Top scorer Daryl Murphy revelling in Mick McCarthy's show of faith at Ipswich Town

Life beyond the Premier League

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The Independent Football

It may be the season of giving but Ipswich Town fans will be hoping striker Daryl Murphy can say humbug to one charitable commitment in the coming months. The 31-year-old’s unprecedented scoring form means he is closing in on his goals target for 2014-15 – good news for Ipswich, but less so for the squad’s charity pot. “At the start of the season the gaffer made us all write down a target of how many goals we thought we’d get and if we didn’t reach it, we’d give money to charity,” he tells The Independent. “I am on course, but I can’t give away what it is.”

Prior to this season, the Irish international had never managed more than 13 league goals in a campaign – not even at his first club Waterford United – yet he surpassed that total with the opener in Ipswich’s 2-0 win over Middlesbrough last Saturday and is the Championship’s leading scorer with 14. That victory over Boro lifted Ipswich into second place ahead of another big test at third-placed Brentford today.

“Why not now, when we are in form?” he says of the trip to Griffin Park, and the confidence is understandable. There are different reasons why players will show their best at certain clubs and in Murphy’s case manager Mick McCarthy’s influence has been telling. “The lads love him,” he says, hailing the Yorkshireman’s honesty. “You’re going to get a bollocking if you’re not doing something right but the lads appreciate that and would rather he say it to their face than to the staff behind their back.” Crucially, McCarthy has made him feel wanted – “The gaffer said when I signed permanently that he was going to give me No 9 and it was just a boost straight away” – and his assistant, Terry Connor, has played his part too with his training sessions for Ipswich’s strikers. “That has improved my finishing and I am getting more chances due to just staying in the box and gambling more,” he says.

Murphy is also profiting from simply playing in his best position. At Sunderland, where from 2007 to 2010 he played in the Premier League, he spent much of his time on the wing. “I have played half my career as a left or right midfielder – it was easy for managers to put me there because I was left-footed and could cross the ball.”

Still, playing out wide was better than not playing at all which is what happened after he joined Celtic in 2010. “I dropped my wages to go there – the lure of Celtic [his boyhood side] was a no-brainer but to go there and not really feature stalled my career. I see players at different clubs and they are happy to pick up the money and not play but I just can’t do that.”

Portman Road provided his escape. Prior to joining Celtic he had had a year’s loan there and two further temporary spells followed before a permanent move in June 2013. And after finishing 14th and then ninth under McCarthy, he now sees “a very good chance” of promotion for a club last in the top flight in 2002 but transformed by McCarthy’s management. “Everyone’s pulling in the right direction, we’ve no egos in our dressing room and that shows,” he adds. Beaten only three times this term, Ipswich have greater know-how than last season when “we gave so many goals away late on [and] it cost us. This year we have learnt from our mistakes. It’s being a bit more clever and experienced which is helping us.”

As well as experience, Ipswich have highly rated left-back Tyrone Mings, the only player to have cost McCarthy a fee – £10,000 from Chippenham Town – who “brings youth and excitement and energy”. Meanwhile, 18-year-old midfielder Teddy Bishop, Murphy purrs, is “a player you’d pay to go and see, he is that good with his ability on the ball, his trickery.”

They also have a strike partnership, between Murphy and David McGoldrick, that is flourishing. “He is a dream for me to play with – I try to hold the ball up [and] it is just great to have someone there who likes to drop in and create things,” says Murphy, generous with his praise, but rather more ruthless with opposition defences these days.

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