Sheffield United: How Morgs became a Blade by accident

Chris Morgan celebrates his testimonial with a match against Newcastle United this weekend � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Chris Morgan celebrates his testimonial with a match against Newcastle United this weekend � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Nearly three hundred appearances, over a decade’s worth of service and two spells in caretaker charge.

Not bad for a player who, Chris Morgan explained, Sheffield United apparently signed by accident.

Helping Sheffield United reach the Premier League was the highpoint of Chris Morgan's playing career

Helping Sheffield United reach the Premier League was the highpoint of Chris Morgan's playing career

“I remember my first training session and the gaffer asked Rob Page to go on the right side of defence so I could play on the left,” he said. “That was because he reckoned it was my best foot.

“Pagey looked at him in a strange way. Rob Kozluk did the same and then blurted out I was better on the right.

“Neil looked distraught and started shouting ‘I’ve got the wrong bloody one. I meant to get the other lad at Barnsley.’ Then everybody started to roll about laughing.”

Of course, Neil Warnock knew exactly what United were getting after luring Morgan away from Oakwell 12 years ago. On Sunday, when Newcastle are the visitors to Bramall Lane, the former centre-half will be able to reflect upon his memorable career during what promises to be a hard-fought but emotional testimonial.

Chris Morgan says he is fortunate enough to have played alongside some "real characters" at Bramall Lane

Chris Morgan says he is fortunate enough to have played alongside some "real characters" at Bramall Lane

“I didn’t think I’d ever be here this long,” Morgan told The Star last night. “Because I’d been at Barnsley since I was eleven, when you do move you think it’s probably going to be the first of many.

“The two clubs are so similar. They’re such friendly places behind the scenes.

“Sheffield United is the type of club that just sucks you in. A lot of them, when you finish, say ‘thanks for everything you’ve done’ and then ‘cheerio.’ But not here. Not this one. It’s a special place and I’m so grateful that I was given the chance to come.”

The first chapter of Morgan’s United story began with a debut against Gillingham in 2003. It ended, seven years, 281 games and one top-flight campaign later, when he failed to recover from a knee injury sustained during a defeat by Coventry City. That prompted then manager Danny Wilson, who recognised the fearsome centre-half had a cerebral side, to offer him a role as a coach.

Chris Morgan played nearly 300 games for Sheffield United after leaving Barnsley in 2003

Chris Morgan played nearly 300 games for Sheffield United after leaving Barnsley in 2003

“The highlight, without a shadow of a doubt, was getting promoted to the Premier League in 2006,” Morgan said. “Going to China, the summer before, was so demanding. It wasn’t easy with all the travel and that just galvanised us even more. There was such a camaraderie.

“Kozzy, after the second game at Burnley, came on the bus and said we’d done it. We were going up.

“That was just the feeling we had. To get promoted was phenomenal.

“Lowlights were getting relegated out of the Premier League and then losing a play-off final (to Burnley). Those were gut-wrenching.

Chris Morgan now coaches Sheffield United's under-21's team � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

Chris Morgan now coaches Sheffield United's under-21's team � copyright : Blades Sports Photography

“Also, the Huddersfield one under Danny because that was my first play-off experience from the dug-out as it were.”

“You get ups and downs,” Morgan continued. “The first year I took the reserves we won the league.

“ I told the lads ‘don’t take this lightly.’ Cherish this medal as much as anything else.

“I told them I hoped they all went on to win Championships but get into that winning mentality. Unless you are a top, top player at one of the top, top clubs, the chances are you aren’t going to be collecting a cabinet full. Most people end their careers without any at all.”

Morgan, aged 37, has experienced some big moments with United. And big personalities too.

“I’ve been lucky to play with some fantastic players and characters. You don’t really miss the playing. It’s the dressing room. The craic and the laughs that you miss the most.

“Kozzy, Ian Bennett, Killa (Matthew Killgallon). A great young lad with a real chirpy confidence.

“Benno and Kozzy are so similar. They’ve got a dry sense of humour and you need people like that to hold everything together.

“Everyone who has achieved anything in the game, promotions, lifted cups or whatever, they’ll all tell you it was about the group.

“Stephen Quinn, Jags (Phil Jagielka), the two Kyles (Walker and Naughton), Lowts (Matthew Lowton) were great young players. Gary Naysmith, Craig Short, David Unsworth and James Beattie were top people who came in after great careers elsewhere and showed exactly why here.”

Like United, who appointed Nigel Adkins during the close season, Newcastle are also adjusting to life under a new regime. Sunday’s contest, which aims to raise funds for two local charities and the Gary Speed Trust, will be the first match on Bramall Lane’s DESSO pitch.

“Both clubs are in an exciting transition,” Morgan said. “And it will be their first game in this country after going to the States.

“It’s not going to be a normal testimonial. There will be more of an edge there because we’re both taking it seriously with regards to preparation.

“And for me, of course, it will be a very special day. One which will allow me to say ‘thanks.’”

*Tickets for Chris Morgan’s testimonial, which takes place on Sunday (kick-off 1pm), are priced £15 (adults), £10 (adult season ticket holders) and £5 (concessions).

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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