‘I miss the pain, the feeling of winning, everything… retiring is horrendous’: Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy on their battles on and off the pitch and fears for United boss Jose Mourinho
Danny Murphy is an eloquent man, but he struggles to find the words. ‘The fire inside, the excitement and fear. Every emotion, really. Every single one. There’s nothing like it…’
He is talking about how he felt when he first played for Liverpool. ‘I ran out on to the pitch and thought “This is it — now I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life.”
‘I’d been a season-ticket holder at Anfield for years, and I went there with my dad when I was a kid. I was a mad Liverpool fan. To actually get there and start my first game. Wonderful. Then at half-time I was so overcome with nerves I was sick in the toilet for the whole time.’
Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy are both The Mail on Sunday’s new football columnists
He laughs at the memory now, but Jermaine Jenas knows how he feels. ‘Oh yes — the nerves are terrible. I hated waiting around before kick-off when I was playing for Spurs. I’d have to stand in the tunnel because dressing rooms are so hot.
‘You can feel the tension; some people are zoned out and staring at the floor, some people are screaming and are lively, I’d have to leave and stand on my own.’
The two men have come together to chat about their playing experiences, as they becomeThe Mail on Sunday‘s new football columnists. They will be in the paper throughout the season to share their knowledge and understanding of the game. For now though, they are lost back in time, when they first played against one another.
Murphy reflected on his Liverpool debut and said it was ‘everything I wanted to do in my life’
‘My first game against you and Liverpool was terrifying,’ said Jenas, now 35.
‘Honestly, we were all lined up on the pitch which was scary enough at Anfield, then there was a black-out and all the floodlights went off.
‘As if we weren’t all nervous enough all the fans started singingYou’ll Never Walk Alone. I stood there thinking “well this is just unbelievable. How are we going to go out and play after this?” Anyway, we ended up getting beaten 3-0 and Murph scored twice. He’s never left me forget it.’
Jenas played central midfielder for Nottingham Forest before becoming the most expensive teenager in British football after a £5million move to Newcastle before arriving at Spurs. He made 341 league appearances as well as winning 21 caps for England.
Jenas came up against Murphy on several occasions and said their first meeting was terrifying
Now he’s in a west London photographic studio showing how much he’s got this modelling lark sorted, turning to our photographer and offering a perfectly-judged smile.
Murphy, 41, shakes his head. ‘Very photogenic, isn’t he? Always has been. He likes posing around. Always wearing the latest gear.’
‘You stop it,’ says Jenas, before adopting a confessional tone. ‘He’s right though — you know how you hear about women who hide their new clothes, so their husbands don’t find out how much they’ve been spending? I do that. I hide my shopping in the boot of my car, and get stuff delivered to me at work. It’s awful, isn’t it? My wife knows, of course, but I still hide it.’
He also admitted to having an obsession with clothes and that he hides them in his car boot
Murphy laughs. ‘You can’t get away with behaving like that if you’re an ex-Liverpool player,’ he says. ‘Someone will clobber you.’
Murphy won a treble of cups in one season with Liverpool — the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup — before big-money moves to Spurs, Fulham and Blackburn, and retirement in 2013.
‘I’m Liverpool through and through,’ he says. ‘And this is a good time for us. The club have given themselves a really good opportunity by strengthening the squad and creating competition for places.
‘I’m not sure they’ll beat City; if I’m honest, I think the gap is too big to bridge in one summer – but they’ll be challengers at the very least.’
Murphy won the UEFA Cup with Liverpool in 2001 but believes this is a golden time for the club
He says that much of the change at the club is down to their exuberant coach Jurgen Klopp.
‘At the moment Klopp is everything that Mourinho isn’t. Liverpool supporters love his honesty and his enthusiasm. He’s ingratiated himself into the club, he’s made himself part of it, which is exactly what Mourinho hasn’t done.
‘Mourinho has been a more successful manager and that’s ultimately what counts. But one of the most worrying things about Mourinho is the body language and the lack of fight. It’s very unlike any other Manchester United team, any Mourinho team to be honest.
‘And I don’t see how he is going to be able to turn it around that quickly, not unless there’s a drastic change in his mentality. I don’t see that happening.’
He puts it down to the boss Jurgen Klopp, who he claimed is ‘everything Jose Mourinho isn’t’
‘No, I agree,’ says Jenas. ‘I’ve watched Mourinho for years and I’ve never seen him bring back a team from the sort of position that he’s in now. The same thing happened at Madrid and at Chelsea — this is history repeating itself.
‘Think about it — he’s got four central defenders who he has absolutely got no confidence in, he admitted himself that he doesn’t know his best back four so when those players go out there they are already at sixes and sevens.
‘He’s not got any of his real backroom staff around him — they’ve gone. He probably feels isolated and lonely. He’s at loggerheads with Woodward in terms of his recruitment, the players aren’t playing for him and the fans aren’t singing for him.’
‘Yes,’ says Murphy. ‘One of his strengths in the early years was his ability to keep players happy — he was a master of that. Times change and people’s philosophies and attitudes change but he doesn’t seem to be able to keep players on board at the moment and that’s a real worry.’
They both feel Mourinho will struggle to emerge from the hole he is in at Manchester United
‘That’s a good point,’ says Jenas. ‘Times change and you have to move with them — in the past he knew exactly how to motivate individuals: when you speak to someone, say like John Terry or Frank Lampard who were with him for a long period of time, they would always say that if they weren’t playing well he would not talk to them. He would completely remove them from his thoughts and make them feel horrible.
‘Because of the type of players they were, it made them fight harder. They had something within them that made them want to dig deeper and prove him wrong and get back on side.
‘I don’t know whether he’s carried on doing that, but I don’t think it would work with modern players. The new generation is more inclined to go the other way, go “Hang on a minute, what’s that about?” They go and talk to their agent and say, “I want to get out of here, he’s miserable.” He’s been in the game for 20 years – things have changed. Has he moved with them?’
Mourinho’s man management worked on John Terry and Frank Lampard but not modern stars
Both players say they enjoy their lives as commentators and new columnists, but found giving up football extraordinarily hard. Murphy retired from football five years ago, and still remembers the day clearly.
‘It was horrendous,’ he says. ‘Actually, horrendous is an understatement. I’d be getting on with my life, then suddenly out of nowhere I’d remember I wasn’t a player any more – bang – it would hit me.
‘There’s no doubt that something’s taken away from you when you retire – something that you can’t ever replace. Think about it – as a player you are institutionalised for 21 years where apart from your summer holidays, you are told what to wear, where to be – everything is done for you. Football becomes everything; the only thing.
‘I don’t want to overstate it, but football had been there for me from 16 and it was always there. Everything else came second to it — even family and marriage. It’s not about the wealth it gives you, but the confidence, the adoration, the competitiveness, the focus to live right, to do well, to do better. You take it for granted until it’s taken away.’
Murphy said retirement was horrendous and that was it hard to accept he wasn’t a footballer
The former Liverpool man retired from football in 2013 after one season at Blackburn Rovers
Jenas had the same experience. ‘I had a dream two days ago that I was still playing and I woke up devastated, thinking “No, I don’t play any more”. It’s crazy, I know, but it’s true.
‘I try to maintain a routine to keep myself on track — I go to the gym every day and keep in good shape, but I miss football, I miss all of it. I miss being in pain and that feeling of exhaustion after games, I miss the feeling of winning, I miss the feeling of losing, I miss arguing with my team-mates and putting it right afterwards.
‘Unless you’ve played, you might not understand it — the pull it has on you. I guess we’re both lucky still to be involved, and still to be talking to footballers and watching them play every day.’
Jenas had similar troubles and said retirement is a hard realisation to come to terms with