Chris Morgan has described teaming up with Danny Wilson at Chesterfield as a “great privilege”, nearly 20 years after the pair’s first working relationship began.
Wilson, then in charge of Barnsley, gave Morgan his professional debut at Upton Park against a West Ham United side featuring Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and John Hartson in what turned out to be a roller coaster season that ultimately ended in relegation from the Premier League.
The tough-tackling centre-half would stay at Oakwell for a further five years before he made the move across South Yorkshire to Sheffield United - where he would captain the side under Neil Warnock, lead the team back to the big time in 2005-06 and make 281 appearances for the club.
A knee injury sustained in 2010 would eventually call time on his playing days but Morgan was already making strides on the other side of the white line. Wilson, then in charge at Bramall Lane, offered him the chance to coach the reserves in a move that led to a full time role.
Morgan has felt the heat of the hot seat too in two spells as caretaker manager with the first coming, in a bizarre twist of fate, following Wilson’s departure at the Lane towards the end of the 2012-13 season. Now, the pair have been re-united once more at Chesterfield.
“Danny gave me my chance when I was a 19-year-old centre-half at Barnsley and then, when he got the job at Sheffield United and I sustained a knee injury, he gave me the opportunity to work on the coaching side alongside Frank Barlow,” said Morgan. “They were excellent with me and how they were as people has remained.
“We’ve always kept in touch and spoken over the phone. We know each other well enough and when he asked me to be his assistant it was a great privilege to say yes. There would have been loads of people who he could have asked. He has great experience in the game and knows what he will get from me.
“There’s trust there. He knows my work ethic and what I’m all about. From my point of view, to work alongside a manager with so much experience, is great, and I’m sure it’ll be a good partnership for Chesterfield. The staff here are brilliant and it’ll be a combined effort from all of us that’ll take this club forwards.”
Leaving a club after 12-and-a-half years was always going to be tough, for anyone, but Morgan said the opportunity at Chesterfield was one he couldn’t turn down.
“It was very difficult to leave,” he said. “When the gaffer asked me to join him it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It was an easy decision to join him and Chesterfield. I wanted to test myself, better myself and further my career. I was an under-21s coach but now I’m working with the first team.
“The hard part was actually leaving the club, to walk away. I’ve made a lot of really good friends - friends I’ve made for life - over the years there. I’ve had some great times and the club were excellent to me. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities they gave me. I felt it was the right time to move on.”
And the destination has made Morgan feel instantly at home.
“I have loved it since the minute I walked in to the club last week,” he said about Chesterfield. “The best way to describe it for me, is that the club has a family feel about it. Everyone knows each others’ names and says hello when you walk in the door. There are some clubs that don’t have that but it’s great that we do here.
“On the playing side, the first two games have seen a fantastic reaction from the players. It’s what you’d want to see when a new manager comes in - a reaction like that - and now it’s up to us as a coaching unit to keep them performing. We need to keep progressing and look to win each game we play. I’m looking forward to playing my part.
He added: “It’s a role I’m excited about. Things have gone well up to now and I have been really pleased with what I’ve seen.”
Morgan was in the dugout with Wilson for the Spireites’ 7-1 demolition of Shrewsbury, where he saw first hand the on-field talent at the club, and has been encouraged by the blend of youth and experience within the ranks.
“There are some really good players here. From experienced ones like Ian Evatt, Tommy Lee, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Lee Novak, among others, to the exciting young ones. There is a real youthfulness to the squad. The training sessions we have had from them have been first rate and it’s been an eye opener for me,” he said. “It’s a good crop of players and I think everyone has seen that in the Coventry and Shrewsbury games. We’ve picked up points and that’s helped confidence. The players have got their confidence back and now need to take it on until the end of the season.”
The goals were sensational but the points were invaluable as without them the League One table would have made more worrying reading for Chesterfield, who travel to Rochdale this afternoon.
Morgan added: “Our aims have to be realistic. We’ve got to try and win every game we go in to and instil that winning mentality. I can’t knock the players’ work rate, they’re certainly working hard and if you have a work ethic and a certain amount of ability, you will go far.”