Mark Cooper, manager of Vanarama National League club Forest Green Rovers, has pulled off a coup in signing striker Rhys Murphy from Sky Bet League One side Oldham Athletic for a nominal fee.
The 25-year-old scored 13 goals in thirty-seven appearances last season, despite the upheaval of playing for three clubs, as his sixteen-month stay at Oldham coincided with the passage of five different managers.
The former Arsenal trainee enjoyed two highly-productive spells in League Two punctuated by a stop-start career at Oldham – scoring 10 goals during loan spells with Crawley Town and Wimbledon in League Two last season, while also netting 13 goals in thirty-two league games for Dagenham and Redbridge during the 2013/14 season.
Murphy passed his medical and participated in his first training session with his new team-mates this morning
Cooper said Murphy had thrived at Crawley during a consistent run of games last season and would enjoy the style that he was aiming to implement at The New Lawn.
Cooper said: “Rhys is a very good centre forward. He’s a good size, a good athlete, he plays within the width of the box and has with lots of mobility at the top end of the pitch.
“He was well schooled at Arsenal and if you manage to stay there for six, seven, eight years, you tend to be a good footballer.”
Cooper revealed he initially doubted whether the club would be able to attract a player of Murphy’s pedigree but praised the efforts of club hierarchy in attracting him The New Lawn.
Cooper continued: “To be honest I didn’t think they’d be any real possibility of getting him, given he was at a League One club and given how well he did at Crawley.
“But credit to the chairman and the fantastic negotiating skills of Asif (Rehmanwala – Director), we’ve managed to get him.
“Rhys moved up north to Oldham and unfortunately for him there was a lot of turmoil up there with five different managers. But when he’s gone out on loan he’s been excellent, you only have to look at the goals he scored.
“He is exactly what we need and hopefully as we move up the leagues he can move with us.”
Murphy said: “Coming to this football club is a good opportunity for me. From the people involved in it you get a really good feel for how the club is.
“With the plans for the stadium and aims to get promotion, and coming so close last year, I’m excited to go one better this year.
“As a striker it’s your job to come into the team and to score goals. That’s what I’m looking to do.
“Hopefully I’ll score goals and at the end of the day that is the be all and end all for a striker. Hopefully I bring more than that. I’ll look to link the play and will hopefully get some assists to my name as well.”
Reflecting on the comings and goings at the club over the past 24 hours Cooper said it was just a natural part of football.
“As a club we’ve been up and around the top over the past two seasons but we’ve not got over the line – it’s my job to do that. It’s no disrespect to the other two players, but we needed to change some things. That’s football.”
Despite Christian Doidge arriving this summer and Kieffer Moore also available up front, Cooper said it was not yet a closed book in terms of striking recruitment.
“We’ve got three strikers capable of going straight into the starting team but three is maybe not enough. So we will still be keeping an eye out to see if another striker becomes available.
“We also got the two first year pros that we’ve brought in and they will come in and out of the squad as we need them. But really they are ones for the future and need some development.”
Murphy spent his early youth development at the old Wimbledon FC before they were dissolved in 2003. He switched to Arsenal as a 13-year-old and went on to spend the next eight seasons at The Gunners.
While at the North London club he spent time on loan at Brentford and Preston, and had trials at several Scottish Premier League clubs, but upon his release from Arsenal as a 21-year-old he decided to test his mettle in the Belgium second tier with SC Telstar.
During that 2012/13 season, Murphy scored eight goals from twenty-eight appearances (including seventeen starts) for the Velsen based side, before being one of eight players released at seasons end with Telstar forced to tighten their financial belts.
After moving back to the UK, a chance arrived with Dagenham & Redbridge, and Murphy would go on to lead the goal-scoring charts in League Two for a large chunk of the 2013/14 season, before a groin injury forced an early end to his campaign and Dagenham’s chances of making the play-offs.
Groin surgery kept Murphy on the sidelines until November 2014 and despite the presence of fellow Forest Green summer signing Christian Doidge, a mixture of loan moves and managerial selections over the next three months meant the pair would play only eight minutes together in an FA Cup match, before Oldham manager Lee Johnson swooped for Murphy on transfer deadline day in early February 2015.
With Johnson sacked twenty-three days later and five managers at the League One club over fifteen months, Murphy’s time at Oldham went on to be a stop-start affair.