THE imminent transfer of Jamie Murphy from a club near the summit of the SPL to one in the third tier of English football may seem like a depressing indicator of the current standing of Scottish football.
But Motherwell manager Stuart McCall insists Murphy’s proposed switch from Fir Park to Sheffield United can quickly help the 23-year-old become a full Scotland international playing in the top flight of English football.
McCall finished his own playing career with Sheffield United, before becoming assistant manager to Neil Warnock at the Bramall Lane club and helping them earn promotion tothe Premier League in 2006.
Although the Yorkshire team have suffered a slump in fortunes since then, McCall believes Murphy can only advance his career with them.
“Sheffield United are a massive club and they are a Premier League club in the making,” said McCall. “They have that status. I told Jamie that they have a great fan base and a fantastic set-up.
“They have a great manager in Danny Wilson who once tried to sign me for Sheffield Wednesday when I was leaving Rangers back in 1998, so he knows a player!
“But seriously, although they are a League One team at the moment, they are a great club and one where Jamie would find his feet and go straight into the first team.
“It’s a great club for him to go to and I’m hopeful they will be a Championship club next season and one which is progressing every year.
“It’s probably the right time for Jamie to move to pastures new, kick on and blossom into the Scotland player he can definitely become. I would love to have kept him at the club until the summer and it’s disappointing for us.”
Motherwell will receive just £250,000 for Murphy – £100,000 of it up front – as the player’s contract is due to expire in the summer when he would be able to leave for nothing.
McCall believes the Fir Park club missed out on a far bigger fee for Murphy in previous transfer windows when he either suffered a dip in form or failed to impress clubs watching him on the big occasion.
“It is a shame because he is in such a rich vein of goalscoring form right now and if he kept that up, he would have a lot of other offers and people sniffing around him.
“Jamie has been unfortunate in the past when scouts have come to see him and he has disappointed a wee bit. It happened in the Scottish Cup final against Celtic a couple of seasons ago, but he is a great talent and he is generally very consistent.”
McCall hopes Murphy will be the only player to leave Motherwell during the January window and is confident his sale will also allow the club to resist Polish club Lech Poznan’s interest in Estonian international forward Henrik Ojamaa.
“If Jamie goes, which looks like happening, I’d be confident of keeping the rest of the squad together,” said McCall.
“It should help us keep Henrik. Nothing against Lech Poznan, but if Henrik keeps performing between now and the end of the season, the sky’s the limit for him.
“We’ve got to be looking for more than the e200,000 on offer from Lech Poznan. Henrik should stay, continue what he’s doing and if he adds goals to his performances, he will be worth a lot more.
“That said, we’ve got a long month ahead of us and if someone comes in with a really big offer for someone we might need to look at it. It’s the same with any club.”
McCall is promising a positive approach from Motherwell tomorrow when they travel to Celtic Park for their final fixture before the SPL winter break. Victory for McCall’s men would cut the gap between the teams at the top of the table to three points.
“We’re playing as well going forward just now as we have ever done,” he added. “We’re looking a threat but it’s the same old adage when you go to Parkhead, you’ve got to be at your best.
“If we can take our current form there and defend well we’ve got a chance. We’ve got to go and try to give them a game but they are a quality outfit. I thought they were outstanding when they beat us at Fir Park earlier in the season. We’ve got to guard against that but we’ll go and have a go.”