Swansea City v Barnsley - Carlton Morris aiming to complete Wembley circle

GETTING to Wembley would mean so much to so many people at Barnsley.

Making a difference: Barnsley's Carlton Morris attempts a shot during the first leg. Picture: PA

For Carlton Morris it would be cathartic and ensure that one part of his career has gone ‘full circle’ as he puts it.

Of course, Morris and his team-mates must pull off something outstanding tonight for that to happen and are not looking that far ahead to a week’s time.

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They certainly will not start favourites as they step out at the Liberty Stadium either, but progression is still well within the Reds’ capabilities, given some astounding days in a 2020-21 season that no-one will forget.

Disappointed: Barnsley's Carlton Morris at the end of the first leg.

Not least Morris, who has scored more league goals than he has ever previously managed in a season for one club. Not bad when you consider that he only joined Barnsley in January.

It was not always this fulfilling for the 25-year-old. Far from it.

The hallowed turf of Wembley is a place where every footballer worth their salt dreams of striding out at.

Morris did it twice within quick succession in 2017-18 and sampled the bitter pill of defeat on both occasions in the colours of Shrewsbury Town, who lost the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final to Lincoln and League One play-off showpiece to Rotherham.

Barnsley's players applaud their fans after the 1-0 first leg defeat at Oakwell on Monday night - they hope to see them again at Wembley. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It does not tell half of the story. In the latter finale against another one of his former loan clubs in the Millers, Morris’s world caved in when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament which kept him out for the entire 2018-19 campaign.

But out of that dark day and the long road back to fitness with the medical staff at parent club Norwich City, a better player and person emerged – a ‘turning point’ in Morris’s life as the striker succinctly puts it.

On what a return to the home of football would personally mean, he told The Yorkshire Post: “It would go full circle. I could retire after!

“To be honest, it would be like a mini-story and something I would love to complete.

“It (injury at Wembley) changed me as a person, not really just football-wise. It was more than that. It was a life experience that you never forget. It was a turning point in my life.

“To be honest, even though I missed the full (18-19) season, I am probably better off for it as it has changed a lot of things for me and I think my mentality is ten times stronger than it was before.

“It made me stronger as a person, stop cutting corners and be more honest. It helped me out a lot and gave me a deep appreciation for the situation I am in and how lucky I am to be in it.

“But with where my mind is right now, I am not giving Wembley a second thought at the minute. I am focusing my total vision on the second leg and leaving it all out there. I feel really positive about it and think we have got a real chance.

“I have a lot of faith in my team-mates and support staff and think we can go and do it. I am really hopeful and excited for the experience.”

It was the half-time introduction of Morris which provided Barnsley with a transfusion of hope on Monday evening as he took the fight to Swansea’s dominant centre-defensive duo of Ben Cabango and Marc Guehi and started to ask a question or two.

Morris’s drive and directness was unmistakable and insatiable and it showcased a player who was clearly ‘in the zone’.

It is the type of situation that the Cambridge-born player lives for. As he did in his previous play-off experience with the Shrews when he scored the tie-clinching second goal in the second leg of a 2-0 aggregate semi-final win over Charlton three years ago.

Another key contribution would be timely this evening.

Morris, who did the hard yards early on in his career at a variety of loan destinations including York City, Oxford United and Hamilton Academical, continued: “As a footballer, these are the games you live for.

“When it is all on the line and a ‘win or come home’ situation. It is those big games that you treasure and relish and ones where you can leave your mark on. It is something I live for.

“I have been through the leagues, I know what it takes. I was a kid in League Two and they were not football matches, they were fights. It is those sort of experiences I draw from to help my game and leave it all out there.”

Part of Norwich’s all-conquering FA Youth Cup-winning class of 2013 – which also included ex-Reds midfielder Cam McGeehan, Huddersfield Town defender Harry Toffolo and the Murphy twins – Morris is good friends with several of his former Canaries contemporaries and other famous names who have played for the Carrow Road club.

They include one of his best mates in Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison, part of a Foxes line-up who had their own magic moment at Wembley in the FA Cup final seven days ago.

Morris added: “James is a very good mate of mine. He has been working with (clothes retailer) Boohoo and getting a few fashion clothes out there. I texted him the other day saying: ‘oh, they are lovely, mate – send me a couple of them, won’t you.’

“He has sent me a voicemail or two wishing me the best of luck and giving me a few pointers.

“I have got a lot of good friends and have been fortunate enough to have had quite a long career for a 25-year-old and I have met a lot of people and good friends who are doing tremendously well at the moment and you hear from all of them.

“The football community is a tight one and when the Championship semi-finals are on, they are all tuning in wishing me the best.

“It is nice to text them back after the game and it will, hopefully, be nice to do it on Saturday after a win.”

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