Jamie Murphy says Sheffield United are determined not to repeat last year’s terrible start to the season and sabotage the Blades’ promotion hopes once again.
United launch their new League One campaign today against Bristol City with many tipping Nigel Clough’s side to be promotion favourites.
It was a similar scenario last season, under former manager David Weir, but a start which wielded just one win in 14 games wrecked any hopes of escaping League One via promotion.
In fact, until Clough took over, it seemed relegation was more the likely route out of League One.
In footballing circles, it is an old adage that you can not win the title before Christmas but you can lose it, and that is the scenario which gripped United last year.
Winger Murphy, now an established member of the Blades team following his switch from Motherwell 18 months ago, says United are desperate not to fall into the same trap this season.
He believes the Blades, with nine new summer signings arriving at Bramall Lane to bolster a squad which produced promotion form over the second half of last season, can emulate Wolverhampton Wanderers and achieve promotion back to the Championship.
“We need to be on it, every single game,” said the 24-year-old. “There’s going to be games where we need a bit of luck but as long as we put in the performances we know we are capable of, we should be okay.
“Wolves last year, even when they lost it wasn’t a bad performance, just a goal here or there. They were definitely the best team in the division last season and deserved to go up.
“We can only hope this season is the season we can do that.
“You cannot win 46 games over the course of the season, there’s going to be games where bad things happen and it’s how you respond to that.
“It’s all about that start, last year we had a poor start so, hopefully, we can have a good one this season.
“That bad start last year cost us, we would probably have made the play-offs if we had had a better start.
“Since the manager arrived, we have become a very close-knit squad and you can tell that by the performances at the tail-end of last season.”
Former Under-21 international Murphy netted seven times in 42 games for the Blades last season, including a goal in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Hull City, so what are Clough’s instructions to the winger this term?
“Just run,” smiled Murohy, in an interview with The Yorkshire Post at the Blades’ Shirecliffe training ground. “Just to keep things nice and simple, and we will get success from it.
“Pre-season has gone well, obviously last Saturday (a 2-0 loss at York City) was disappointing, but it was maybe the wake-up call we needed because we know this season is going to be tough.
“Pre-season has been very hard work. The first couple of weeks were just non-stop running, but now everyone is fit and ready.
“Training this week has been great and we are ready for Saturday. It’s been a long time over the summer since the end of last season.”
One of the nine summer signings, is Michael Higdon, a player Murphy knows well from their days together at Motherwell.
The pair started out as a strike partnership before Murphy was pushed out wide and the Glasgow-born winger is looking forward to teaming up with Higdon once more.
“Michael and I had a good partnership, we started off together as the two strikers – playing two up front – before I moved to the left,” said Murphy.
“We both got goals when we played together, so let’s hope that continues.
“I am always looking to improve, to score more goals from the the previous year, so hopefully I can do that. He’s a goal scorer. If he gets a chance he will at least hit the target, make the goalkeeper work.
“When there’s a cross goes in the box, you know he is going to be on the end of it, there or thereabouts.
“It’s good to have that within your squad, whether starting or coming off the bench. He’s a big guy, a big loud Scouser, and a good character to have in the changing room. Michael has fitted in very quickly.
“Having strikers like Michael, Jose (Baxter), Marc (McNulty), you can put a terrible cross in and they finish it off, it makes you look good and them even better.”
United kick-off their season with a 12.15pm start against Steve Cotterill’s Bristol City, an encounter between two sides tipped to be pushing for promotion come May.
“It’s a tough one, I expect Bristol City to be one of the top teams this year,” admitted Murphy. “We will hopefully be a top team as well and if we are going to be that, we need to put on performances against the bigger teams.
“Everyone’s expectant – we expect it of ourselves, I am sure the fans expect it – and it’s up to us to go and do it on the pitch.
“I am expecting Bristol City to be pushing this season as they are a big club. I think they will be disappointed with their start to last season but they lifted things at the end. They showed they will be a good team and a tough test for us.”