Elliott Morris: I nearly quit last season, now I've got hunger to go on until I'm 40
Elliott Morris says he nearly quit football last season - but now he wants to play on until he's 40. The 35-year-old has one more year left on his Glentoran contract and he's excited about the future after coming through a season of hell that nearly finished off his career in horrific fashion.
The Oval shot-stopper, who has been at the club for nearly 15 years, suffered from intense back pain last season and one nightmare trip to Ballinamallard left him feeling very low and ready to walk away.
"After that game I cried and was embarrassed more than anything," said Morris, who has made 643 appearances for the club and is the longest serving player on their books.
"I said to myself I can't do this. I wasn't enjoying my football or playing well.
"I wasn't fit but I had a few chats with our goalkeeping coach David (McClelland) and we worked out a training schedule that saved my career.
"Last season was terrible for me and the back pain was really frustrating. I was going to a doctor's house on Friday night or Saturday morning and getting injections.
"There was one match away at Portadown when I got an injection and arrived 20 minutes late with the team already well into their warm-up.
"I sat on the bus to Ballinamallard one afternoon last February and could feel my back stiffening. I stood up and walked down the aisle to try and ease it but when I got off the bus I could hardly walk and I had a back spasm. I couldn't even dive in the warm-up.
"Alan (Kernaghan) put me on the bench. Aaron Hogg started the game but was then sent off. I came on when I shouldn't have been playing at all. I was diving and couldn't get up afterwards. Incredibly, I saved a penalty but the experience was laughable. I missed a few games after that.
"But I talked to David (McClelland) and we set out a new training programme that would help my back and there has been a big improvement.
"I worked hard in pre-season with David to change things as I couldn't go on like that. If I kept feeling that way there is no chance I could continue playing.
"David is a big reason why I am still here. He's been a great source of encouragement and we've worked out an approach that allows me to keep playing. You learn from all these experiences, the good and bad. I've come through it stronger now."
Morris, the club's second highest appearance maker behind Colin Nixon, is more optimistic about his fitness and enjoying the game again despite Glentoran's on-field problems.
"I still have a few issues with my back but things are managed much better now," he said.
"Right now I'm looking forward and still have the hunger. I've another year on my contract left and I'm looking to keep going for another few years.
"Keepers like Davy O'Hare, Roy Carroll and John Connolly have been going strong in their late 30s so whereas last year I thought I wouldn't make it to the end of the season, I'm now looking to 40.
"I'm enjoying training three times a week and being around the lads. I hate conceding goals but I love winning matches."
Morris, who has played an impressive 29 matches this season, is now determined to shut out Linfield at the Oval on Saturday and torpedo the Blues' fading title hopes.
"There's a lot of pressure on both teams and I think Linfield still have one eye on the league title. However, if they fail to beat us then I think that's the final nail in the coffin for them," said Morris, who has won three league titles and three Irish Cups.
"I think if you asked 10 people who they thought would win no one would give us a chance but we know how good we can be on our day. Portadown got a draw at Windsor Park when few people expected them to and that can happen in our league.
"We have shown in some games, including against Linfield on Boxing Day, that we can compete with the top four sides but our problem has been a lack of consistency and that is the reason why we are so low in the table.
"I can't remember a time when we have been so low in the table but this has been coming for a few years.
"The two Irish Cup wins were fantastic but they took the spotlight away from our league form which has fallen away.
"Since we won the title in 2009, we haven't been consistent enough and it's hard for everyone to take.
"We can still make the top six and challenge for a European place so that is our target."
This season has been a torturous one for the Glens with Gary Haveron replacing Alan Kernaghan as manager at the end of September and now the club face a fight - not to win the title, but to make the top six before the league split.
Morris understands the fans' frustration but he firmly believes Haveron should not be judged until next season.
"Everyone is asking how Glentoran can get back to the top but my view is that Gary Haveron needs to be given time to build his own squad," added Morris.
"He is working very hard behind the scenes to make the team stronger and bring in the right players at the right time.
"Fans will be critical and I understand that but Gary is working really hard to improve the team for next season.
"There were players that were available in January but the club needed to decide whether or not the deals made financial sense.
"The time to judge Gary is next season.
"He's brought in one or two young players but they need time to settle.
"Give him the summer to work on things, then hopefully the team will be a lot stronger next season.
"There's a tendency to kick people when they are down sometimes and unfortunately managers aren't given a lot of time in modern football but it's going to take time for Glentoran to get back to where they want to be.
"The supporters are restless and we understand that.
"For Glentoran to be so far off the pace in the title race and out of the Irish Cup in the fifth round isn't good enough but any new manager needs time to put his own stamp on the team."