Jamie Murphy is enjoying being a marked man again. He knows he will receive stick this weekend when he returns to Motherwell with Rangers. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
The alternative is obscurity. It’s what he was enduring in England. Out of sight and out of mind. Murphy managed the impressive feat of disappearing in the most-hyped league in the world.
After only four Premier League appearances this season for Brighton & Hove Albion, the last of which was in September, Murphy is back in the public eye for boyhood club Rangers and, as of last Friday, Scotland. The winger earned his first cap as a late substitute in the 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica and could feature again tonight in Budapest against Hungary.
He is enjoying his new status and the fact he is being stopped in the street again. It is how it should be after being in danger of becoming a forgotten man in cosmopolitan Brighton, where football must jostle for attention. Murphy is savouring being back among football obsessives in Glasgow.
He is happy to pay the sacrifice – if that is what it is – of being stopped in the street again at regular intervals and pestered for selfies. “As long as they are nice about it, it’s not a problem,” he said. “It comes with it.
“To be honest, down south, sometimes you can walk down the middle of the street and its fine,” he added. “Nobody really cares. Nobody knows who you are. It’s certainly not the case up here. There is much more passion about football and that’s the way I grew up. That’s the way it should be.
“When you play for Rangers, you know what comes with it. I was a fan for long enough. It used to be me looking at players that were walking down the street. You know what comes with it. I’m just delighted to be back up and playing football.”
He feels vindicated. Just a few weeks after leaving England for Rangers – a temporary arrangement as it stands, although the Ibrox club claim they will pay a “guaranteed fixed fee” for the player in the summer – Murphy has earned a first Scotland cap at the relatively late age of 28. The wish to enhance his international prospects was a major factor why he jumped at the chance to return north, along with the fact he was joining the team he supported in boyhood.
“It was a big reason for moving,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been capable of playing for the national team for a couple of years. I’ve just never had the opportunity to play every week at club level in the last year or so.
“It’s great to come up to Rangers, play every week in a successful side and show what I can do.
“It was disappointing in the last eight months or so not to even play or make some squads. Three months ago, I was playing in an under-23 game at Brighton’s training ground on a Friday night, so I’m just delighted to be here.
“It’s hard not playing football. It’s something I’ve always done since I played first-team football at 17 or 18 years of age. It’s disappointing, especially when you know there is nothing you can do it about.”
Having fallen out of favour with Chris Hughton, the only solution was to leave Brighton. But this was hardly a sorrow when his destination became clear – Rangers. He finished on the winning side in his first nine appearances. A run of three goals in three games further endeared him to the Ibrox support.
But successive defeats, by Celtic and Kilmarnock, mean he is experiencing the pressure that comes with playing for a club where the fans expect to win almost every game.
“The last two games have been disappointing,” he said. “Going into the Celtic game, we thought we had a chance. To play well without winning the game was disappointing. It’s up to us.
“We need to pick ourselves up. The semi-final [against Celtic] is coming up and we need to push up the table as high as we can.”
A win over Motherwell this weekend will help their chances of finishing second – at least. Murphy is relishing the opportunity to return to Fir Park, where he started his career and made more than 200 appearances.
It was the first fixtures he looked for after details of his move to Rangers were confirmed. But he understands that may count for nothing while wearing the colours of his current club. “A lot of the boys I played with are now coaches and youth coaches and assistant managers [at Motherwell],” he said.
“That was probably one of the games that was earmarked when I signed: ‘when are we first playing Motherwell?’ I am looking for forward to it. I’m sure I will get a little bit of stick but that comes with it.”
As for his international debut, he is delighted to have got there in the end. Playing in Scotland did not do him much good when he was with Motherwell and ignored by a succession of Scotland managers. He feels it’s not too late to establish himself in the international side.
“I am 28, but I am just as fit as I have ever been,” he said. “I’ve been quite lucky with injuries so hopefully I can go on for as long as possible.”