Steve Morison: From 4am starts to Wales No 9
Millwall's striker has come a long way from when he earned his living at a paper-shredding firm
It is a measure of the vast gulf in resources at the disposal of Fabio Capello and Gary Speed in Cardiff tomorrow that while the England player who made it the hard way – Matt Jarvis – will be grateful for any kind of action, his Welsh equivalent may well lead the front line.
Steve Morison has actually succeeded in the place where Jarvis failed. His 15 goals have all but secured safety in the first season back up at Championship level for Millwall, the club which released England's new recruit. But the Wolves winger's long road to international recognition is a short cut compared with 27-year-old Morison, who spoke yesterday of his days getting up at 4am for the job at a paper-shredding firm which subsidised his non-league career, only seven years ago.
Morison was at Bishop's Stortford and heartbroken to have been heading there after the Northampton Town manager Colin Calderwood had called him in to the office to tell him he had been sold. Calderwood's assistant, David Kerslake, told him: "Go and make a name for yourself. Sometimes you have to go down and do it the hard way." That didn't stop Morison driving away from the Sixfields Stadium in a state of desolation. "I remember leaving Northampton and being in tears as I drove to Bishop's Stortford, thinking that I was now a non-league player," he said, at the Welsh training base in the Vale of Glamorgan yesterday.
For a player whose self-belief had been so shredded, the day job he took was an appropriate one. "I was working at a paper-shredding company in Potters Bar, travelling around at four o'clock in the morning on a lorry, going to places like Deloitte & Touche to pick up their confidential paper and shredding it in the back of the lorry," Morison recalled. "I was getting to work for 4am. I finished at one o'clock in the afternoon and then I'd get my head down for a few hours and then went to play football a couple of nights a week.
"For the first six months [in the non-league] I was head and shoulders above everyone else because I had just come out of the Football League so I still had that fitness and sharpness. The next season, though, it was training twice a week, getting a job and you start to become a non-league footballer, you start living that life. You start missing training.
"Work becomes more important so when my agent, who I had been with for literally a week, said Stevenage wanted to sign me I walked into the [shredding] company manager's office and said: 'I'm leaving now."
The goals have always flowed: 28 of them in 18 months at Bishop's Stortford, 89 in 152 games down the road at Stevenage and now 38 in 90 for Millwall, whom he joined in 2009. He'd been an England C international and was at The New Den before Dean Saunders remembered someone mentioning that Morison's mother had been born in the heart of Nye Bevan territory, at Tredegar.
He had to miss his first call-up, for the friendly in Croatia, because of last season's League One play-off final, which sent Millwall up. It was last July that he finally got his chance, assisting Ashley Williams' goal in the 5-1 win over Luxembourg at Llanelli. "I wouldn't be surprised if all of the [England players] are asking 'who is Steve Morison?' and I wouldn't expect them to know me," he declared yesterday.
In his own way, David Vaughan has a shadow to emerge from behind too. The Blackpool midfielder has been one of the Premier League's revelations this season, yet still overshadowed by Charlie Adam. Vaughan, out of contract and probably seeking a move this summer, sees Saturday as a chance to show what he can do. "Charlie is a great player and he gets the headlines he deserves, but it is nice to step out of his shadow and, hopefully, I can show on Saturday that he is not the only player at Blackpool," he said.
Spirit alone won't take Wales to victory and, while they will lift many hearts, the head says the gulf in class will be too great tomorrow. But Morison won't be intimidated and that counts for something. "Top stars are playing at the highest level and what they do works for them," he said. "This works for me, giving 100 per cent knowing where I've come from and knowing what's got me to where I am now."
Morison's fall and rise
2001-04 Northampton (28 games, three goals)
2004-06 Bishop's Stortford (45 games, 28 goals)
2006-09 Stevenage Borough (152 games, 89 goals)
2009- Millwall (90 games, 38 goals)
Eight caps for England C (three goals); Four caps for Wales (no goals)
FA Trophy 2007, 09 (with Stevenage); League One play-offs 2010 (Millwall)
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