well grounded

A SWARM of English sides are chasing him but you wouldn’t know it by looking at or chatting with young Jamie Murphy. To say he is unfazed by the speculation would be an understatement. Grounded and level-headed, there’s no “aw shucks” bashfulness, no petulant impatience or swagger, there’s simply a grasp on reality.

The list of suitors has been long and illustrious, with Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, Stoke, Bolton Wanderers, Wigan and Queens Park Rangers, all credited with an interest, their representatives stalking his matches. But Murphy just shrugs.

“I have not heard anything and I try to let other people deal with that. If there’s a story in the paper someone will tell me but there’s nothing I can do about it and until something concrete happens then I don’t even think about it. If there were bids coming in all the time then it might be unsettling but there haven’t been any bids so there’s nothing for me to think about.”

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A laudable approach and a mature one given that the 21-year-old has ambitions to push his career to the highest level and has spent the past year or so watching his peers at Scotland Under-21 level being snapped up by English clubs and being elevated into Craig Levein’s full international plans.

“Guys like Chris Maguire and David Goodwillie, Barry Bannan, Danny Wilson have all gone down and you can see how successful they have been so far. If the time comes and I have a decision to make then I might speak to a few of those people but at the moment I don’t really have a decision to make and I won’t have until someone makes a bid and the club accepts it.

“Some mornings I come in and the boys will say ‘you still here?’, but I haven’t personally heard anything and I’m sure that if the club get an offer then the gaffer will tell me.”

For the moment there is no despondency over the fact the tittle tattle and rumours have come to nothing and the frontman uses it as an added incentive.

“It’s nice to hear people saying nice things about me because I’m trying to do my best and if other people are saying ‘oh, he’s a good player’ then it must mean that I’m doing my job properly and I just need to keep doing that, playing well and trying to score as many goals as possible.”

Happy to travel the path to self improvement at Fir Park, where he says he has benefited from an earlier introduction to regular first-team football as well as the knowledge of several esteemed managers, there is no unseemly haste when it comes to Murphy’s quest to find an avenue into English football.

He looks at the likes of Charlie Adam, a player who didn’t move down south until he was 23 but has since been vaulted into the highest echelons of the English Premier League and knows there is no desperate rush.

“Eventually, I would like to go down. If I’m good enough and a club want to sign me then maybe I will,” he says, matter of factly. “But until that time I’m perfectly happy at Motherwell. I have been here a long time – it’s ten years since I joined – and I love playing for Motherwell. If someone makes a bid then it’s up to the club. If it’s good for the club and good for me then I will go but, until then, I’m not pushing for a move.”

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Matches such as this afternoon’s televised tussle with Rangers provide another opportunity to impress, though. Having been skelped in the last couple of head-to-heads with the Ibrox side, today sees Stuart McCall facing up to his former Rangers clubmate Ally McCoist for the first time. But Murphy says overcoming the odds and winning such fixtures only succeeds in increasing the cachet of those involved.

“It is really just a chance to show what we can do as a team. We are not happy to just sit mid-table in the SPL we want to be better and try to improve, but it’s good when the game is on the telly and you are playing the Old Firm because it gives you a chance to do that.”

A victory would keep them at the top of the league table and increase the validity of some claims which suggest they could be the team to usurp Hearts as the best of the rest. It wouldn’t be completely new to them. A succession of managers have come and gone, poached by those who saw them over-achieve for the budget and the backing given. Much of that was down to the club’s ability to keep supplying home-reared talent for the first team, or the ability to cash in on them once they moved on.

“Yeah, we have been lucky enough in the past few years that a lot of good players have come through here as well to help us. Guys like Stephen Hughes and Ross McCormack, and that team got to third place but, I think, as a team we can now be much stronger and if we can string a run of results together then we can be challenging up there again.”

The hosting of this afternoon’s match at Fir Park gives the players a massive lift, according to Murphy, who rubbishes the idea that anyone at Motherwell would consider a victory beyond them, despite losing all five of their meetings last season, the last two ending in 6-0 and 5-0 hammerings, the latter on home turf.

“It’s obviously a tough game when you play against the Old Firm so you want to try to do well and try to better yourself. Nothing against the rest of the SPL, because they can be tough games as well, but if you can do well against the Old Firm then you feel a bit more confident going into the rest of the games.

“If we go into games like Sundays thinking we are going to lose then we are going to lose but no-one feels that way. The boys in our dressing room always believe we can win.”

Self belief will be as crucial to his chances of success on a bigger platform as self improvement. He knows his strengths and has faith in them but he is not too arrogant to know that it is his ability to address his weaknesses which could see him advance more swiftly.

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“I know that fitness wise I still need to get better. I could be a bit fitter and a bit stronger but I feel I’m quite good on the ball. A lot of it now is physical. That’s not saying that if you’re not the biggest guy in the world you can’t be the best football player.”

There is the example of Lionel Messi but looking at his current height and build, Murphy has already found others to identify with. “Guys like [Yossi] Benayoun who plays for Chelsea, he is very skinny so you don’t need to be a big build to be a football player but obviously it can help and that’s why I’m trying to get stronger.”

Never one to swear an allegiance to any one English club, he still loves to watch the matches as an interested neutral. Benayoun may serve as a role model now but growing up it was the exploits of guys such as Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp which fuelled his striking ambitions, the ideal being a superhuman melding together of both’s greatest qualities.

Murphy’s not at that level but he doesn’t proclaim to be. In fact, given the hoopla and speculation that surrounds him, the Motherwell lad doesn’t talk himself up much at all.

He definitely has his dreams but he is happy to keep working away until they are realised.