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The genius of Johnny Haynes

If you’re a Fulham fan, you’ll never tire of reading about the Maestro. Dominic Bliss has penned some terrific reflections on Johnny Haynes over at The Inside Left, which features some lovely recollections from his good friend and team-mate Tosh Chamberlain as well as the thoughts of a man who had the difficult job of marking Haynes, Tommy Docherty. It’s well worth a look.

Horsfield recovering from blood clot on his lungs

The Birmingham Mail carries a moving interview with former Fulham striker Geoff Horsfield, who is recovering after blood clots on his lungs left him close to death for a second time.

Horsfield, who has already fought a successful battle against cancer, was rushed for emergency hospital treatment last month after experiencing excruciating pain. Doctors discovered potentially life-threatening blood clots on both of his lungs – which they believe could have been caused by Horsfield’s habit of exercising on a treadmill. Horsfield, a father of four, admitted he had never felt any like the terrible pain that woke him up early in the morning last month:

I am very, very lucky. This came from nowhere. I’ve never known pain like it, and after what happened with the cancer I know I’ve had an escape again.

It was about 4am and I was crying my eyes out, I couldn’t breathe.  From my shoulder blades down to my backside, it was if there was someone stabbing me in the back. I told my missus, Tina, that I’d just take a couple of tablets and hopefully it would go away. But she could see I was in a state.

She called an ambulance and I was taken to Burton Hospital. They injected my leg with morphine on the way there and it was thought I may have cracked a rib and punctured my lung. I said “but how have I done that?”, though, and had a scan. When the results came back they told me they had good news and bad news: the good news was that I hadn’t broken any ribs, the bad news was that I had blood clots on my lungs.

I had several on my left hand side, several on the right, including a very big clot. I couldn’t believe it. And I wasn’t aware of how serious it might have been until the nurses told me that had circumstances been different, had the clots not gone to my lungs but straight to my heart, it would have been game over.
In the last two weeks I’ve had morphine, tramadol, codeine and paracetamol. I’ve lost one-and-a-half stone in weight and can’t do anything. I’m out of breath even if I go upstairs. The tablets have turned me into a zombie and I’ve not been able to sleep. But I am just so thankful that I was rushed in to hospital when I was and the treatment I received was first class, I can’t thank the consultants and nurses enough.
I know my own body, I know when I’ve had a pull when I’ve played football. I felt something but it didn’t hurt and I carried on. That’s when it started. Five to seven days later, I was taken to hospital. I’ve been told something like this is hereditary. When Tina [his wife] rang my mum to tell her what had happened she collapsed on the kitchen floor as my nan died 12 months to the day from a blood clot to the lung. So, so scary – I am just thankful I’m still here.
Horsfield, a firm crowd favourite at every club he played for due to his energy and work rate, signed for Fulham after then manager Kevin Keegan was impressed the former brick-layer’s start to professional football, scoring seven goals in his first ten Third Division appearances for Halifax, whom he had helped fire to the Football League. Horsfield, who joined Fulham for £300,000 in October 1998, had an immediate impact at Craven Cottage. He scored fifteen goals in 28 games as the Whites romped to the Second Divison title – and when Keegan took on the national team job, chants of ‘Horsfield for England’ could be heard from the terraces.
Having made the PFA’s Second Division Team of the Year, Horsfield’s physicality aided Fulham’s start to the First Division season under new manager Paul Bracewell. He scored twice at St. Andrew’s on the opening day of the season and was sent off for violent conduct and, although he was less prolific in front of goal at a higher level, Horsfield still finished the 1999-2000 season as Fulham’s top scorer with fourteen goals. Seven of those goals came in the League Cup – including a sublime strike in the third round win over Tottenham – as Fulham reached the quarter finals before losing on penalties at Leicester City.
Bracewell’s replacement Jean Tigana felt Horsfield was too one-dimensional to fit his more continental style and replaced the burly forward with Louis Saha. Horsfield joined Birmingham for a club record £2.25m, becoming the Blues’ top scorer in his first season at the club and he scored twice in the League Cup semi-final to fire Birmingham to a showpiece final against his boyhood club, Liverpool, which they lost after a penalty shoot-out. The following year, Horsfield was voted Birmingham’s player of the year after helping the club return to the top flight via the play-offs, scoring the equaliser against Norwich in the final.
Horsfield scored his first league goal in a famous derby win against local rivals Aston Villa and, in the return fixture, he ended up replacing the injured Nico Vaesen in goal after Blues’ had used all of their substitutes. Despite being used largely as a substitute by Steve Bruce, Horsfield’s partnership with French World Cup winner Christophe Dugary helped keep Birmingham up as the club managed four wins and a draw in the final five games.
After a brief spell at Wigan, Horsfield joined West Brom for £1m in December 2003. He enjoyed an excellent January, winning the First Division’s player of the month award, and his seven league goals were crucial in propelling Albion back to the top flight. Horsfield struggled to make much of an impact on his return to the Premier League, but he played a starring role in West Brom’s great escape on the final day of the season. He scored with his first touch as a substitute against Portsmouth and then made the winner for Kieran Richardson and described the day ‘as the best achievement of my career’. Horsfield also featured for Sheffield United, Leeds and Lincoln before becoming player-coach at Port Vale.
We wish Geoff all the very best in recovering from his illness.

Murphy: I left Fulham to ‘perform regularly’

It 'felt like Danny Murphy had signed for Real Madrid today, according to one journalist

Danny Murphy explained this afternoon that his decision to join Blackburn Rovers was motivated by a desire to keep ‘performing and playing regularly’ after Fulham had intimated that they could not offer their captain a guarantee of first-team football at Craven Cottage.

The 35 year-old decided to join relegated Rovers after turning down Fulham’s offer of a one-year contract, preferring to be a big part of Blackburn’s push to return to the top flight at the first attempt under Steve Kean. Murphy managed 49 appearances for the Whites last season, but had been left out of the side by Martin Jol – and the Dutch coach made it clear that he would not be an automatic pick come August.

The conversation I’d had with Fulham was they wanted me to stay but they were maybe looking at bringing someone in to play instead of me rather than competing with me. I didn’t want to go down the road of finishing my career sitting, playing the odd game here and there. I’d rather be part of a new challenge and a project and that’s what this gave me.

I had a chat with Ray Lewington a couple of days before I signed and he made a very valid point to me – you’re a long time finished so don’t worry too much about the coaching aspect yet. He’s seen me play for a long time and I believe I’ve got the quality to keep playing. I think my level of performance and the amount of games that I’ve played has been a match for anyone.

Murphy admitted that he did have reservations about dropping out of the top flight initially having shined at Liverpool and being a key part of Fulham’s remarkable resurgence.

Initially I was a little bit reluctant in that respect, but the more I thought about it, the more influence I thought I could have at this level. I don’t think I have anything to prove in my career. I think my ego was initially what I worried about, but playing in the Championship is another challenge for me and one I’m really looking forward to

Murphy will always have a special place in Fulham folklore for his performances that helped fire the Great Escape, with that unexpected header at Portsmouth securing survival. Then, there was his four-year spell as captain that saw him lead the club to their highest ever league finish and a European final. His leadership, passion and those magic moments will live long in the memory.

Danny Murphy: Goodbye and good luck

Unexpected goodbyes are the hardest ones. When you have to say farewell fairly swiftly, it can be difficult to find the words that truly express how much you’ll miss the departing individual. The news this morning that Danny Murphy was heading north to complete a medical at Blackburn Rovers ahead of an prospective free transfer didn’t surprise me – as there had been some doubt as to whether Fulham’s captain would remain at the club beyond his current contract for much of last season – but the finality of it left this correspondent feeling a little numb.

For all that you try and take the emotion of football, we have an emotional attachment to the teams to we follow. We all have our favourite players, who unfortunately in this era of big money contracts might not be as committed to their clubs as their predecessors were when there was a maximum wage. More than anybody over the past five years, Murphy epitomised Fulham’s rapid revitalisation. When he was signed at almost the midnight hour of the August transfer window during Laurie Sanchez’s desperate attempt to overhaul a stale squad, people questioned what Fulham might want with a 30 year-old whose best times seemed behind him.

Those nagging doubts persisted for much of a season that seemed destined to spell the end of Fulham’s brief return to the top flight, especially during the first four months of Murphy’s time at Craven Cottage when Sanchez’s direct football bypassed the talents of both his new signing and those of another summer acquisition, Steven Davis, in central midfield. Plenty of Fulham fans suggested that those eye-catching displays for Liverpool and England were a thing of the past – Murphy’s ‘legs were gone’ and that was a luxury a side waging a war against the drop couldn’t afford. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Celebrating the equaliser at Eastlands

It might have taken a change of manager – and philosophy – for Murphy’s quality to shine but you can’t begin to discuss the extraordinary turn of events that carried Fulham from checking out the Championship ground guide to stunning salvation without highlighting his contribution. For a start, Murphy’s experience and calmness must have counted just as much behind the scenes as it did on the pitch. Then there were the displays that typified a man who’s always refused to concede defeat. He ran the midfield during Fulham’s first away win in thirty three games at Reading – an almost improbable result that had us daring to dream – and that pulled the strings during that staggering second half turnaround at Manchester City. Murphy might have missed possibly the most high-pressure penalty of his career, but had the presence of mind to follow-up and place the rebound beyond Joe Hart with the minimum of a fuss. A point was a terrific result, but a simply magnificent pass freed Diomansy Kamara in injury-time, and the Great Escape was on.

Of course, Murphy’s central role in the drama was still to come. We all remember that glancing header that secured safety on a glorious afternoon at Portsmouth. But what made that afternoon all the more poignant was that the man who wasn’t supposed to be in the opposition penalty area at an attacking set piece – and was just about to substituted – very nearly didn’t make it to Fratton Park at all. Murphy’s young daughter had been rushed to hospital with dehydration the day before the game and, being the devoted family man that he is, Murphy waited with his wife and little girl rather than making the journey to the south coast with his team-mates. Fortunately, his daughter was well enough to recover the following day but, not being a father myself, I can only imagine the emotions that must have preceded what was an already tense weekend.

The Fratton Park header that sealed the Great Escape

Once Brian McBride had decided to return with his family to America, Roy Hodgson installed Murphy as the likeable forward’s replacement as captain. It proved a masterstroke. During his time at Fulham, Murphy has been a shining ambassador for the football club in the community and with the supporters – and when he hasn’t been available, his wife has been more than willing to converse with the fans on Twitter. More than that, the captain has been a mentor to younger players and a quiet, but unmistakable, leader on the field. His partnership with Dickson Etuhu, much criticised when Hodgson grew tired of Jimmy Bullard’s antics, blossomed into one of stability and reassurance, providing the platform for Fulham’s highest-ever finish in the top flight.

That meant Europe – and we all know what happened next. Murphy made 41 appearances during a marathon season, that began in Lithuania in July when he tucked away a penalty with his customary efficiency and ended with such cruel heartbreak in Hamburg. Murphy missed a fair chunk of the campaign through injury – as well as the momentous win over Juventus through suspension – but made up for it with that majestic pass to free Simon Davies for the vital equaliser in the second leg of the semi-final against Hamburg.

Danny loves scoring against United

I simply can’t list all of the magic moments during his five years at the Cottage – he’s become such an indelible part of the football club that he seems far longer – because this article would ramble on for too longer. But we’ll remember with great affection the way he artfully gave Thomas Kusczak the eyes and sparked a splendid win over Manchester United with an effortless strike from long range a matter of days after the Whites reached the Europa League knockout round in Basle. His two spot-kicks in the FA Cup demolition of Spurs were Murphy’s only goals of the following campaign but there were oh, so satisfying. His deflected strike that pegged back a seemingly unassailable Manchester City last September will live long in the memory too.

There’s a sadness in that you felt Murphy had more to offer. He’s an intelligent thinker about the game, destined to become a coach and probably a manager in time, too. But without the captain there in central midfield, Fulham look a far poorer side. Martin Jol’s got a clear brief to reduce the average age of the side and Murphy wants to be a regular starter at this stage in his career. You can’t quibble with either position but does seem strange that a player of Murphy’s quality should need to drop down a level to secure the status he wants.

Celebrating the equaliser against Man City

Football can’t be reduced to mere statistics but Murphy’s Fulham record deserves a mention. Since August 2007, he has made 220 appearances for the club and scored 29 goals. It doesn’t sound like much, but they’ll be very few players who are as consistent as Murphy at the highest level and amass such a record over a relatively short space of time. The speculation has already started about who might fill his shoes. It should cease. Danny Murphy’s irreplaceable: both on and off the field. All that remains is thank him for a multitude of memories and move on – as sad it as it will be.