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Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy: the latest member of the late bloomer club

The Boot Room

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In the ten years since Daryl Murphy signed for Sunderland, he has 74 goals in English football. Of those 74, 40 have come in the last two years, and 27 in last season alone. Since he passed his 30th birthday, Daryl Murphy has become a prolific goalscorer with a rate approaching one in two.

Murphy recently signed a new contract amid interest from clubs including Middlesborough and Cardiff, and despite his advancing years, being the Championship’s reigning top scorer still makes the Irishman a hot commodity.

Murphy’s sudden emergence as a feared striker took even the Ipswich faithful by surprise, Mick McCarthy showing trust in him as the team’s figurehead and drawing a level of performance from him that his previous managers could only dream of. Paul Jewell had taken to deploying him as a left winger, and Roy Keane – while enough of a fan of Murphy to bring him to Ipswich having managed him at Sunderland – failed to get him firing.

Murphy’s CV speaks of a man looking for a home. A youth spell at Southend, pro terms at Luton, but no breakthrough. Three years back at home town Waterford United in the Irish Premier League game him the springboard he needed to return to England with Sunderland. Five solid years, but again no breakthrough. Three separate long term loans at Ipswich, in 2010, 2012 and 2013, followed before finally signing permanently from Celtic.

The confines of sleepy Suffolk appear to be the surroundings that suit Murphy and all the pieces fell into place last season.

The late bloomer isn’t such a rare flower in football. There are some notable examples of players who joined the professional ranks relatively late – Ian Wright prime among them, almost 22 years old and playing non-league football when he signed for Crystal Palace. But those like Murphy, who have had long if undistinguished careers before suddenly burning with the white hot heat of stardom are rarer.

Italian centre forward Luca Toni has kept scoring long into his 30s.

Consider two other possible examples, from very different backgrounds: Rickie Lambert and Luca Toni.

Lambert, very much Murphy’s contemporary at 33, has had three years in the Premier League – two with a modicum of success at Southampton, and one less so with Liverpool. Nevertheless, he is reaching the heights after the age of thirty, playing in the top division and being called into the national side. Where Lambert differes from Murphy is that he has always been a prolific goalscorer – League Two, League One, Championship, Premier League: he’s scored goals in every one, and absolute hatfuls outside the top tier. Lambert has been on an upward trajectory since at least the season he turned 25 whilst playing in League One with Bristol Rovers. No one place, or team, or league made Lambert a goalscorer, he found it within himself and those who saw him play at a lower level could see the progression he was on.

In Luca Toni, we perhaps have a closer comparison to Murphy, and a guide for how a career can progress. Toni was a journeyman player until he joined Palermo and suddenly a respectable 15 goal a season man was a 30 goal a season man. Where Toni has succeeded is in taking his form with him, to Fiorentina where he was top scorer in Serie A, then to Bayern, where he was top scorer in Bundesliga. Last season, at 38, he was top scorer in Serie A again, for Verona. What’s interesting is the period in between. Having fallen out of favour at Bayern, he found himself making occasional appearances for Bayern Munich II in the third tier of German football. Toni set out in search of whatever it was that made him great. Between leaving Bayern in 2009 and turning up at Verona in 2013, he played for five different clubs, four in Italy, before he stumbled on it again. With Verona the magic was the same as with Palermo – both were freshly promoted sides, and both were in need of that figurehead.

Signing a fresh contract at Ipswich was a sensible step for Murphy – he has found a combination that works for him. the temptation to return to the Premier League and try once again to prove yourself must be strong and difficult to resist, but the reality is that the environment must be right. Murphy has just found ‘it’. Lambert has had it for a while, but only recently has it worked in the top flight. Toni had it, took it with him, lost it, then found it again very late in the day.

Murphy might do well to stick where he is.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers

Goncalo Guedes and Andre Gomes would make Wolves top-six contenders

Wolves have been linked with a move for the Portuguese pair this week.

Mathew Nash

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Wolverhampton Wanderers fans are getting used to seeing their team linked with big names. But two of the players linked in the last seven days would truly take the club to a new level. The Portuguese pairing of Barcelona’s Andre Gomes and PSG’s Goncalo Guedes are both being linked with moves to Molineux.

Of course, the common denominator is their agent. Jorge Mendes represents both players and has previously facilitated their moves to Valencia.

Now both players are said to be available at their clubs, who are trying to balance Financial Fair Play.

According to The Sun, the Barcelona midfielder Gomes is available for around £30 million. Guedes, who was chosen to lead the line with Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup recently, is set to be sold by the French champions who need to balance their books in the eyes of UEFA.

(Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

According to Get French Football, PSG need to raise around £53 million by July from player sales. The club wants a fee of up to €60 million (£52 million) for the player but there appears an acceptance that €45 million (£39.3 million) might get the job done.

If Wolves have that sort of money available from the Fosun group then spending nearly £70 million on the Portuguese dup would be a magical piece of business.

Both are excellent commodities who would walk into many of the top clubs in European football. If Wolves were to actually bring them in, with talk of Rui Patricio also abounding, then they would be serious contenders for the Premier League top six next season.

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Leeds United

Should Uwe Rosler offer Pawel Cibicki a Leeds United escape route?

The Swedish forward has struggled to make an impact at Leeds United.

Mathew Nash

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Last summer Leeds United beat off plenty of competition to sign Swedish attacker Pawel Cibicki from Malmo. As reported by The Sun the forward cost Leeds a fee in the region of £1.5 million and it seemed a wise deal. Capable of playing anywhere across the front-line the Malmo star was known to current Leeds star Pontus Jansson and looked something of a coup.

That has not been the case.

(Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

The 24-year-old played just 10 times for Leeds this season and despite impressing some fans, even bagging two assists, he was not given a prolonged chance under either Thomas Christiansen or Paul Heckingbottom.

Therefore, his future seems to be away from Elland Road and perhaps a return to Malmo would be the best option for the player.

If he did so he would be joining up with someone else who knows all about the brittle nature of a Leeds career. Uwe Rosler was recently appointed the new boss at the Swedish powerhouse.

The German lasted just 12 games as Leeds manager before being given the ceremonial axe by ‘manager-eater’ and former chairman Massimo Cellino.

Now he is being tasked with taking Malmo to the next level and fans at the club would love to see Cibicki back at the Swedbank Stadium. It could prove to be a match made in Leeds reject heaven.

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Leeds United

Leeds United should target Marcelo Bielsa teacher’s pet Stephane Sparagna

Leeds United’s new boss was a big fan of Sparagna at Marseille.

Mathew Nash

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Leeds United have completed one of the more eye-catching managerial appointments in Championship history, with the appointment of Argentine legend Marcelo Bielsa before the weekend.

The former Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss is a cult hero in the sport for his revolutionary tactics and influence on some of the best young managers in the world today.

He also often sees things in certain players that others don’t. He can make a player thrive, who then falls away once he departs. Aurtenetxe at Athletic Bilbao a prime example. From playing in the Europa League final and being on the verge of the Spanish national team, to being released by Dundee.

Another player who fits this bill is French central defender Stephane Sparagna.

(Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Bielsa plucked him from the reserves back in 2014 just as his Marseille career appeared to be dwindling away. Bielsa quickly turned him into a squad regular and soon Arsenal were snooping. When Bielsa left, Sparagna fell out of favour – with injuries also a contributing factor.

But Bielsa’s influence cannot be understated. Sparagna said so himself, telling Europe1 Sports that the Argentine was the ‘only one who believed in him.’

Nowadays the 23-year-old is impressing in Portuguese football with Boavista but Leeds need a new central defender. They need players Bielsa can trust, especially if a three at the back formation is implemented at Elland Road.

The former French youth international underwent corrective knee surgery in May but is expected back for the new season.

Considering he would be an affordable, trustworthy former Bielsa product in a position that Leeds need reinforcements, Sparagna would be a welcome recruit.

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