Danny Murphy has savoured European glory against a Spanish side in Germany before and the Fulham FC skipper says his team can enjoy similar success in Hamburg – with or without fairy dust.
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Danny Murphy has graced a major European final before, yet the sense of expectation is not passing him by as unfashionable Fulham FC prepare to take on Club Atlético de Madrid in the inaugural UEFA Europa League showpiece.
"It's been a fantastic couple of years for both the club and myself, and to captain the team during one of its most successful times has been a very proud spell of my career," said the former England midfielder. "Tonight, no tomorrow night, will be the highlight of that – sorry getting ahead of myself there."
Murphy can be forgiven for the slip. In 131 years since they were formed as a church team, Fulham have never won a major domestic trophy and last season's seventh-place finish was their highest in the English top flight. This really is uncharted territory though their skipper warns his side "did not come here to make up the numbers", adding: "It's a huge game for us and we have the desire and hunger to win the trophy. We'll try to savour the moment and experience it but you enjoy it more when you win."
The 33-year-old knows from experience having played all 117 minutes of Liverpool FC's memorable 5-4 UEFA Cup final win against another Spanish side, Deportivo Alavés, in Dortmund nine years ago. Victory in Hamburg, though, would eclipse that. "When you play for a club like Liverpool winning trophies every season is expected – you become a bit complacent," said Murphy. "This season with Fulham has been remarkable and to achieve what we have already has been special.
"But to go one step further is something we would remember forever, something those involved with the club, the supporters, could look back on in years to come as a wonderful achievement." Those "unbelievable" fans get numerous mentions, even those that have emerged from the woodwork in recent weeks. "We're everyone's second favourite club at the moment because of our spirit, and maybe our unusual position of having overcome the odds and beaten so many good teams," he said. "We play football the right way too."
That, of course, is largely down to Roy Hodgson, whose positive influence was recognised on Monday when his peers named him English manager of the year. What is his secret? "Every player seems to have improved under Roy and his staff but there's no magic dust that he twinkles on us before every game," explained Murphy. "He organises the team well and works hard at making sure we know our job, that everyone's singing off the same hymn sheet. It's a joy to be at the club at the moment." That joy may become ecstasy on Wednesday evening.