The Reality of Cut Throat Football

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What a life, what a job.  Millions of kids worldwide dream about one day becoming a professional footballer.  There is an assumption that exists out there that once you have made it you have arrived at the holy grail.   That couldn't be further from the truth, the reality is every person is one tackle away or one life changing moment away from being forgotten about in this game.  Below is a picture of former Stevenege FC midfielder Darren Murphy.  Murphy was an integral part of the Stevenege side that won promotion to League 1 in the 2010-2011 season with a 1-0 victory over Torquay United in the play off final at Old Trafford.  

Darren Murphy Stevenege FC

Darren Murphy Stevenege FC

Recent comments from Murphy in the press caught the eye of Keepitonthedeck.com.   Speaking to the www.the42.ie Murphy admitted he was never the greatest football player growing up “I was never the best player. I didn’t make any of the Cork teams when I was growing up or anything like that. But I prided myself on giving it everything in terms of effort and I always wanted to be a professional footballer".  Murphy made his way into the professional game in England via Irish football.  Murphy spent four seasons at Roy Keane's former club Cobh Ramblers before securing a move to Cork City in 2007-2008.  A year later Murphy was on his way to sign for Stevenege FC in the English 4th tier.  

Darren Murphy in action for Cork City

Darren Murphy in action for Cork City

Injury became frequent for Murphy once he made the move to England.  In three and a half seasons at Stevenege Murphy managed only 45 appearances.  Murphy was very honest in his reflection on that time "If there’s a hell for footballers it’s in the stands on matchday when you’re unable to play and those around you are beginning to raise doubts.  Any footballer will tell you the same thing, right up to the top to the likes of Michael Owen, down to the fella in the Sunday League who can’t play his game on a Sunday morning. It is hell.  You hear things and you know people are saying to themselves, ‘Is it all in his head? Is he afraid to push himself on?’ I know for a fact that I always did everything possible to try and get back on that pitch. Actually, I probably put my body on the line a good few times when I shouldn’t have. That’s the kind of thing you could learn from. Should you really play a game if you’re in pain with an injury? But I just wanted to play. I love football".  

Murphy's honesty about the professional game almost paints a picture of people/footballers who are disregarded if they are not available to be used.  Use of the word used almost fitting to describe how Murphy himself puts it "The worst thing is that you’re forgotten. ‘You’re injured? Okay, you’re out. See ya.’ People never remember what you did for them by putting your body on the line. Or they don’t take into consideration the effect that it’s having on your life away from football. If you go into Sony tomorrow, you buy a new TV but the buttons aren’t working on it — you’re not going to ask them to fix it, you’re going to ask for a new one. That’s what football is like. ‘Get rid of him and we’ll get some other fella who’s equal to him.’ Take the top guys like Messi and Ronaldo out of the equation and everyone else can be replaced.”  Those words certainly make you think about the glamour picture painted of life as a profesional player.  

Despite the set backs there was some good memories for Murphy at Stevenege, most notably an appearance in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley in May 2009.  After Stevenage, Murphy tried to revive his career at Port Vale and Macclesfield Town. Graham Westley, who had left Stevenage for Preston in 2012, even offered him a second chance when he returned to manage Stevenage a year later. Murphy rejoined the club for pre-season training and went out on loan to Woking, but the setbacks continued as the old injury curse persisted.  

Murphy would return to play for Cork City in Ireland.  A year on one faithful friendly game against Birmingham City would signal the end of his career at just 28 years of age.  "I was just tussling for the ball with one of their players and it left me with with another dislocated shoulder.  I said to myself afterwards that I could probably nurse this injury back to health, maybe get surgery on it, but there was stuff outside of that involved as well.  It was all just piling and piling on me. I just went in and spoke to John [Caulfield] and said, ‘Look, I need to go. I’m sorry, but I need to call it a day. I can’t do it anymore. ’I was in a bad place, to be honest. It seemed like there were a lot of things raining down on top of me at that time.”  Murphy’s father passed away a week later following a long battle with cancer, setting foot on a pitch was the last thing on his mind. Cobh Ramblers offered him a chance to give it one last go for the 2015 season, and although he made a few journeys down to St Colman’s Park — out of curiosity to see if he was up to it, more than anything else — he quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to work out.  

After a year out of the game Murphy eventually ventured into coaching and is now back involved in the game through that side of things.  His story is a reminder of how quickly things can change in football, one injury, sickness or bad experience can turn everything on it's head instantly.  We hear of all the glamour stories but rarely the countless phycological battles players endure through their careers or the obstacles they overcome in order to reach the top.  Some say life as a professional footballer is easy, but this often comes from people who don't see what it takes to reach that level or more importantly maintain your place at it.