Fulham defender Brede Hangeland today hailed Danny Murphy as the inspiration behind Fulham’s shock FA Cup demolition of Tottenham and their climb out of the relegation zone.
Murphy celebrated signing a contract extension that will keep him at Craven Cottage until the summer of 2012 by netting two early first-half penalties in the 4-0 win that earned Fulham a fifth-round tie at home to either Bolton or Wigan.
Hangeland, who scored his side’s third goal yesterday, said: “Danny’s form in recent weeks has been one of the main reasons why we’ve done so well. He’s instrumental in the middle of the park. He looked really composed taking the two penalties and his overall game was fantastic.”
Fulham boss Mark Hughes added his praise to 33-year-old Murphy, saying: “Danny is a big influence, a good captain and a good leader. We’re pleased he’s staying.”
According to Hangeland, that influence extends away from the pitch. He added: “When Danny has something to say, it’s best to listen. He’s not one to shout too much but leads by example and when he does have something to say, it’s always sensible.”
Fulham have lost just one of their last six matches and Hangeland believes the side are finally coming to grips with the difference in style under Hughes, who succeeded Roy Hodgson just before the start of the season.
He said: “It took us a while to understand the way the new manager wants us to play but it seems to be coming together now. We’ve definitely looked stronger since Christmas. We used to be camped round our own box last year and the year before that. Now we try to engage higher up the pitch and take the game to our opponents.”
Hangeland insisted that bullish approach will be good enough to take Fulham through to the FA Cup quarter-finals, whether they play Bolton or Wigan next.
“We’ll fancy our chances against both of those,” he said.
But ahead of Wednesday’s home game against Newcastle, whose manager Alan Pardew was present at the Cottage yesterday, Hangeland stressed that Premier League survival must take priority over cup glory.
Fulham hover just four points above the relegation zone and Hangeland said: “The league is more important. We’re too close to the bottom and looking to get away from there as soon as possible.”