That Crewe Alexandra lynchpin Luke Murphy was bestowed the honour of becoming Leeds United’s first six-figure signing in eight years in the summer of 2013 perhaps said more about the club’s finances than it did about the midfielder’s qualities.
Although hardly helped by monthly managerial changes and the regular alterations in terms of tactics and team selection, Murphy never quite lived up to expectations at Elland Road after raising the bar impossibly high with a dramatic, debut winner four minutes into added time against Brighton and Hove Albion.
After three seasons as a regular starter in a Leeds team that finished 15th, 15th and 13th respectively, Murphy found himself stranded in the same boat as Toumani Diagouraga and Ross Turnbull once Garry Monk arrived at the helm.
Excluded from the first-team picture for the entire first half of the season, the 27-year-old was forced out on loan to Burton Albion in January in search of regular first-team football.
And he will not have been disappointed. He has started 10 times already for Nigel Clough’s struggling side, his impressive performances laying the foundations for vital wins against QPR, Norwich and, most recently, Nottingham Forest.
If the Brewers, currently three points above the drop zone, survive their first Championship season, it will owe much to Murphy’s steadying influence in the centre of the park.
But perhaps this is merely an indication that he has found his level. Murphy may have been one of the first names on the team sheet in a Leeds side mired in mid-table mediocrity, but a side pushing for promotion demands far more from the men in the middle although Monk appears yet to fully settle on his favoured midfield combination.
Murphy’s exclusion can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the club has left the player behind, where he belongs, in the Championship’s bottom half.
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