Friday, April 3, 2009

Liverpool close to his heart insists Murphy

With Rafa Benitez and his squad travelling to Craven Cottage on Saturday, spoke exclusively with Fulham captain and ex-Red Danny Murphy to gauge his thoughts on the clash.

The 32-year-old was a firm favourite on the Kop during his seven-year spell at Anfield, with his remarkable knack of finding the back of the net in big games endearing him to supporters.

Incredibly, Murphy holds the distinction of scoring three winning goals for the Reds against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the space of four seasons.

The midfielder was at it again just under a fortnight ago when his penalty set Fulham on their way to a 2-0 victory over United, a result that allowed Liverpool to close the gap at the top of the table to just one point.

Murphy may have left Anfield in 2004, but, as he reveals to, the Reds remain close to his heart, even though he'll have to put his affection to one side - for ninety minutes at least - when the two club's do battle at Craven Cottage tomorrow...

How do you feel about Saturday's game? Obviously if Fulham do well it may dent Liverpool's title hopes...

It's strange in a way because now is such an important period for Liverpool, but I think when you move on and play for a different team, you become part of that club and understand what it means to win each game.

There's no way any player can start to think too much about the repercussions of a good result for his own team.

It's catch-22 because of course I'd love to see Liverpool win the league, but I want Fulham to win the game because we've got aspirations of our own and want to finish as high up in the table as possible. If we have a good end to the season then who knows where it could take us?

Liverpool are in great form and on paper this is the sort of game the bigger teams are expected to win, but you never know. We've shown against all the top teams that have come here we can give them a game and we're confident after beating Manchester United.

I'm looking forward to the match and to playing against some of my old mates. I'm not thinking too much about 'what if', I'm just going to go out and do my best for my club.

How do you prepare mentally for such a game given your allegiances with Liverpool?

I've done it a few times now so it's not as though I left Liverpool five minutes ago. I've been gone a while now and played against them a few times since, so it's become easier.

Maybe in the first season after I left I built the games up in my head more than I should have done, but now it's just another game.

The Liverpool fans always give me a good reception and it's nice to see the boys, but I'm just preparing for the game as I would for any other.

As Fulham captain, who do you believe poses the biggest threat to your hopes of getting a result?

We know Liverpool have quality throughout the team, but, and I know this is a predictable answer, Stevie is the main threat in my opinion.

I don't think Liverpool are as potent when he doesn't play. Evidently, when Fulham played at Anfield and got a good result, he was missing with an injury.

Obviously Torres is a wonderful player, I think he's quality and I love him to bits, but I don't think he is as much of a threat on his own, whereas Stevie can win games by himself. He can change the tone and tempo of a match and dictate the play, while Torres perhaps relies a bit more on service from others.

I don't know if Stevie's carrying any knocks from the England game, let's hope he is!

You scored a goal in Fulham's win over Manchester United recently and helped to boost Liverpool's title hopes. Were you aware of the significance of the kick when you stepped up?

Kind of, but it was early in the game so it wasn't like a last minute penalty where you think to yourself 'this could be the winning goal'.

I knew beforehand how important the match was and that a win would take us to the 40 point mark and also dent United's title hopes.

When I take a penalty, I always try to do the same thing. I have a process of steps I go through mentally - concentrate on making a good connection with the ball, don't change my mind and try and put the ball where I envisage it going when we we're awarded the penalty - so I didn't really think about missing or the repercussions of it.

I just thought about putting us 1-0 up and seeing where it would take us.

After you had scored, did the thought of helping Liverpool provide any extra motivation for the remainder of the game?

Not really because I try to give my all in every game, like any other player.

As a former Liverpool player it always makes it that little bit sweeter to beat United because, let's be honest, they're Liverpool's main rivals. I know people talk about Everton, but United are Liverpool's main competitor in my opinion.

It's coincidental they're both fighting for the title, but I'd have been giving my all whether it was Liverpool or Chelsea challenging them.

Did you hear from any of the Liverpool players after the game?

Stevie and Carra text me afterwards to say 'well done'. I knew they'd be happy with the result because I think everybody had thought United would give us a hiding after they had beaten us so comfortably in the FA Cup.

People were thinking they just had to turn up to win so it was a nice surprise when we performed the way we did and beat them.

The Liverpool boys were buzzing, but I think they're aware there's a still a bit of a gap and United have an important game in hand.

It's going to be difficult because even if Liverpool do win all of their remaining games, United have still got to slip up.

What sort of relationship do you have with the likes of Gerrard and Carragher these days? Do you keep in touch often?

We keep in touch, although it's hard because we don't see each other very often. They're so busy with the Champions League and the England games and I'm living down south now, but I'll usually have a round of golf or two with Stevie in Portugal during the summer.

We often text or call each other and I was lucky enough to see them before Fulham's game with Bolton recently. They stayed in the same hotel as us when they played United, so it was good to catch up.

We spent a lot of time together when we were younger and I think it's important in football to keep in touch with your friends because not every player is fortunate enough to stay at the same club.

Obviously those two have done because they're wonderful players.

Is Liverpool's result one of the first you look out for after a game?

I always look at my old team's results - Liverpool, Tottenham, Charlton and Crewe. I think it's normal to check on how your mates are doing.

But with Liverpool, it's natural to keep an eye out for their scores. Everyone's got their team that they've been brought up with and they love, and because of that, I've always followed Liverpool.

What have you made of Liverpool's season?

They've made progress and have been brilliant in Europe again, but you expect that now because, under Rafa, they always seem to do well in the Champions League.

I think they've moved forward and they are as close as they have ever been in the title race.

How does this current Liverpool team compare the one you played in when we last challenged for the title in 2002?

It's difficult to compare the two teams because the game has changed a lot in that short space of time, but I think the current squad is a bit better for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the players that are still there have improved. Stevie's matured into one of the best players in the world. He was a great player back then, but he was still learning and he's probably the finished article now. The same with Carra. The main players have progressed and that makes the team better.

They've also added that little bit more quality and have strength in depth. The likes of Alonso, Mascherano and Torres are established players. The the European experience they've picked up has given them a little bit more nous and stands them in good stead.

Back then we were a really good side when everyone was fit, but we didn't have the strength Liverpool have got now. If there were any injuries or problems, we had players in our squad waiting to come in who were perhaps not quite so well known.

Finally, do you think Liverpool can go on and win the Premier League this season?

They can, but I think they'll need a bit of luck along the way, and I don't mean with their own performances. They need United to slip up because of the game in hand.

I know United have a few suspensions now, but they've got the strength in depth to be able to bring players in who won't make the team suffer.

They've lost their last two games, but I can't remember the last time they lost three in such space of time.

Part of me thinks it's written for Liverpool to do it, but United have got experience and know not to panic. It's going to be difficult.

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