SHEFFIELD Wednesday striker Clinton Morrison has vowed to pull no punches as club captain ahead of today’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Birmingham City.
Morrison, appointed captain by new manager Gary Megson, will even be using former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane as his inspiration.
The Owls take a break from the pressures of League One football today after reaching the FA Cup fifth round for the first time in 11 years.
Morrison, returning to one of his former clubs, is braced for a rough ride but says if he can stand up to Keane, he should be able to stand up to anything.
“As a captain, I am definitely going to model myself on Roy because he was a winner,” said Morrison. “He used to be on me every day in training with the Republic of Ireland. I don’t think he picked on me, he picked on everyone.
“It was always ‘do this, do that’ but maybe he was only doing it to help me. Some players would have gone into their shells but it made me grow up more and become a better person.
“One time, I didn’t think he was right so I had a pop back at him,” he recalled.
“Five minutes later, I was thinking ‘What’s going to happen here?’ but he put his hand up and said ‘no, it was my bad ball.’”
Morrison won 36 caps for his country but, at 31, is now a forgotten figure on the international scene after drifting down to League One football.
The cocky Londoner is adamant that his team-mates will benefit from his straight-talking approach to captaincy and has also stressed a need for unity in the club’s dressing room.
“If you can’t take a bit of stick, you shouldn’t be playing the game,” he said. “If they do something wrong I will have a go at someone but, as soon as they do something right, I will also say well done. That’s just how I am.
“I could always take whatever was thrown at me. I am that type of person. Some people might be different but, at the end of the day, you are a footballer.
“There are about 27,000 Sheffield Wednesday fans who would love to be in our position playing. We are all in this together and, if they are not doing the right things, I will tell them. And I think most of the boys can take that stick.”
Morrison has managed to keep his place in the Owls side despite a spending spree last month which heralded the arrival of five new players at Hillsborough. New owner Milan Mandaric was trying to boost the club’s promotion push but the wheeling and dealing has backfired with former manager Alan Irvine sacked after results dipped.
“I have heard people saying there are unhappy people in the changing room,” said Morrison. “Maybe some have got their noses pushed out by the new players who have come in. But we are Sheffield Wednesday and new players will come in. You have to stand big and say ‘I’m going to hold onto this shirt, he’s not going to get it off me. If he does, I am going to work hard to get it back’.
“It happened to me when I first came to the club last summer. I didn’t play for about four or five games – and I was raging on the bench – but no one would ever know it. That’s when you have got to work hard and prove that you should be in the team.
“Things are hard to take because we are losing games we shouldn’t be losing,” he added. “But we just need a win and our season will turn back around again.
“We can’t blame the manager now. It is up to us as a group of players. We are getting paid X,Y, or Z so we have to turn up and produce on the pitch. That’s what I think. We all need to stand up now and produce on the pitch.”
Although Morrison spent three years with Birmingham in the Premier League and scored in two derby wins over arch-rivals Aston Villa, his popularity with Blues supporters took a hit when he celebrated after scoring on his return for Coventry City two seasons ago.
He admits that he will not be celebrating if he scores for the Owls this afternoon but is still desperate to knock his former club out of the FA Cup.
“I am not worried about the reception, I am just worried about doing well for Sheffield Wednesday,” he said. “I had a decent relationship with the fans but when I went back with Coventry I scored and a few booed me. I don’t think I was meant to score.
“We won 1-0 and I stood in front of the fans with my hands in the air. Usually when I score, I run around like a mad man.
“If they give me a bad reception, it will inspire me more,” he said. “I won’t celebrate if I score – I will want to – but I will show respect to Birmingham because they were good to me. I have fond memories because they were the club that gave me my chance in the Premiership.”
With hindsight, Morrison now admits he should have stayed with Birmingham rather than dropping back down to the Championship with Crystal Palace in the summer of 2005.
“There’s always a part of me that thinks I could still play in the Premiership,” he said. “I see other people playing there and think so. I believe I could have done more as a player, I was good enough for the Premier League and I scored goals. I left Birmingham at the wrong time. But I am in League One now with Sheffield Wednesday and we are 16th in the league. This is the club in my heart now and I want to be a winner with Sheffield Wednesday.
“It was an honour to be made captain and I have thanked the gaffer (Gary Megson). He doesn’t really know me and I don’t know him but he needs leaders and I am one of the players who talk. I just want to turn our season around. I want the club to go where it should be going.”