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Groundhog day for Morgan’s final fling

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Chris Morgan will always be remembered for his goal for Glentoran against Linfield in April 2005

Chris Morgan will always be remembered for his goal for Glentoran against Linfield in April 2005

Chris Morgan will always be remembered for his goal for Glentoran against Linfield in April 2005

Today a true Irish League great will go back to where it all began to run out in his final game in local football.

Chris Morgan kicked off his career with Crusaders as a fresh-faced youngster and 16 years on, it's at Seaview where the medal-strewn path comes to an end when his current and last club, Dungannon Swifts, head for north Belfast.

Morgan, possibly the only player in the local game to have a day named after him, has won league titles at three different clubs, scored two — including the winner — in an Irish Cup final and made a solid contribution to countless other successes while at the Crues, Linfield, Glentoran, Newry City and the Swifts.

Now it's almost all over as the 34-year-old striker has decided to call it a day, with a niggling back problem proving to be harder to shift these days then when he was a little younger.

And he feels the time is right to blow the final whistle.

“I feel quite comfortable with the decision actually,” he said.

“It is something that I have given a lot of thought to and a number of reasons coming together have helped make it a little easier.

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“I have been having a bit of trouble with my back and it’s getting more and more difficult to get myself into a position where I am fully mobile for games.

“It's probably something that I could fix with a good break and plenty of rest, but if it carries on I can't play the way I'd want to and it would be no use to anyone, me playing on.

“As well as that, having a young family has meant that my priorities have shifted and it's not fair on (Morgan's wife) Aisling to have to deal with looking after the kids and everything else when I am coming home from work then going straight out to training.

“Of course I am going to miss it — I know on the first day of the season I will probably wish I was playing, but I certainly won't be missing pre-season, that's for sure.”

Here he guides us through his glittering career.

CRUSADERS

“Not a lot of people know, but I was actually at Bangor as a kid, playing for their youth team. I had back trouble then and missed a year-and-a-half and that knocked my confidence a bit. I was playing in the Amateur League for Saintfield United and we played Crusaders in a pre-season friendly and I scored four. The reserve team assistant manager Fraser Evans and Billy Sinclair said to me to go down, but I wasn't sure I was going to be able to cut it at reserve team level never mind make the step up again, but I went and it wasn't long before Roy Walker put me in the first-team.

“I scored on my first-team debut against Omagh and I think shortly after that I began to think to myself, ‘what am I worrying about?' I grew in confidence after that and that was helped a lot by Stephen Baxter and Jim Gardiner, I learned so much from them in terms of holding up the ball and bringing other players into play. I was really raw and just wanted to get the ball and run at people. If I had to name players who had the biggest influence on my career it would be those two.

“While I was there, Crusaders won two league titles, the first I played a couple of games in, but mostly from the bench then in the second I probably played in about three-quarters of it. It was a bit of a shock I suppose because Crusaders weren't a team used to winning titles, but when you look at the players we had it shouldn't really have been a shock.

“A few years later I decided to move on. My confidence had really grown a lot over those years and I felt it would be a good time to try my luck elsewhere. Linfield, the Glens, Portadown and Cliftonville who had just won the league were interested, but I decided to go to Linfield. Even though I grew up supporting the Glens, I felt it was the right decision.

LINFIELD

“People questioned whether I should have gone to Linfield because at the time they had Glenn Ferguson, Davy Larmour and Lee Feeney all playing up front and they wondered if I had made the right move. Spike is who he is, Feeno was being spoken about going to Rangers and Davy had scored a lot of goals after coming back from Liverpool. I just felt it was best for me, even as a Glentoran fan. I spoke with David Jeffrey and he had tried to sign me before. He told me that Linfield rarely go back for players twice let alone three times and that made me feel wanted and they were confident that I could make an impact there. I didn't have a great start because I had a groin injury that kept me out for a while and it wasn't until about October/November time that I got in because Spike ended up getting injured. These things happen in football and you take your chances when they come along.

“After that I settled in really well and things took off. I scored a fair amount of goals and won a couple of titles. A personal highlight was scoring two in the Irish Cup final against Portadown, because people always remember who scores. We had a really good team and I really enjoyed my time at Linfield.

“Towards the end of my time there I had had a few injuries, but I still believe I played my part in winning the league. There is an old mantra at Linfield that winning medals wins you contracts, so when I was told I was being released I was shocked. I didn't want to leave and I felt that David Jeffrey had made the wrong decision. I'll admit it really got to me for a few weeks because I constantly thought he was wrong and even now I still believe that I deserved a new contract. I remember the rest of the players were like that too, certainly given their reaction when I told them I was going, but there was no animosity towards David, it was a footballing decision that he felt he had to make.”

GLENTORAN

“I had been quite down about the whole thing and after speaking to Ballymena I was just about to phone Kenny Shiels and tell him I would sign. For some reason I thought, ‘no, just wait a day or two and see what happens.' Then on Monday (then Glentoran Chief Executive) Tom Dick called me and said he was sorry they hadn't been in touch, but Roy Coyle had been on holiday and they couldn't do anything. It was a bit strange because it was just the phone call that I wanted, but at the same time I didn't want because I knew that I had to make a very tough decision. I knew that everything I had done for Linfield would probably now be forgotten by Bluemen, but I was being given a very good opportunity. Not many players get the chance to have two goes at the Big Two, normally when you are released by Linfield or Glentoran you can only go down.

“When I agreed to sign Roy Coyle gave me some very good advice, he told me not to try and prove anything to anyone.

“The team started really well, we won in Europe, but it took me a while to get going and the Glenmen didn't really warm to me straight away. Then we won the CIS Cup at Windsor and I scored the winner against Linfield and that was probably the best way to go about winning them over. We had a good season, but there were a few blips and one day we almost

blew it because we lost at Dungannon, but then the Blues drew at home to Portadown and it was still in our hands. That eventually came down to that one game against Linfield at the Oval which was obviously the highlight of my career.

“We won the league but the following season was a big disappointment. I think we signed too many strikers and the squad wasn't really strengthened and then Roy Coyle left. Paul Millar came in and we rallied a bit, but results were a bit up and down and I wasn't really getting much of a chance.

“I remember Paul telling me I was probably leaving the club which wasn't nice to hear. Gary Hamilton had come in and was flying, I wouldn't argue against him being in the team, but I thought we could have played well together but we never really got the chance.

“Paul left and Alan McDonald came in and he told me he wanted me to stay, but then never really played me. I wish he’d just let me go. At the end the disappointing thing was that I couldn't wait to get away and I wasn’t enjoying it.”

NEWRY CITY

“I think people probably expected me to go to Newry and were surprised that it hadn't happened sooner because I am friends with Gerry Flynn. I went there and really enjoyed it and I was really disappointed that I didn't manage to bring them anything. We got to the CIS Cup final and lost to Portadown and it could have been a lot different. I remember speaking to my mum afterwards and there were tears in my eyes — I was really upset by it, as much, if not more, than any final I have lost in — and there have been quite a few. After Gerry left there was so much going on and it put me off a bit. I really liked John McDonnell, he was a good coach, but there was so much other stuff going on behind the scenes and at that stage I had got fed up with it.”

DUNGANNON SWIFTS

“I thought that this was probably going to be my last club and even my last season so I wanted to just go and enjoy it and I have done. I told Dixie Robinson, Rodney McAree and Darren Murphy when I joined that if I wasn't going to be as good on the pitch as I used to be, I still had a lot to offer in terms of experience and helping other players at the club and that's the way it turned out.

“It is a great club, well run and I was really impressed by Dixie when I spoke to him. I hope they do well. I have enjoyed every minute of my time here.”


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