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QPR, Sunderland, Southampton and West Brom may be sweating after Oxford United development

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HIGHLIGHTS

  •  Oxford United one step closer to Championship with thrilling play-off victory over Peterborough United.
  •  Josh Murphy’s outstanding form attracting interest from multiple Championship clubs after resurgence under Buckingham.
  •  Strong bond with manager could keep Murphy at Oxford United despite inevitable Championship interest.

Oxford United are just 90 minutes away from the Championship after their play-off semi-final victory over Peterborough United, and one step closer to keeping hold of one of their prized assets.

The U’s went into Wednesday’s second leg with a one-goal advantage following their 1-0 victory at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday, and progressed to the Wembley showdown against Bolton Wanderers thanks to a 1-1 draw at London Road.

Josh Knight had levelled matters in the tie with the opener on the night, before Cameron Brannagan’s spot-kick just before the interval settled the tie, despite a late onslaught from the hosts.

A number of Championship clubs would have been keeping a key eye on proceedings over the two legs, with one United player tempting a number of second tier sides ahead of the summer.

Josh Murphy’s sensational Oxford United form has Championship clubs on red alert

Josh Murphy has been one of the protagonists for Oxford this season, with the 29-year-old gleaming under the tutelage of Des Buckingham since the new manager was instated.

The winger is showing the sort of form that earned him a reported £11 million move from Norwich City to Cardiff City earlier in his career, before dropping down into League One two years ago.

 

With his searing pace, eye for goal and wicked delivery into the penalty area, Murphy has been rolling back the years during the second half of the season, and looks like a man reinvigorated with a love for the game.

With six goals and three assists since February, the former MK Dons loanee has been influential in maintaining the U’s play-off push after a tough start to life under new boss Buckingham.

Four wins from his first 15 league matches in charge made it look as if a top six place was beyond the former Mumbai City manager, but a late resurgence saw them clinch their play-off berth, and they have made the most of that chance with one match between them and the second tier.

 

Josh Murphy League One stats since New Year’s Day (including play-offs)
Appearances 18
Starts 17
Goals 6
Assists 3
Goal involvement/90 0.58
Source: FBRef

 

As has been so often the case this season, Murphy ran the Posh ragged during both legs of the semi-final, with his unpredictable nature and whippet-like pace leaving defenders on edge as they tried to deal with the threat he poses.

Championship interest intensifies for former Cardiff City ace

It is no surprise to see a number of Championship clubs keeping tabs on the playmaker as we head into the summer, with a quintet of sides said to be interested in his services.

SouthamptonWest BromQPRSunderland and Hull City were all reported to be monitoring the situation regarding Murphy – the twin brother of Newcastle United’s Jacob – with his current deal said to be coming to an end next month.

When pressed on the matter earlier in the season, boss Buckingham wasn’t in a rush to sort the situation out.

He said: “We’ll worry about that later. He’s a wonderful player and suits the system we want to play.

“I really enjoy him as a person, and I really enjoy working with him. He loves being in and around this club, and we’ll do what we can to try and keep him here.

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“If there are opportunities that come up for him, we can address those and try and do our best at the end of the season.

“I’m delighted to see how happy he is enjoying his football. He’s very settled and if he keeps performing that way, I’m sure he’ll attract interest.”

One thing that would help to keep Murphy at the club past the summer would be promotion to the Championship; a division they haven’t participated in this Century.

After battling back from relegation to the National League in 2006, next Saturday’s clash is one of the biggest in the club’s recent history, and a player of Murphy’s quality could make the difference on the biggest stage.

If the win is secured, getting Murphy to leave the club he has helped bring so far will be a hard task, with the winger playing some of the best football of his career and enjoying every second under his new boss.

Murphy revealed in April: “It’s been brilliant working under Des Buckingham. He’s come in and we’ve obviously got a different style of play to what we had with the previous manager.

“It took a bit of time to get used to, but the style [of play] suits me perfectly. You can see, especially over the last five or six weeks, the football is really coming together with some big wins. It’s been brilliant.

“The way that he’s handled me, and been with me, has been great and I feel like I’m doing my talking on the pitch. He’s been good for me, supports me, let’s me go out there and make mistakes. I love him and it’s been good to work with him.”

You can buy success in football, but you can’t buy love, and that could be what keeps Murphy at the Kassam Stadium through the summer, regardless of which division they are in.

A promotion or that love proving too much would spell bad news for the plethora of Championship clubs circling right now..

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