PRO­FILE

Chris Dunlavy looks at the ca­reer of Ex­eter striker Clin­ton Mor­ri­son

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Chris Dunlavy

WHEN Clin­ton Mor­ri­son was 18, he walked into the Crys­tal Palace dress­ing room for the first time and spread his arms wide. “Don’t worry, boys,” he told a bunch of non­plussed first-team­ers. “Clin­ton’s here. Ev­ery­thing is gonna be all right.”

In ac­tual fact, it wasn’t. Though Mor­ri­son scored on his de­but, the Ea­gles were rel­e­gated from the Premier League that sea­son. Yet the tale is a per­fect il­lus­tra­tion of a player whose ex­plo­sive abil­ity went hand in hand with abra­sive brag­gado­cio.

Was it ar­ro­gance? Con­fi­dence? Or sim­ply a bit of South Lon­don chirp from the Croy­don streets where he grew up? Ei­ther way, the striker man­aged more wind-ups than a watch­maker.

Si­mon Jor­dan, the for­mer Palace chair­man, called Mor­ri­son a “bel­liger­ent lit­tle runt” and even threat­ened to “kick his teeth in” dur­ing a pre-sea­son trip to Spain.

Alan Smith, his man­ager at Sel­hurst Park, grew so fed up with Mor­ri­son’s backchat that he slapped him on the trans­fer list.

“I like that brash­ness and swag­ger about him,” said Smith, af­ter Mor­ri­son had re­sponded by net­ting ten goals in as many games.“But I don’t like it when he tries to be big­ger than the foot­ball club.”

Af­ter Palace had de­feated Liverpool 2-1 in the first leg of the 2001 League Cup semis, Mor­ri­son told a news­pa­per he’d have taken “at least two” of the chances missed by Michael Owen.

Cock­i­ness

Be­fore the home leg at An­field, Phil Thomp­son pinned the cut­tings to the wall, with Steven Ger­rard re­call­ing a de­ter­mi­na­tion to put “that cocky p****” in his place. The Reds won 5-0.

Yet, for all the sass and swag­ger, you will strug­gle to find any­one who dis­likes Mor­ri­son.

Those who have worked with him all recog­nise the cock­i­ness is a front, the wise­cracks and sly digs mere ban­ter.

As Jor­dan ad­mit­ted: “There’s a good lad un­der­neath all the blus­ter”.

That much was ev­i­dent when Mor­ri­son was called up to Mick McCarthy’s Ir­ish squad in 2001 for the first of 36 caps that yielded nine goals and a place at the 2002 World Cup.

“I’d read some press re­ports in which Clin­ton was say­ing this and that and I ad­mit I wasn’t quite sure what to ex­pect,” said McCarthy. “But, to be fair, he’s a lovely guy who has fit­ted in ex­cep­tion­ally well.You won’t meet a nicer kid.”

Chris Cole­man played along­side Mor­ri­son at Palace and, in 2008, signed him for Coven­try.

“Clin­ton is con­stant,” he said. “Ev­ery day in train­ing, if it’s not right, he has to say some­thing. He can’t help him­self. As soon as he says some­thing and up­sets some­one there will be a big to-do.

“But im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards he'll go and speak to that per­son and say ‘This is what I meant’. Then he’s shak­ing hands and it’s all pos­i­tive. I didn’t see it as neg­a­tive at all.”

Mor­ri­son would never es­cape ques­tions about his at­ti­tude and re­mains con­vinced that Ir­ish boss Gio­vanni Tra­p­at­toni was among the scep­tics. Never in doubt, though, were his preda­tory in­stincts.

As a young­ster at Sel­hurst, he was taken un­der the wing of leg- endary hit­man Ian Wright, who would an­a­lyse Mor­ri­son’s dis­plays be­fore dol­ing out ad­vice.

“He told me to go ice-cold in the box,” re­calls Mor­ri­son. “To think of some­thing, any­thing, that would stop me get­ting hot and flus­tered.”

It worked. In two spells at Palace, Mor­ri­son net­ted 113 goals in 315 games, be­com­ing the club’s joint-fourth lead­ing scorer of all time.

Re­silience

And, while a £4.5m move to Birm­ing­ham failed to ig­nite, he is fondly re­mem­bered at both Coven­try and Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, where a reg­u­lar flow of goals were matched by a blis­ter­ing work-rate.

“What I liked about Clin­ton was his re­silience,” said Kenny Cun­ning­ham, a team-mate for Birm­ing­ham and Ire­land.“He will miss op­por­tu­ni­ties, but he will pick him­self up and go again. He is very strong men­tally.”

McCarthy, mean­while, found that Mor­ri­son’s old-school poach­ing com­ple­mented the more nu­anced play of Rob­bie Keane. “Clin­ton’s a nat­u­ral goalscorer,” he said.“You don’t al­ways see him in games and then, out of noth­ing, he gets a chance and puts it away. He makes good runs into chan­nels and does well with his back to goal. He can be a top class player.”

Even Arsene Wenger thought so, scout­ing the striker on sev­eral oc­ca­sions be­fore his move to Birm­ing­ham.

“I like him a lot,” said the Arse­nal boss in 2002. “He is very mo­bile and he will de­velop into a top qual­ity striker. Mor­ri­son has the con­fi­dence and at­ti­tude and I like the way he gets in be­hind de­fend­ers.There’s no doubt in my mind that he has a big-club tem­per­a­ment.”

Yet the high­est level proved elu­sive, those three sea­sons with Birm­ing­ham his only taste of the big time.

Af­ter leav­ing Wed­nes­day in 2012, he spent two sea­sons at Colch­ester and has spent the last two at Ex­eter. Man­ager Paul Tis­dale has called his at­ti­tude “a breath of fresh air”. Maybe those doubts can fi­nally be quashed.

“I’m still the same loud, bub­bly per­son,” said Mor­ri­son last year. “And I’m al­ways go­ing to be judged as some­one who hasn’t got the best of at­ti­tudes.

“But ev­ery­one who knows me knows that, deep down, I've got a good heart and that my at­ti­tude is just a will to win.

“It might come across the wrong way, but it’s just me. I can be ir­ri­tat­ing. I’d be the first to say that. But I get on with ev­ery­one.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

CLIN­TON MOR­RI­SON FACTFILE Croy­don, Lon­don, 1979 (Age 36). A striker, Mor­ri­son made his de­but

as an 82nd-minute sub­sti­tute for Crys­tal

Palace in May 1998 and net­ted an in­jury-time win­ner

against Sh­effield Wed­nes­day. It was the first

of 71 goals in 181 games for the Ea­gles, earn­ing

him a club record £4.5m move to Premier League Birm­ing­ham

City in 2002. Ham­pered by in­jury, Mor­ri­son

scored just 15 goals in his three sea­sons at St An­drew’s

and, though a reg­u­lar, was sold back to

Crys­tal Palace for £2m at the start of 2005-06. Pick­ing

up where he left off, Mor­ri­son scored a fur­ther 41

goals in 135 games dur­ing three sea­sons at Sel­hurst

Park, twice help­ing the club reach the Cham­pi­onship

play-offs. Hav­ing re­jected a con­tract at Palace,

Mor­ri­son joined Cham­pi­onship side Coven­try

City in 2008 and was named skip­per by man­ager

Chris Cole-man . He net­ted 23 goals in 101 games

for the Sky Blues, then spent two sea­sons at

Sh­effield Wednes-day , where he won pro­mo­tion from League

One in 2012. Re­leased by the Owls that sum­mer,

Mor­ri­son joined League One Colch­ester and

scored four times in 71 matches. Af­ter briefly drop­ping

out of the pro game in 2014, he was signed

by Ex­eter and has since scored two goals in 46 games.

Mor­ri­son won 36 caps for Ire­land be­tween 2001

and 2006, scor­ing nine goals and play­ing in the

2002 World Cup. LET’S HEAR IT: Clin­ton Mor­ri­son cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing for Sh­effield Wed­nes­day

EYE ON THE BALL: Clin­ton Mor­ri­son in ac­tion for Crys­tal Palace

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