FA CUP: Murphy now setting sights on an unexpected return into Europe

Sheffield United 's Jamie Murphy.
Sheffield United 's Jamie Murphy.
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WHEN Jamie Murphy signed for Sheffield United at the start of last year, he left behind a host of happy memories at Motherwell.

A Scottish Cup final appearance at Hampden Park was definitely something to savour, even though it ended in a resounding defeat to Celtic.

There was also the third-place finish in 2011-12 as Stuart McCall’s side continued the upwards movement that brought a runners-up berth last term.

And then there were the European nights, as Motherwell competed in the Champions League for the first time and did battle in the Europa League. A hat-trick in a qualifier against Albanian side Flamurtari was a major highlight for Murphy, who left Fir Park with the mantle of being Motherwell’s top scorer in European competition after usurping previous record holder Steve Kirk.

What Murphy could not have foreseen, however, when joining the Blades was that he might be in with a chance of playing in Europe for the Yorkshire side.

But that is a possibility that has opened up thanks to United’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals. If, for instance, Arsenal beat Wigan Athletic in tomorrow’s tie and then go on to finish in the top four of the Premier League, the winner of the all-Yorkshire semi-final will go straight into next season’s Europa League.

It is a tantalising prospect, as the 24-year-old readily admits when asked by The Yorkshire Post if he could have anticipated a possible return to Europe with United when he signed in January, 2013.

“Never in a million years,” comes the instant – and honest – reply. “It just wasn’t on the agenda. The aim was – and still is, to be fair – to get out of League One so anything else didn’t really feature.

“Of course, it is not a pipe-dream any more. But, equally, it is not at the forefront of our minds, either. Getting to the FA Cup final would mean a whole lot more and I think Hull City will start as favourites to win the semi.”

Murphy’s reluctance to look too far ahead is understandable. Equally, though, he is an affirmed fan of playing in Europe.

“I had some great times,” the midfielder said. “Playing in Europe is totally different to playing in your own league. It is a lot more tactical, with different countries and teams playing different ways.

“I have been lucky enough to play and score in the Europa League. And to play in the Champions League against Panathinaikos. Great memories.”

Murphy’s appearance in the Scottish Cup final came in 2011 and it remains a source of regret that Motherwell were beaten so comprehensively.

“What happened in the Scottish Cup final pushes me on,” said the Blades man, who netted the second goal in United’s second-round triumph at then Conference pace-setters Cambridge United.

“Getting there was great but I don’t want to feel that way again. It is why I have already told the lads, ‘try and make it a day to remember’.

“We will be underdogs again (on Sunday) but there’s always a chance. This is the Cup, after all. Just look how we have done already this season.

“A couple of months ago, you wouldn’t have believed we would be going to Wembley. But we are and that shows anything is possible.

“To be there is great. Especially as a third-tier team. But we believe we can now go one better and get past Hull.

“You only have to look at our run to the semi-final to see that we enjoy being the underdogs. You could make an argument that we have not been favourites in any of the games we’ve played in so far, right back to Cambridge when the television cameras turned up expecting an upset.

“But we got through and everything has gone from there.”