When Sam Murphy left Mansfield Town Football Club to fly home to his native Australia last May, he did so with a heavy heart.
Murphy had already fallen in love with the Stags, but his internship spell with Mark Stevenson in the club’s media office was over and it seemed his future lay down under.
However, a phone call out of the blue from Mansfield Town saw him up sticks within two weeks and fly right back round the world to take up a new role as the club’s ticket office manager – and Sam couldn’t be any happier.
“Having survived in League Two last season I knew this season was going to be a special season and I was gutted I may miss it,” he said.
“It’s a great place to be at the moment. There’s a lot of ambition coming from a number of different areas.
“All the departments of the club can really sense there is something potentially special on the horizon, so it’s great to be back.
“I look around the place now and can’t believe I am back. Walking back in here five months after going, it felt like I’d never left which is always a good sign.
“I was working for a club called Brisbane Roar Football Club, who play in the Australia A League, which is the top flight of Australian football.
“I was also working for one of our governing bodies called Football Queensland, similar to the Nottinghamshire FA in the state of Queensland.
“The call came from out the blue. I had just got home from work on a Tuesday, just sitting there with dinner all cooked up and mentally preparing for the fact I may not get the opportunity to come back here.
“This was always something I wanted to do. But it had got to the point where I was getting ready to bite the bullet.
“If I did get the opportunity it was going to be at this football club as I’d not developed the networks elsewhere as much as I would have liked.”
He added: “It was going to be incredibly difficult and probably impossible to get a call from Manchester United or Nottingham Forest.
“I had to make the decision within a couple of days as it was a very short turn around and a big decision relocating to England.
“I managed to turn it around within two weeks and I was on a plane back over to England and into Mansfield a couple of days after that.
“We were in the off-season over there, getting ready for the next season. I was getting mentally prepared for that and then along came this as a huge spanner in the works. But it was fantastic.
“It all happened very suddenly. But I did feel like I’d left here with a bit of unfinished business. I felt I’d left a bit too early, though I didn’t have much choice at the time as there wasn’t really a position here for me.”
This is actually his third experience with the Stags, having first encountered the club as a referee and finding himself on the line of a Mansfield Town friendly in 2011.
“When I first came over in 2011 I used to be a referee, which is how I began in football,” he said.
“We came over on a tour and I was actually involved in a game involving Mansfield Town. It was a friendly match against the new defunct Eastwood Town, I think Paul Cox was in charge of Eastwood.
“Three Australian officials took charge of the match and I was one of the assistant referees.
“After that I wanted to move away from refereeing and move down an administration path and it was Mansfield Town who took me on.”
Sam then found himself back on Pommie soil in 2015.
“From my holiday here in 2011, I did like the Nottinghamshire region a lot,” he said. “ I enjoyed its history and the people – it’s wonderful.
“I was studying a sports management degree. Previously I came from more of an events management background, which I guess is now similar to what I am doing here at the moment.
“I decided I wanted to try my hand in the media side of things and get more experience – that is one thing in the football industry that is valuable to someone that has a varied skills set.
“It leaves you open with a chance of future employment going forward, whether it’s in that industry or another.
“I was looking around for an opportunity to do my University internship and I sent an email to Mark Stevenson out of the blue.
“I really wanted the opportunity to come over to England to experience football over here and see what it was like.
“Mark was kind enough to open the door here for me and gave me a fantastic opportunity.
“I took that with full commitment and decided to keep going with it and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. Initially it was for five months, running from February last year to about the end of May.”
Covering all bases, Sam had written to several clubs, but he knew Stags would be the perfect one.
“I wrote to the clubs in the Nottinghamshire area as I had contacts there and it was where I was looking to live too,” he said.
“I am very thankful that in a wonderful turn of events Mansfield took me on as I question whether I would have got the same experience at a bigger club like Forest or Derby County.
“When you come and work for a club in League Two, one thing you’re guaranteed is the chance to really test yourself and prove yourself. So for that I will be forever thankful to the football club.
“It was getting thrown into the deep end and getting those jobs you want to as a young football professional, trying to make an impression.”
Sam loves the location of the club, making it easy to get anywhere else.
“It is such a central place, you have good access to every part of the country,” he said.
“It was also where, when I was back in Australia, I’d met a number of people with ties to England and it just so happened they were from this area.
“So when I first came over I was living with them initially, which was a bit of a financial decision as well.
“The first time I didn’t have to go out and rent a place which was nice.
“Before that I knew they were a big football club, well-supported. And I knew the community behind them was a very strong community that got behind the team.
“I believe they even have an Australian supporters’ club, one of the few League Two club that have any sort of supporters’ club overseas.
“You speak to Australians and they have heard of Mansfield Town. It does get over to that side of the world.”
Barely had he taken off his graduation cap, Sam was back on a plane.
“I graduated and got my cap and gown two days before I actually came back over to England, so I timed it really well,” he smiled.
“That was a nice experience. The degree – the piece of paper itself – is great. But one thing I have always valued more is experience, so the five months I had at Mansfield were, in my opinion, a lot more valuable than the first two and half years of my degree sitting in a classroom.
“But it was the degree that actually gave me the opportunity to come over here in the first place, so it works both ways.
“I went home and went into a completely different department in football, being events. Now I am back here and managing the ticket office. It’s not what I was here doing previously but it all helps in the grand scheme of things to build that experience.”
Sam is loving dealing with supporters and having daily contact with the public.
“As ticket officer manager I get to deal with the Mansfield public which, when I got the opportunity, was one of the biggest reasons to come back,” he said.
“One of things I took away most from last time was the fact I find the people here very interesting - in a good way.
“To get the chance to deal with our loyal fans on a day to day basis is very much a motivational factor.
“When a supporter comes here and interacts with the football club I want to give them a smiling face at the ticket office. My main priority is to focus on that customer service side of it and make sure we are looking after our fans.”
He has no idea what the future holds for him – but Sam is in no rush to head back to Australia.
“I’d love to see my future in this country,” he said. “That’s been my biggest goal. I wanted that to happen the first time I was here.
“Going back to Australia made me realise, whilst it’s home, there does come a time in your life when you need to go and experience new places.
“The opportunity to go and live overseas and work in a completely different environment as a football professional, you can’t get much more of an opportunity than England.
“I haven’t spent my last day in Australia, but I want this to last as long as possible.
“Having a chat to many people who come here, especially on the ‘Evenings With’ on a Monday night really got me entrenched in the history of this club and to realise the people and the players and everything that have come before me – the rich history this football club does have – really made fall in love with the club.
“The message the manager is giving out at the moment about taking this football club forward is one of the main reason I wanted to come back - the potential of missing out on this season.”