If Mick Wadsworth had got his way, Chris Morgan could have been lining-up against Sheffield United tomorrow afternoon, writes James Shield.
But thanks to a polite difference of opinion with the late, great Sir Bobby Robson, he enjoyed the best years of his career at Bramall Lane instead.
“I tried to get Bobby to buy him for Newcastle,” Wadsworth, who assisted the former England manager at St James’ Park, revealed. “Morgs was still with Barnsley at the time.
“I thought he was ready and Charlie Woods, the chief scout, thought he was ready too.
“Bobby, in all honesty, wasn’t quite sure so it never happened. Which is a real shame because, I’m absolutely convinced, Chris would have really grown into it there.”
Tomorrow, against the visitors from the North-East, United will enjoy an opportunity to celebrate Robson’s intransigence and their good fortune. Morgan made 281 appearances after joining them in 2003 and, despite seeing injury end his career seven years later, continues to serve as a coach.
The fourth fixture of United’s pre-season campaign, which also doubles as Morgan’s testimonial, is designed to recognise that contribution.
“Make no mistake, Chris was a top, top performer,” Wadsworth, now senior development coach at United’s Redtooth Academy, said. “The qualities he had were everything you needed in a centre-half. The mentality, the physical approach to the game and the intelligence too.
“After Newcastle, when I was manager at Oldham Athletic, we made a really good offer to get him there.
“Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for Sheffield United, he ended up coming here.
“At St James’ Park, even thought it never happened, Bobby recognised what he was all about.
“That’s why we watched him three times.”
Wadsworth’s relationship with Robson can be traced back to his days as a match observer for the England national team. The 64-year-old, whose appointment was endorsed by United manager Nigel Adkins, has also worked for the likes of Hartlepool, Gretna and DR Congo during a long and diverse career. Like Morgan, he was born in Barnsley.
“I’ve known Chris a long, long time and I count him as a very dear friend.
“I also know that Nigel values his qualities highly and was very happy to inherit him.
“Chris has got a massive role to play here. The under-21’s is the bridge, it’s the finishing school, if you like, for players who are waiting to get into the first team
“The role he’s got is absolutely key.”
Wadsworth, who assisted Morgan during his second spell in caretaker charge before the appointment of Adkins’ predecessor Nigel Clough, boasts a wealth of experience having spent nearly four decades in the game.
“Chris is a bright young man. Intellectually, he’s done all of his badges and is very switched on.
“He’s mad keen to be a manager and I’m convinced he’ll become a very good one.
“He’s still a very young coach but he’s learning all the time. He enjoys soaking-up all the knowledge that’s around him and he’s got exactly the right approach.”
Adamant that Morgan will eventually forge a successful career in the technical area, Wadsworth is equally convinced United are set to reap the benefits of Adkins’ meticulous approach.
“I’m a huge admirer of Nigel. I’ve crossed swords with him as a manager and I’m sure it’s going to be a great appointment.
“Nigel is highly professional and has a huge interest in every aspect of the club, including the youth, and balancing that with the need to get Sheffield United up.
“More than anyone else, because of his time at Southampton who have produced outstanding players for as long as anyone can remember, he understands the point of an academy. Where better than Southampton to see that?
“He’ll have analysed what went on down there, absorbed it and will know be able to bring that knowledge here.”
Adkins, meanwhile, has urged supporters to attend tomorrow’s match (kick-off 1pm) and give Morgan the acclaim “he deserves.”
“It should be a good game, a very interesting game and against excellent opposition,” Adkins. “Plus, with it being Chris’ testimonial, it would be great to see people flooding through the turnstiles.”