Phil Smith: Fresh legs required at Sunderland but signing Daryl Murphy would still be a no-brainer

Daryl Murphy is likely to be on the move this summer.
Daryl Murphy is likely to be on the move this summer.
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If Daryl Murphy has not exactly been a great goalscorer throughout his career, he has at least proven himself to be a scorer of important goals.

Certainly at Sunderland he is remembered more for some great moments, rather than as a great centre-forward himself.

Often playing off the wing, Murphy’s record was not much better than one in ten. Some were worth waiting for. A stunning strike against Wigan Athletic, a thumping header against Middlesbrough to secure Premier League football for another year.

Made available by Newcastle, where his goals were again more notable for their importance than their frequency, a return to Wearside makes sense for many, including his former boss Mick McCarthy.

Reaction from Sunderland fans has suggested that would be divisive, which is understandable.

Murphy is now 34, and a move would for many fans be a step backwards, a sign of reduced ambitions, a lack of imagination.

Sunderland need a reboot and a spark, the kind Murphy was part of in 2006. The Irishman was involved in that most famous of goals himself, breaking through the centre, shifting the ball out wide to Carlos Edwards. From the banks of the River Wear, to the top corner, to the Premier League.

Much of the desire to see white smoke on a takeover from a German consortium comes from the sense that only a new broom can reinvigorate a club worn down by the prolonged battle to stay in the Premier League. Signing former players, familiar faces, is perhaps not the way to go.

On a more practical level, Murphy also lacks the one thing Sunderland need more than anything: Pace. Takeover or not, the Black Cats can take a big step back to the fans by finding an injection of speed and dynamism that has been sorely missing in recent seasons.

The flip side is that Murphy is a very different player to the one who left Sunderland in 2010.

A better and more composed finisher, he has also developed into one of the most reliable and consistent target men in the second tier. Adept at holding the ball up and bringing others into play, a priceless asset in an often frantic league. Sunderland will need to sign at least three strikers this summer, and while Murphy would command a good wage, he would not eat into Sunderland’s limited budget.

Murphy would be unlikely to play 46 games, but would provide any new manager with something different.

Whether that be an experienced campaigner in the ilk of Simon Grayson, or a newcomer with a brief to raid the German market and unearth hidden gems.

Huddersfield may have ripped up the rule book in the Championship last year but they were aided by the nous of veterans Mark Hudson and another former Black Cat, Dean Whitehead.

Reading, too, benefited from a drastic change in both recruitment and tactics but were captained by Paul McShane, who made over 30 appearances.

With such little movement on players while the managerial and ownership uncertainty continues, talk of a move for Murphy is something of a moot point.

Nevertheless, McCarthy’s comments were interesting because it is a useful frame for the debate as to what direction Sunderland need to move in next season.

Do they need radical change, to gamble on unproven but exciting talent, or do they need hard-nosed pragmatism? Youth and energy, or experience and savvy?

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

To take care of the latter, they could do far worse than Murphy, regardless of who is in charge.