No rush as Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan plots next phase of his career

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CHRIS MORGAN may have been a granite-hard, uncompromising defender in his time at Sheffield United and Barnsley, but in his household, one person’s word clearly holds sway.

As it did just under 12 years ago when a fateful decision was made by Morgan’s wife, albeit with a bit of prompting from Neil Warnock.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

For that, the Blades stalwart is truly grateful.

Morgan has been part of the fabric at the Lane after moving over from Oakwell in July 2003, whether as an old-school centre-half or part of the coaching staff in his second footballing career.

His standing and longevity is such that he will be rewarded with a richly-deserved testimonial against Newcastle United on July 26 with Morgan – a keen supporter of local charities during his time with the Blades – to donate funds from the game to three very worthy local organisations.

It will give Unitedites the chance to salute as one a player and a figure who may have been a Barnsley lad by birth, but who in many respects was also born to be a Blade, with his whole ethos resonating with the club, who pride themselves on their working-class virtues.

That said, Morgan almost never arrived.

Morgan, who will serve as development coach and Under-21 manager under new first-team boss Nigel Adkins next season, said: “The testimonial is a really nice honour and something that came about 12 months ago and there’s been a lot of talking. It is something I am proud of.

“The days have gone now where people spend a long time at clubs. At one time, testimonials were quite common.

“But when I came here, it was a surprise. My agent had made contact with Cardiff and there were some talks going on.

“I had been out golfing actually and Neil had rung my home number and had about half an hour on the phone with my wife, so when I got home the wife informed me we were signing for Sheffield United!

“I then spoke to Neil as they were away in pre-season down in Devon, so I came down to the ground, signed the forms and my agent sorted a taxi out and I got one all the way down to Devon to meet up with the team.

“I still joke about it that it was Neil and my wife who sorted it out that I came here.

“I remember being a Barnsley player, I’d taken stick off the Blades supporters. But they have been great with me over the years.

“As a player and member of staff, you just hope you have earned that respect.”

Morgan has endured highs and lows during his epic time at the Lane, with his playing years as captain under Neil Warnock on a real adventure in the red and white half of Sheffield being days he will always treasure.

The redoubtable centre-half with the cigarette-card looks was the on-pitch leader when the Blades clinched automatic promotion in 2005-06 and ended their 12-year exile from the big time, with Good Friday in Cardiff in 2006 when Warnock’s side all but booked their top-flight berth being a day he will never forget.

The acute pain of relegation in the teeming rain against Wigan in 2006-07 and a Wembley play-off loss to Burnley in 2009 are less pleasurable memories, but by and large, it has been overwhelmingly good. Especially 2005-06.

Morgan, who played nearly 250 games for United and has been part of the coaching set-up since hanging up his boots in 2010, said: “It was special. To achieve something in football is difficult and that promotion was good.

“I remember we went to China on a pre-season tour. We more or less had a flight every day and were there for 12 days and there was a lot of travelling.

“Players were moaning that there was too much travelling and I remember Neil saying it will galvanise us and make us tougher. And it did.

“I remember playing at Burnley in the second game of the season and Kozy (Rob Kozluk) saying: ‘This season, we are going to get promoted – I can tell.’ Koz being the character he was, we all brushed him off. But we did.

“I remember Cardiff, definitely. When I speak to people like David Unsworth and Craig Short, who had careers in the Premier League, they still say now that one of the biggest memories in their careers was Danny Webber pulling off the left-hand side and scoring that goal.”

Morgan also remains indebted to the Blades for launching him on his coaching career after being forced to retire through a serious knee injury and while his sights are ultimately set on management, he is no rush.

He said: “Danny (Wilson) and Frank Barlow wanted me to join the staff and at a time in my career when it basically got turned upside down with retirement, they were brilliant and fantastic to learn off.

“The club could have washed their hands of me when I’d retired and just say: ‘Thanks very much for your services and off you go’ sort of thing.

“I have not stood still and I want to manage ultimately. But I am only 38, even though people may think I am 48! I am happy with my career path and genuinely not in a mad rush.”