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I owe a lot to Dario, says hero of Kop

WHEN Danny Murphy joined Crewe as a 13-year-old schoolboy, his ambition was to play professional football.

WHEN Danny Murphy joined Crewe as a 13-year-old schoolboy, his ambition was to play professional football.

Now a regular in the Liverpool line-up and rubbing shoulders with the cream of the game's modern day talent in the Champions' League, Murphy admits that Gradi has played a significant part in helping him live out his dream.

'I owe a lot to Dario and to be in charge for 1,000 games is a fantastic achievement, especially in an era when clubs seem to have a different manager every five minutes,' he said.

'He's a one-off and has made himself so by length of service and also his achievements. He has been a huge help to me and still is. I know that he's always at the end of a phone if I need to speak to him.'

Murphy, 24, believes that in hindsight his second spell at Crewe, when he was loaned back from Liverpool in the 1998-99 season, was instrumental in helping him make the leap from the Anfield fringes to Kop favourite.

'I must admit I was a bit dubious about going back at first, but as soon as I agreed to talk to Dario about it, I knew he would convince me with his words of wisdom. He's that sort of character and when he talks, people listen.

'He got me enjoying my football again and back playing in front of crowds. He told me to make sure I made the most of my chance, not to come away with any regrets. And I would like to think I was able to help Crewe out too.'

The midfield man also cites the spirit that Gradi has helped Crewe cultivate as another vital ingredient in the club's recipe for success.

He said: 'With respect to Crewe it is not classed as a big club, but if you look at the stadium, the facilities and the training ground now, it's fantastic. It's a great club to be around.

'Everybody seems to know everybody else and even now if I go back to watch Crewe, I see a lot of familiar faces.

'I've known Dario since I was 13 years old and he has helped create and implement that atmosphere.

'Of course, when I joined the club and they were in the old fourth division nobody would have foreseen the success Crewe have had, but I think the town should be extremely proud of what has been achieved by the club.

'I was very lucky because I was always involved with promotions or play-offs and there were a lot of good players there.

'When I was coming through, players like Ashley Ward, Wayne Collins and Neil Lennon were there and Neil was a big help to me when I came into the team. Everybody helps each other out and that was the way Dario encouraged it to be.'

Like so many others to have learned their trade under Gradi's gaze, Murphy believes the Alex boss stands out as one of the game's great coaches.

'His coaching ability is obvious and he can improve players of even average ability.

'He loves coaching and he has dedicated his life to football. If he's not trying to better his first-team, he's out coaching the kids.

'I think if he did ever stop, he'd probably still turn up at coaching sessions because he does it seven days a week and I would imagine he's switched on to automatic now!'

Murphy may have to pinch himself when he runs out for Champions' League matches against Barcelona and Roma, but he is equally determined to seize his opportunity.

He said: 'It's a lot different from Stockport County away, that's for sure! But there are so many players who owe Dario and the coaching staff such a lot.

'I don't suppose Neil Lennon would have thought he'd be playing Champions' League football when he was released from Manchester City as a youngster and then you have the likes of Rob Savage and Seth Johnson also playing top-flight football.

'It shows why people go to Crewe because they know they have got a chance to move on to the top level.'

And having enjoyed his first taste of international football, Murphy now has his sights set on winning a place in the England squad for next summer's World Cup finals in Japan and Korea.

'Of course, that would be brilliant. But one thing our manager here at Liverpool is always talking to us about is complacency. I know that if I don't keep playing as I have been, there are some fantastic players who will come in.

'I cannot afford to let my levels of performance suffer, and hopefully I can get the chance to play in another friendly so I can prove to Mr Eriksson just what I can do.

'I'm delighted if I make Dario feel proud of me because he has played a big part, not only in how I've developed as a footballer but as a person.'


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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