LAST summer, many Oxford United fans would’ve been happy to see Josh Murphy leave the club. They might even have gone as far as to drop him off at his new home themselves.

Fast-forward a year, and the fickle world that is football was reflected in the incredible turnaround that Murphy had produced.

The winger’s journey at United started in July 2022. Signed by Karl Robinson, who had worked with Murphy when he was a youngster on loan at MK Dons, there was more than a sprinkling of excitement and expectation upon his arrival.

After all, he had just left Cardiff City, a club who signed him for a reported £11 million just four years earlier.

READ ALSO: Wembley hero Josh Murphy joins Portsmouth

His final season with the Bluebirds saw him loaned out to Preston North End, where he struggled to make an impact, but it was felt that a fresh start under a manager who could coax the best out of him would be the right move for the wide player.

Having hit the heights of the Premier League, and never playing below the second tier before joining the U’s, it seemed like a real transfer coup for the club.

As it was, niggling fitness worries and a lack of form hindered his first few months.

Robinson’s sacking in February 2023, as United flirted with relegation, then saw Liam Manning arrive as head coach.

Armed with a clear plan to make the U’s more robust in order to battle against the drop, it never felt that Murphy had the trust of his new boss.

United secured safety with Murphy unable to play a leading role, as the likes of Tyler Goodrham, Kyle Joseph and Marcus Browne took centre stage.

Oxford Mail:

Murphy was told to find a new club last summer, and when that didn’t materialise, he again found himself on the periphery.

That was despite many inside the club confirming that he was in sensational shape and had arrived for pre-season with a point to prove, having put in the hard yards during the summer.

Manning’s move to Bristol City in November signalled a fresh start though, and that’s exactly what Murphy got.

Des Buckingham’s homecoming provided an opportunity for Murphy, who started to show glimpses of his undoubted talent.

He returned from a calf problem in mid-February and never looked back.

Eight goals, including that match-winning brace at Wembley, in his final 18 games tells a story itself.

Added to the goals were his unbelievable pace, wicked crosses, and a host of full backs unable to keep up with him.

Buckingham’s preferred style, with the wingers staying high and wide, handed a platform for Murphy to deliver, and that is precisely what he did.

His goals in the Sky Bet League One play-off final wrote him into U’s folklore, as the club returned to the second tier of English football for the first time in 25 years.

Whatever thoughts supporters have on Murphy’s switch to Portsmouth, the play-off final double cannot be taken away from him.

Out of contract, he had a big decision to make at a key point in his career, and it’s Pompey he has opted for. Only he and those closest to him will know the full facts behind his decision.

As for United, they must look forward now, and focus on the challenging task of replacing their former star.