Superstar in the making: Could he be Phuket’s first ever Premier League player?

PHUKET: Nicky Murphy wasn’t born into a football family – his Australian father, Craig, was always more of a rugby league man.

Saturday 17 March 2012, 02:47PM

Murphy hopes to train with Sunderland’s youth squad. Photo: Craig Murphy

Murphy hopes to train with Sunderland’s youth squad. Photo: Craig Murphy

Yet the talented 15-year-old, Phuket “born and raised”, started playing with the round ball from a young age, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I’ve been playing since I was six years old. I started playing at BIS [British International School] with friends, every lunch time non-stop.”

And after playing in several leagues around Phuket and Thailand, and studying at Phuket International Academy (PIA) on a football scholarship, it now appears Nicky has his sights set on bigger things. Namely, the
English Premier League.

While nothing is set in stone yet, it looks as though Nicky may have the chance to train with the Sunderland AFC youth squad over the coming British summer holidays.

The ambition would be to then turn that into a full time contract to train with the squad, and perhaps one day take to the field for Sunderland’s top tier side.

If he succeeds, he will be the first Phuketian to accomplish such an incredible feat.

Of course, in the intensely competitive world of professional sport, it can be as much about who you know as what you know.

For Nicky’s father, Craig, his contacts in Phuket and abroad have helped bring the Premier League dream that little bit closer.

A man who works for Craig at Sunseeker Phuket happens to be from Sunderland, and it was through
him that Craig was invited to the members box at a Sunderland AFC match.

Craig was able to speak to people there about Nicky, and establish the contacts necessary to get his name out there.
But Nicky is quite obviously not alone in his ambition to play at football’s highest level – literally thousands of youngsters around the world are applying to join the ranks at Sunderland alone, and at this stage, no one is getting ahead of themselves.

Given the overwhelming demand, clubs are often reluctant to send talent scouts to more remote places like Phuket without first having a strong indication of the player’s talent.

Nicky’s profile and player footage is now sitting on the Sunderland bosses’ desk, waiting for approval.
But like all major opportunities, a foot in the door can be all you need, and Craig is confident that Nicky will at least have the chance to show what he is capable of.

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“As parents, from our side, we just want to give him the opportunity to do it. If he doesn’t make it, that’s fine as well. But if you never try you’ll never know.”

And even if the Sunderland avenue fails, Nicky has other options open. A talent scout for Scotland giants Celtic, Andy Amour, has also shown interest in Nicky.

Mr Amour is currently recruiting players from Australia, and Craig says sending Nicky to Australia to train could be another option.

One thing is for certain though, Nicky says that if he wants to succeed in the world of football, he must leave Phuket soon – there simply aren’t the same opportunities available for talented footballers, and youth development is low on the priority list of local authorities.

“There are kids around who have the ability, but there’s no facilities for them, nothing from the government,” Craig said.

“They put all this money into tackling drugs, but why not put some of that into organising some tournaments which could help bring kids in off the streets?

“At the moment it’s very difficult in Asia to get exposure. You have to be in these [European] countries to do it.”
For Nicky though, the chance to move abroad would be a welcome experience.

“I don’t think I will [miss Phuket]. I think England will be a better place to stay. There are more opportunities there for me.

“It would be excellent, a dream come true. When I was young I always wanted to play in the Premier League.”

But for all the talk of Nicky’s future football success, the 15-year-old is yet to witness the action first-hand.
“Only on TV. That’s the closest I’ve been to the Premier League.”

With a bit of luck, and a lot more hard work, Nicky could be getting a whole lot closer to the action, and in doing so perhaps inject some life into the languishing Phuket youth football scene.



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