him in on a free transfer – and then that his legs had gone. They’re still carrying him now and I suspect he’ll be an integral part of Hodgson’s plans for a while yet.