Nigel Clough did extremely well at the Pirelli Stadium last season, defying all odds and guiding Burton Albion to Sky Bet Championship safety, when many believed they were destined for an instant return to League One at the start of the season.
There were some impressive performers within Burton’s team, particularly Jackson Irvine, who scored ten goals and was the focal point behind the Brewers’ success in the Championship last season.
Irvine is attracting interest from across the Championship, and his performances throughout the 2016/17 campaign deserved that. However, the influence of another midfielder proved to be a crucial factor in Burton’s survival – Luke Murphy.
Murphy was cutting a frustrated figure at Leeds United during the first-half of the season, having been cast aside by Garry Monk and a loan move to Burton in January, proved to be a benefit for both club and player.
Following Murphy’s league debut for Burton, a 2-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic, Clough’s side were 21st in the Championship table and just one-point outside the relegation zone.
Murphy’s influence proved to be significant at Burton, and despite the Brewers finishing the season just one-point outside the relegation zone, they were never in any realistic danger of the drop during the closing stages of the campaign.
The 27-year old scored just one goal from his 20 appearances for Burton, but his calming influence in midfield saw Clough’s side produce some excellent results and his disciplined performances certainly gave Irvine the freedom to attack.
Burton’s biggest task will come next season, where they will have to again defy the odds and survive, potentially without Irvine.
Signing Murphy permanently is essential for Clough over the summer, with the midfielder potentially the difference between survival and relegation.