IF I’d written this article a year ago, mourning the departure of Josh Murphy from Oxford United, I would have been laughed out of town, writes The Oxonian.

Josh last week rejected a new contract offer and instead joined up with his former teammate John Mousinho at Portsmouth. Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth for the United fans who had grown to admire, if not love, the way that their Wembley winner had become the star man.

For older fans there is a very clear precedent for Murphy’s redemption story. Way back in the early 1980s, manager Jim Smith traded striker Keith Cassells and defender Mark Wright to Southampton, with Trevor Hebberd moving the other way.

Cassells was the top scorer, Wright went on to star for England at the 1990 World Cup.

Woes, wing wizardry and Wembley win: Reflections on Josh Murphy’s time with U’s

Hebberd is, of course, regarded as a Manor Ground legend, but that is a rewriting of history. When he first arrived he was not liked at all.

Forced to play in attack because Cassells had moved on, Hebberd struggled and the Manor fans gave him grief. It was most unfair, but it clearly affected the quiet young man trying to find his way at a new club in a new city.

Eventually either Smith’s man-management skills or Hebberd’s drive allowed him to win those same fans over.

He moved to midfield, was superb and eventually scored the opening goal in the Milk Cup final at Wembley in 1986. He had proved people wrong, proved himself, and eventually that led to a move to Derby County. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed as fans lost a hero.

His replacement, coming the other way from the Baseball Ground, was Micky Lewis. Again, fans took a LONG time to warm to him. Micky was a battler, a warrior, but he wasn’t Trevor Hebberd, and it took him a while to win the fans over.

See also Andy Whing this century. A thoroughly modern Micky, a cult hero, but derided for much of his first season and written off by the supporters.

So when Josh (Yoshi to his teammates) joined from Cardiff, there was already a long history of players proving fans wrong.

He struggled with injury, struggled with form and most fans, a year ago, agreed with Liam Manning’s assessment that he could find a new club for free if he wanted, and arguably at that stage not many clubs would have gambled on him.

A quiet, thoughtful individual, Josh came back for pre-season in the shape of his life and stubbornly refused to be left out. His first game last season was as a left back in a friendly at the training ground in which he covered more grass than anyone else, scored, and was easily the best player on the pitch.

Eventually he got a chance in the Trophy games and made it impossible to leave him out. He became the star man, the play-off match-winner, showing the form of his life. Credit to Des Buckingham who nurtured that, but credit to nature as well. That determination and steel to prove people wrong came from within.

It’s a remarkable story in many ways. A redemption tale that earned him a place in the club’s history. Thanks for the memories Josh. Eventually…