Michael Bailey: Don’t be bitter about Josh and Jacob Murphy – as far as this Norwich City season goes, they have been as good as it gets
PUBLISHED: 17:29 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:15 03 March 2017
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There aren’t many Norwich City surprises as you trawl down the list of this season’s top Championship performers.
Top of City’s whoscored.com pile is Timm Klose, ranked 36th in the division – three places behind Bradley Johnson – before you come to Wes Hoolahan (47th), Robbie Brady (48th but now at Burnley), Cameron Jerome (52nd), Yanic Wildschut (73rd for his Wigan exploits), Jonny Howson (85th) and Ivo Pinto (87th).
There is one more Norwich player in the top 100: Jacob Murphy (98th).
Only Cameron Jerome (11) has scored more goals than the eight credited to City’s 22-year-old winger. Only Wes Hoolahan (8) has more assists than Jacob’s five.
Twin Josh? He has two goals and four assists – from less than a fifth of the minutes his brother has had on the pitch.
Of course, Josh spent last season in the second tier with MK Dons where he was named player of the season. Jacob’s only Championship experience before this season came with nine appearances on loan at a desperately poor Blackpool two seasons ago.
And yet, one look at the wonderfully balanced world of social media and you will find far more criticism than appreciation.
Maybe it’s an attitude that often feels ingrained in this region’s culture, where youngsters are preferably knocked down to make sure they don’t get ahead of themselves – over praise to make them flourish.
That could be why when the Carrow Road crowd sings for one of their own, all too often it comes with a little more criticism.
And that’s not to say some of the criticism surrounding Josh and Jacob has been unfounded. Both have had issues with their defensive work and by the very nature of their talent, flitter in and out of games while they still learn the ropes.
But to extend the point, this isn’t learning the ropes and hoping that eventually things click into gear – because the good stuff is already happening.
Even with Jacob switching off in Sunday’s East Anglian derby – he admitted to me himself it was intensely annoying – he had enough about him to equalise, pretty much out of nothing and using his own football schooling to identify the best opportunity.
It can be worth taking stock for a moment, even with all the sticky stuff City have had to deal with this term. And if you do that, you see the Murphy twins have done everything we hoped they would in the summer – with plenty more to come and the contracts to make it happen here.
That assumes the City boardroom holds its nerve over any clubs waving millions of Premier League pounds under its nose. It’s the one point in this column that inspires the least confidence.
“Exceptional, those two,” Alex Pritchard told me recently on playing alongside City’s twin threat. “I’ve said to Josh before games, just be confident. If you lose the ball, don’t worry about it. Just get the ball back – because we know what they’ve got.
“They’ve got the pace, the trickery and when they go by players they score their goals and they create goals. Simple.
“It’s their pace down the wings. If I get on the half-turn, I’m going in behind. It’s good to have them there. They’ve just got to keep at it. Like I have. Like everyone else. They’ve just got to keep working hard and when they come, take your chances.”
This season both brothers have delivered – with the promise of more to come. Certainly City’s failings this season won’t be laid at their door.
• Too much of this season has gone how I feared it would, to actually be happy about it.
And while many will be hoping things could yet turn around, Hillsborough is far from the sole remaining hurdle to overcome.
Not only do City face five games in 17 days to kick off April. Their run of fixtures is such they will need to look a completely different side to the one we’ve seen almost all season, to come out of it all with an extended season.
The reckoning is almost here.
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