Murphy steps into a world of opportunity

Liverpool's tenacious midfielder rises from the low of a loan spell at Crewe to the brink of making his England debut
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Danny Murphy has seen the light – and now he is hoping to shine for England. The 24-year-old midfielder looks poised to make his first start in the friendly against Sweden on Saturday after an impressive start to the season.

Yet just two years ago Murphy's career seemed to be in freefall when he returned from Liverpool to Crewe on loan. With the help of his old manager, Dario Gradi, he rediscovered his appetite for the game and arrived back at Anfield ready to reignite his career.

Murphy said: "The first season was quite good at a big club and I got involved even though most of the time I was substitute. The second season I thought it was going to happen for me without working at it. That was totally unrealistic and naïve. But I didn't get any help really.

"Coming from Crewe where I was seen as one of the better players to Liverpool, it was difficult to adapt.

"When things are going badly, how do you deal with it when you're not used to it? Like any young lad I was going out and doing the wrong things. If you don't look after yourself, your football suffers.

"Gérard Houllier was straight and honest with me, which I needed and Dario was there for me especially when I went back on loan.

"He'd seen me grow up since I was 12 or 13. I've a lot to thank him for. I got my hunger back for football. Playing week in week out, with the crowds and things at stake made me realise how lucky I was.

"That pre-season I went back to Liverpool fitter and stronger than I've ever been."

It proved to be a turning point in Murphy's career as Houllier, who had replaced Evans as manager, was thrilled at the way the player responded in the summer of 1999.

Murphy said: "Gérard told me he had seen enough and wanted me to stay. He told me I would get my chance and even though I had to wait a bit longer I don't think from that day on there has been a game I've not been involved in."

Murphy, who has linked up with the England squad for the third time admits he is desperate to emulate his team-mate and room-mate Steven Gerrard, who has become an England regular in midfield.

The pair even had a small wager together last season on who would finish with the most goals and they finished up even with 10 apiece.

Murphy said: "Steven is someone I have seen develop and become an England international.

"Sharing a room with him and listening to him going on about trips abroad and playing in some fantastic games, you become jealous. You want some of that for yourself.

"Obviously, he was tending to play more games at one stage than me but we had a little bet last season about getting goals.

"He scored in the Uefa Cup final to go ahead 10-9 and in the last game of the season against Charlton the boss put me on the bench.

"I was a bit devastated but I got on and scored to make it 10-10. I didn't see him celebrate but it's just something we have a laugh about."

Phil Thompson, who is acting as Liverpool's caretaker manager while Houllier recovers from heart surgery, is one person who believes that Murphy deserves to get an England call-up. Murphy himself says he does not care where he plays for the national side, be it central midfield or wide on the left.

He said: "Playing in a team like Liverpool you get more confident as the season goes on as some of our results have been fantastic really under the circumstances.

"With the boss's illness and the fact that Tommo has taken over at a difficult time, we seem to have gone from strength to strength and that's credit to him.

"He's been playing me in every game, which is a confidence booster, especially as some of them have been massive games. If you are playing well, he leaves you in.

"I prefer central midfield as you get more involved in games and dictate things more. When you play wide you rely more on people to give you the ball and are restricted in what you can do. But it wouldn't worry me if I had to play on the left."