Comparisons left Canaries academy products feeling frustrated
© Archant Norfolk 2013
Jacob and Josh Murphy clearly had the talent to make it as professional footballers but the former Norwich City twins feel their similarities may have hindered their breakthrough into the senior game.
The Murphys were hot property ever since joining the Canaries’ academy at 11 years old, while living near Downham Market, and went on to play starring roles in the FA Youth Cup triumph under Neil Adams in 2013.
Professional deals soon followed and Josh made his professional bow later that year, scoring a fine long-range striker in a League Cup win and making several appearances in the Premier League as a substitute during 2013-14, as Jacob picked up loan experience at Swindon and Southend at lower levels.
Further loans followed for both but it wasn’t until City were relegated from the top flight under Alex Neil in 2016 that the speedy twins would start getting their chances - but opportunities to play together remained scarce.
“I think with me and Josh we’ve always had the comparison between us,” Jacob explained. “One, we’re twins, and two, we play the same position. So it was always the comparison of ‘who’s the better twin’ and obviously we were judged on our forward ability and things like that.
“Going through youth teams and the Youth Cup and all of that, it was like a level playing field, we were both a standout for our team but then the next transition was breaking into the first team.
“We were never in competition with each other, we both want the best for each other, but it’s always the outside influences that ‘Josh is better than Jac’ - or if I’m playing it was ‘Jac is better than Josh’.
“So we both had it both ways throughout our career really.”
Like many young attacking players, both Josh and Jacob went through peaks and troughs in form, with moans and groans from some City fans sometimes appearing to cause anxiety when in possession.
Nonetheless, Jacob plundered eight goals and eight assists in the league during 2016-17 and Newcastle took him to the top flight in a deal worth around £12.5m, with Josh scoring four and assisting six.
Yet the twins only started one Championship game together before Jacob’s exit, a 2-1 loss at Barnsley when Josh was taken off at the break, with Neil seemingly not happy to have both on the pitch at the same time.
Jacob added: “Josh would make the comparison that one would excel and then the other would be pulled along, and then the other person would then excel. “So then when I got my move to Newcastle I didn’t have any worries about Josh because that’s just how we work.
“Once someone does something good like that, the other twin aims and strives to get to that same success as the other.”
Josh would eventually follow his brother out of Norfolk, with seven goals and three assists from 41 Championship games during Daniel Farke’s first season in charge in 2017-18, joining promoted Cardiff in the top flight in a deal worth in excess of £10m.
That has seen them eventually play against each other twice, but only briefly, once in the Premier League as Cardiff drew 0-0 with Newcastle and 1-1 in the Championship this season, with Jacob on loan at Sheffield Wednesday during a 1-1 draw with Cardiff.
The City academy products were talking about their careers on the Rio Ferdinand Presents Five channel on Youtube, for a special show on brothers in football, also featuring the former Manchester United and England defender’s brother Anton, as well as Everton defender Michael Keane and his brother Will, who plays for Ipswich.
“When we played Newcastle against Cardiff, Josh started,” Jacob explained. “It was a bit different because I wasn’t starting and we didn’t really get to play against each other that much - but when i did come on I came on at right wing-back.
“That’s where Rafa (Benitez) put me on and Josh ripped us up! He got someone sent off, he got man of the match and yeah he ripped us up.
“So I come on and I’m marking Josh, to defend against him, and all I was thinking, because he was doing the madness all game, was that I don’t want him to run at me!
“I was like ‘pass it off, give it to someone else’ then you can relax because I’m sure he probably thought ‘I don’t want to have to skin you here, I don’t want to make you feel embarrassed’ - and I was thinking I don’t want to tackle him and make him look rubbish.”
The brothers, now aged 25, are currently back at their family home in west Norfolk during football’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and have been helping to deliver food and medical prescriptions to vulnerable people in their community.
And while both are now looking to find a way back to the top flight, there was a time when they were worried they wouldn’t make it as footballers at all.
“I remember one time when we were under-16s and we hadn’t been given our scholarships,” Jacob recalled. “All of the other boys in the squad had been offered their scholarships and we were driving home and me and Josh just started crying in the back of the car.
“We were like ‘will you still drive us to another club if we don’t get a scholarship here?’ and she was like ‘yeah, of course, I’ll do anything for you guys, all I want you to do is keep working hard, hopefully you’ll get your scholarship and we’ll go from there’.
“So that was one of the first times that I realised that, apart from her strictness for us to be more disciplined in football, that she would do anything for us to pursue our dreams.”
THE STORY SO FAR...
When the talented Murphy twins left Norwich City in big money moves they were excitedly making the leap to the Premier League - but they have not secured genuine top-flight credentials just yet.
Jacob was the first to fly the nest, joining Newcastle in 2017 for around £12.5m, the team which the Canaries academy products had supported while growing up in west Norfolk.
Buoyed by eight goals and eight assists in the Championship for City, Jacob’s confidence was sky high, but opportunities were limited during his first season, with 25 appearances in the Premier League but just 13 of them starts as Rafa Benitez’s pragmatic approach ground out survival.
Setting up the crucial goal in a 1-0 win at Stoke and scoring during a 3-1 win at Manchester City were the highlights, as the reality of the step up in quality in the top tier became clear.
By the start of 2018-19 Josh had joined his brother in the top flight, after a productive season with City earned a move to Cardiff in a deal worth in excess of £10m - and Cardiff’s first home game of the season? You’ve guessed it: Newcastle.
Josh had started for the hosts and was joined on the pitch by his brother, for all of nine minutes before he was withdrawn during a 0-0 draw. The reverse fixture saw Newcastle run out 3-0 winners with Jacob an unused substitute and Josh appearing late on for Cardiff.
Soon after, having made nine mostly brief league appearances, Jacob was back in the Championship and playing alongside former Norwich team-mate Wes Hoolahan at West Brom. Two goals and an assist in 13 games made for a positive loan, but which ended in defeat in the play-off semi-finals.
It was to soon be back to the Championship for Josh as well, contributing three goals and two assists during 29 matches as Neil Warnock failed to steer Cardiff clear of relegation.
And now? Jacob, with Newcastle on the verge of a takeover from wealthy investors, has scored five goals in 30 Championship games while on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Josh has scored three and assisted three for Cardiff - with both clubs in mid-table.