One-time re­ject Mor­gan is chas­ing an­other fairy tale

Le­ices­ter de­fender beat the odds to win a Pre­mier League ti­tle and now his tar­get is Wem­b­ley glory

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - John Percy

Wes Mor­gan can still re­mem­ber the des­o­la­tion of re­jec­tion by Notts County at the age of 15. His dream of be­ing a pro­fes­sional foot­baller ap­par­ently in ru­ins, he went back to college and a busi­ness stud­ies de­gree.

But as Le­ices­ter’s cap­tain pre­pares to face Chelsea in to­day’s FA Cup quar­ter-final, his ca­reer is tes­ta­ment to the pow­ers of per­se­ver­ance. He had a lead­ing role in Clau­dio Ranieri’s fairy tale by win­ning the Pre­mier League ti­tle, played in a Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-final – af­ter Le­ices­ter did what Manch­ester United could not, beat­ing Sevilla in the round of 16 – and is now clos­ing in on 700 ca­reer ap­pear­ances.

“I of­ten speak to young kids try­ing to make their way into the pro­fes­sional game and tell my story,” he says. “It’s a story that tells you never to give up.

“Young lads can be low on con­fi­dence, un­sure how things are go­ing to work out, but you have to keep go­ing to fol­low your dreams. I never thought I’d be in the Pre­mier League when I was re­leased by Notts County. They only of­fered two YTS con­tracts and I was the odd one out. That was it, I thought, semi-pro would be the best I could get. I was play­ing for a load of teams with my mates on Satur­days and Sun­days, a young lad play­ing in an adults’ league. For­tu­nately, I got the op­por­tu­nity to have tri­als at Not­ting­ham For­est and that’s where it all be­gan.

“Now I’m sit­ting here as a Pre­mier League win­ner. That’s a mag­nif­i­cent achieve­ment, con­sid­er­ing where I came from. I don’t think I’ll truly di­gest it all un­til I fin­ish my ca­reer.”

His rags-to-riches tale has been less doc­u­mented than those of team-mates such as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Mor­gan moved to Le­ices­ter from For­est in 2012 for just £1 mil­lion af­ter a con­tract wran­gle. The next six years have been what the cen­tre-half calls “a roller­coaster”. Even now, Mor­gan strug­gles to es­cape the mem­o­ries of May 2016, when he lifted the top-flight tro­phy.

“I was out shop­ping in Birmingham a few weeks ago and there was a Le­ices­ter fan talk­ing to me about how we won the league, the tro­phy bus pa­rade go­ing past her house and ev­ery­thing else. It feels sur­real, even though it seems so long ago,” he says.

“The Cham­pi­ons League was also an un­be­liev­able time. To reach the quar­ter-fi­nals was an achieve­ment I don’t think we got enough credit for. We were new­com­ers and we did it our way. We took Atletico Madrid to the wire. I’ve had amaz­ing times since I came to Le­ices­ter, be­yond my wildest dreams. But foot­ball is al­ways mov­ing and you can’t stand still or be dwelling on the past. The time to look back and re­mem­ber the spe­cial mo­ments is when there are no in­ter­rup­tions.”

Mor­gan has a spe­cial rea­son to en­sure Claude Puel’s Le­ices­ter can com­plete a mis­er­able week for Chelsea and An­to­nio Conte, whose Euro­pean ex­cur­sions were ended by Barcelona.

The FA Cup is one com­pe­ti­tion in which Mor­gan has had frus­tra­tion, never go­ing be­yond the last eight.

“I would say it’s the last box to be ticked for me,” he says. “Ev­ery­one knows the his­tory and pres­tige. Be­ing an FA Cup win­ner would be sec­ond to win­ning the league. I’m not get­ting any younger so there’s not too many years left for me to do some­thing in this com­pe­ti­tion. I’m 34, I have a year left [on my con­tract] and I’m def­i­nitely feel­ing the aches and pains. This could be my last big chance.”

There will also be an el­e­ment of re­venge for Mor­gan at the King Power Sta­dium to­day as it was against Chelsea that his FA Cup dream ended in 2012. Fer­nando Tor­res ended a 24-game goal drought with a dou­ble as a Chelsea team in­clud­ing the likes of Petr Cech, Juan Mata and Daniel Stur­ridge coasted to a 5-2 vic­tory.

“That was a real down point, but this is def­i­nitely the big­gest tie of the round and a huge chance for us to reach a semi-final at Wem­b­ley.

“Chelsea have not done as well as they ex­pected this sea­son, they are out of the Cham­pi­ons League, so they will prob­a­bly see the FA Cup as some­thing to make their sea­son pos­i­tive. I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced a semi-final be­fore but there is a good chance now. It would def­i­nitely keep the fairy tale go­ing…”

‘County of­fered two YTS con­tracts and I was odd one out. That was it, I thought’

Frus­trated: The FA Cup has proved to be an un­lucky com­pe­ti­tion for Wes Mor­gan but the de­fender thinks this could be Le­ices­ter’s year

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