Norwich City Report Card: You might not know what you've got until it's gone
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At times maligned, at others a match-winner. Josh Murphy split from his twin and proved he could step out on his own - with the there is still more to come. MICHAEL BAILEY gives the winger our end-of-season report card treatment.
It didn’t take long for the question to come up – and I remember it vividly. The Villa Park mixed zone, after Josh Murphy showed exactly what he could contribute for the rest of the forthcoming season.
Of course, it also came in a 4-2 defeat at Aston Villa that could’ve been worse – but such was life for Norwich City in the early stages of last term, that small mercies were fully welcomed.
The question? How was life shaping up with his twin Jacob away? Now a Newcastle United player. A Premier League player. A £10m player. This wasn’t the pair sent away to separate clubs for a year – this was big. Final.
Josh is an articulate young man. He knew what to say about getting to step out on his own and prove what he’s got, as the remaining Murphy at a club that nurtured both talents for so long.
Don’t forget, he is the twin that broke first. That hit the heights quicker. That even now is rated by some, as a better footballer than his brother.
Yet he told the truth too. He missed having Jacob around – a video call is never the same – and his support network had significantly changed.
In such circumstances, Murphy’s 2017-18 slots into the bigger picture with ease.
Even Jacob’s stellar campaign the season before was propped up by his 10 goals – nine of them coming in the Championship. There were plenty of ragged performances also in the mix.
Josh’s efforts did likewise – although perhaps with more emphatic results.
The bare statistics are a tally of 11 goals – four coming in his much-favoured League Cup – supplemented by an assist total behind only James Maddison, albeit standing at just three.
But it’s anecdotal evidence of a season’s work sitting alongside that says more. The games Murphy drifted in and out, frustrated and fretted – accompanied by the numerous times he was City’s most dangerous player and ultimately match-winner.
Murphy’s goals at Villa Park and Arsenal in the Carabao Cup were what this correspondent was desperate to see. A central run and superb finish, to emphasise the goal threat City’s 23-year-old FA Youth Cup winner could offer going forward.
Sadly what followed was weeks of Murphy being unable to get hold of his role in a front two. Only when he switched back to more familiar wide channels, did his spark return.
Sometimes those who are around longest get taken for granted the most. Murphy’s progress in many ways has continued. He is a serious Championship weapon on his day, and those are not as infrequent as some detractors believe.
On the flip side plenty will hope next season is primed for the return of an improved Murphy, fighting fit next season.
Yet in these straightened times when the Canaries need to find multimillion-pound fees from clubs with the money to spare, they might not get the chance.
That in turn would say everything about Josh Murphy’s value – both with Norwich City fans, and those out of the bubble.
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