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Life After Daryl
Written by Superfrans on Thursday, 1st Sep 2016 10:36

Firstly, to lay my cards on the table, I would have preferred it had we signed a central striker in the last week of the transfer window. When Daryl Murphy was sold, I was hoping another striker would be on his way before the deadline shut at 11pm on August 31st. But he wasn't. And I'm okay with that.

I'm a big fan of Daryl Murphy. He seemed like one of us. He wasn't as overtly close to the fans as some other of our players perhaps. But we only had one other player on our books with 200-plus #ITFC games to his name at the point he left - Tommy Smith. Next closest is Luke Chambers, who will pass the 200 mark in a couple of games' time.

Also, Daryl is a rare recent player who has carved his name in our history for positive reasons, with those 27 goals in 2014/15. I also loved his hat-trick at Rotherham last season and his superb volley (from a sublime long ball over his shoulder) against Brighton 18 months ago. I love him so much, I bid more than I can afford to buy a signed pic of him a year or so ago.

But I also loved Paul Mariner and we didn't immediately replace him when he left (we made do with Mich D'Avray) - some might say we never have). I also loved Frans Thijssen (he was simply irreplaceable). Brian Talbot (personal reasons). Kieron Dyer. Marcus Stewart. The list goes on.

Players come and players go. Sometimes they are replaced directly, sometimes they aren't. But also I'm convinced we will do fine without Daryl. Football teams do.

Firstly, what do we need to replace?

When Daryl first joined us, it was as a winger. He ran the channels, worked his socks off, chased lost causes; he got the ball, held it up, retained possession. He was a key player in chasing and retaining the ball in the final third. That was his job. But that is a job that Freddie Sears has taken most responsibility for on the left since Daryl moved inside.

In the past couple of seasons, Daryl's job has been leading the line, as our target man - and scoring goals into the bargain. In 2014/15 he scored for fun - 27 goals in a league season has rarely been matched in our history. Last season, less so - 10 goals in total, goals in just six matches.

So, replacing his goals are not an issue. Brett Pitman scored more last season, 11 goals in 47 appearances (of which 20 were as sub). Sears is off the boil, it's true - just six goals last season and none since last December. But this is arguably because he is playing wider. If played more centrally, could he have done better? Will he do better?

Plus, we have signed Leon Best - four goals in 16 games for Rotherham last season, seven in 24 for Blackburn the season before. In his last 40 games, that's 11 goals. On par with Pitman and Murphy over their last 40-plus games.

So, the Daryl challenge is not in replacing his goals or his workrate - Sears, Pitman and Best can match these areas of his game. The key challenge will be replacing his presence. At 6ft 1in, Best should be able to offer some height at least, but whether he can pick up from Daryl is a big question. Pitman was offered the opportunity to claim the role in the first match without Daryl (vs Preston) and did well. Can he do so for the long-term? Another big question.

As some have pointed out, Mick was clearly aware of this - he sanctioned a seven-figure bid for a player on the last day of the window. Presumably this was to replace what we would miss with Murphy. Or maybe not. I had considered what would cause the biggest uproar on deadline day - not signing a striker, or a signing a 5 ft 6in striker.

It is unclear what kind of striker we were bidding for, that is likely to emerge in time. But the likelihood is it wasn't a Xerox of Daryl Murphy. Daryl is an extremely unusual player - team player, with the subtlety and speed of a winger, strength of an old-fashioned number nine, decent (but not great - certainly not Mariner 'great') in the air, good finisher. Finding a direct replacement was always going to be a fool's errand.

[This might beg the question, 'Why sell, if he's so irreplaceable'. This is another much longer blog on its own - for me though, it's simple. Because, love him or not, Daryl is 33, in decline, past his best and not going to improve. And he wanted to move. I'm old-fashioned. if a player who has given 200 games' service, wants to leave at the age of 33, you let him go. End of story.]

Best will replace some of what he offered, so will Pitman, so will Sears (who many of us have wanted to see playing more centrally, in any case). And then there's the midfield.

The other reason why I'm calm about the departure of Daryl is because of the way we have improved in the ammunition supply department. Back in May, we had a few creative options from midfield - two teenagers (Andre and Teddy), Didzy and Bru. This seemed reasonable, especially if the teenagers came on from last season.

To this, we have added four players in their early 20s, from Premier League clubs, but with experience in the Championship/League One - Grant Ward, Conor Grant, Tom Lawrence and Jonny Williams (aged 21, 21, 22 and 22 - and with 260 league appearances between them).

Only one of these belongs to us, but all of them are on season-long loans and initial indications are that another two could be ours at the end of the season, if all goes well.

We know what we're getting with Joniesta (if fit, of course), Ward is already pulling up trees, Conor Grant has also looked excellent and Lawrence remains (as yet) a mystery to us - although HarryFromBath's review, featuring reports from fans of Blackburn, Cardiff, Rotherham, suggested he is similar player to Ward. It is hard to think of a more creatively potent midfield force at Portman Road in recent years.

What is clear is that, even before Daryl's sale, we were preparing to mix things up a little more. Perhaps even play the ball on the ground a little more - something that many were clamouring for last season.

Will we still be in the market for an additional striking option, from the ranks of the contractless or perhaps in the January window? Almost certainly. But in the meantime we must do what football teams do - cut our cloth accordingly, work with what we've got, play to our undoubted strengths.

We have many more creative options after the transfer window. Lets play to them.

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Binner added 10:47 - Sep 1
Well put...

Vic added 11:22 - Sep 1
Excellent blog

terryf added 11:23 - Sep 1
Totally agree
Lets think positively...the glass is half full
We could be about to enter a very exciting time watching ITFC
We've been crying out for some creativity in the midfield and now we've got it
The likes of Best, Sears and Pitman should be able to thrive on the service and who knows what the January window may bring in.

ntoms97 added 11:37 - Sep 1
This has been a great transfer window imo, Grant Ward is on fire, Conor Grant on the odd occasion looked a threat in the Barnsley game as he raced down the pitch. Joniesta is a class apart as we have seen (next job= make it permanent) and Tom Lawrence is a good midfielder who can chip in with the odd goal here and there. As far as Best is concerned, his strength and (he's not Murphy tall) but quite tall presence will be a bit of a threat if we do a long ball. Hoping that we play it on the ground a lot more (it's not rugby after all!) but now, for the first time in about a year and a half there is an obvious plan B!

ElderGrizzly added 12:05 - Sep 1
Excellent work SF

DurhamTownFan added 12:22 - Sep 1
Really enjoyed reading this. Well written and tells a good story.

For me our transfer window has been 60-40 in favour of a successful one. We've lost one of our most important players but signed a lot of potentially good ones. Key word is 'potentially', but cause nobody knows exactly how good they'll all be until we play a few games and see how it affects things. Really like that as you say, we've gone for some youth, and it looks good for our playing style also. Even as I write this, I'm finding myself more confident!!

yogiblue added 12:30 - Sep 1
Excellent blog SF, I do love reading the refreshingly more positive spin on things compared to the so many doom merchants and nay-sayers we have on this site! I completely agree that having a more creative midfield will lead to a better style of football, as well as better service to whomever is playing up front in the coming months.

iaintaylorx added 12:43 - Sep 1
Great and all true. I'm excited to watch this new squad and I believe with Murphy, we were sometimes forced into using his hold up play and play the long ball. I do feel we have lost our aerial ability and on set plays we will lack that fear factor of height and strength entering the box, but I do feel we might see a more attractive style of play because of the technical ability of the players we have now.
I read that we bid for Conor Washington and Kyle Bennett which would have both been great, but I'm looking forward to this season now. Also, at least we kept Bart!!

Great blog!

onthehoof added 12:45 - Sep 1
Agree with the points. Well put.

Superfrans added 13:50 - Sep 1
Thanks for the comments. Really appreciated.

Intriguing to see that the two players we were close to signing last night were a 5ft10 striker and a 5ft5 winger - neither are Murphy types. If anything, Best is closer to Murphy in terms of physique. Looks like we were planning to go a different route even if we had made these signings

cromwellblue added 21:09 - Sep 1
It's interesting that having sold Murphy everyone is clambering for a direct replacement in stature, yet all the complaints are hoofball.

Let's wait and see where we go before getting to irate

Best may yet be exactly that

PJH added 12:13 - Sep 2
I very rarely read the blogs on here(rightly or wrongly)but you just gave this one a 'bump' on the Forum,so I read it.

Very good blog and largely along the lines of how I have been thinking since Murph left us.
I don't think a like for like replacement was necessary,even if one could be found,especially when taking into account what we have got and what we have added.

DurhamTownFan added 07:24 - Sep 6
Did anyone else see that he scored for Ireland last night? Finally!

awayfan added 14:49 - Sep 6
Excellent blog, thank you Superfrans!

Tom Lawrence is a player I've always liked and it was interesting that Mick revealed that he'd been trying to sign him for some time. I think he'll be an excellent signing and the type of player our fans will appreciate.

bohslegend added 10:46 - Sep 7
Great blog. Cannot argue with anything you've said.

Ferguson added 12:54 - Sep 12
Well said Superfrans, . A very well written and illustrated blog by someone who knows his stuff. Totally agree on your appraisals of Murphy and of Paul Mariner and you're right - we never did replace him. England's number nine. How could you ?

I also like your comments regarding the potential of our new signings and our current midfield options. Let's hope we get to see them in action sooner rather than later,
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