By Jason Batham
With only 3 weeks to go until the 2014/15 campaign gets underway with a tricky trip to London to face Milwall, excitement and optimism is building once again as Leeds United begin a new era under Massimo Cellino.
This time last year, we had already captured the signature of Luke Murphy from Crewe Alexandra, pipping Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers to the highly rated 23 year old midfielder. Luke came through Crewe’s academy system and was their club captain before joining Leeds last July. Luke became the club’s first seven figure sum signing since Richard Cresswell joined the whites in 2005. With the £1 million price tag weighing heavily on his shoulders, all eyes were on Luke as the 2013/14 season kicked off at Elland Road and he didn’t disappoint the expectant fans as he netted an injury time winner to give Brian McDermott’s men all 3 points against Brighton and the Leeds faithful were expecting more of the same from the talented youngster. Unfortunately, he didn’t score again for over 8 months, yes 8 months, when he netted a brace at home to struggling Blackpool which proved to be the club’s first win under Cellino. It was revealed after the game that Cellino himself had asked Murphy to play in a more advanced role to try and get the best out of him and he ended up scoring in each half with 2 fantastic finishes. Coincidence? I think not.
Having travelled all over the country following the lads last season, disappointingly I only saw glimpses of the player who scored 9 goals, created 12 assists and was named in the PFA league 1 team of the year the previous season. His work rate was second to none every game but he didn’t fulfil his potential or improve as the disappointing season wore on. He is brilliant at breaking the play up, getting stuck in and playing the simple pass but I found it frustrating as we didn’t see much of the attacking side to his game, running with the ball, taking men on and scoring on a regular basis like he did during his time with Crewe including the 2011/12 season as they won promotion from league 2 via the play offs. You have to wonder what this was down to. Was it the lack of quality playing alongside him? The constant switching of formations? The pressure and expectancy? The step up from league 1 to the championship? The off field mayhem? Not getting paid on time?
The truth is that all of the above have contributed to a dreadful season for us which ultimately meant that we didn’t see the best of Luke Murphy. With Cellino’s decision to hire a coach, Dave Hockaday, the players rolling in with a transfer budget of £15 million including wages, Luke having adapted to the championship and all the off field problems and debt finally cleared, things are looking stable once again and I believe that he will fulfil his potential and remind us why we were so desperate to sign him last summer. With the correct coaching and tactics, we should see a much better player and have a positive season, I’m sure I said the same last year though! A consistent and confident Luke Murphy can only be a good thing for Leeds United.