The Scotsman

Morgan: I did not come here just to be a training player

◆ Former Celtic winger opens up on his Scotland recall, Euro 2024 ambitions and his New York Red Bulls position switch

- Matthew Elder

Lewis Morgan insists he has not flown halfway across the world just to make up the numbers after earning a late callup into Scotland’s Euro 2024 squad.

The New York Red Bulls attacker was suddenly thrust into the limelight last week as an injury to Ben Doak promptedan so sc all from steve clarke that the 27-year-old had no hestitatio­n in answering.

Last capped in 2018, while on loan from Celtic to St Mirren, Morgan has been six years in the internatio­nal wilderness, the last four of which have been spent in the MLS, firstly with Inter Miami before a $1.2 million trade to New York in 2022.

Nine goals and three assists in 16 appearance­s this season ensured he was firmly on Scotland’s radar for the Euros and the first name Clarke turned to when his wildcard pick from Liverpool pulled out of the tournament.

After a mad dash across the Atlantic, Morgan earned his third cap off the bench in the 2-2 draw with finland a th amp den park on friday and will now look to make his mark in Germany.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” Morgan said. “I first heard about it Tuesday morning US time that there was a chance, then I found out on Tuesday afternoon, so it was just about getting here as fast as I could

“There was no hestitatio­n. Not when an opportunit­y like this comes up. I’ve been out the national team for awhile so any way I could get myself back in I was going to jump at it.

“I flew overnight on Wednesday and got here Thursday morning. I missed the training session so only met up with the boys the night before the Finland match. It’s been a wee bit crazy but it’s good to be here.”

Morgan will most certainly be New York’s loss – he has been their MVP of the campaign so far – but he hopes he can be Scotland’s gain with the firm intention of playing his way into contention for Clarke’s team selection for the upcoming Group A matches against the hosts, Switzerlan­d and Hungary.

“Every single day I’m here in training i’ ll be trying to make an impact and trying to put myself in the manager’s thoughts,” he said. “I didn’t come here just to be a training player, I know there’s guys that are probably ahead of me in the pecking order at the moment but it’s my job to come in here, do well and try and force the manager’ s hand.”

Most scottish football observers will remember Morgan as a left winger but he has been deployed as the central striker for New York this season to great success in a positional switch which he hopes can provide Clarke with food for thought.

“I’ ve not been here that long so we’ve not had a proper sit down chat but I managed to speak to him a little bit last week and he knows that this year I’ve predominan­tly played as a nine, through the middle as a striker,” said Morgan. “Obviously before that I played most of my football as a wing er so it’ s something that I can hopefully bring to the squad.”

Morgan also arrives fully match fit midway through the M ls season. he insist she never gave up on his Scotland dream despite making the switch to America, where compatriot Ryan Gauld has apparently dropped off the internatio­nal radar despite similarly impressive performanc­es for Vancouver Whitecaps.

“I didn’t have an indication [that Scotland were watching me] but I never really felt I was out of sight ,” morgan explained. “I always felt if you’re good enough and you’re doing well enough then your opportunit­y will come. Obviously it came in a unfortunat­e way with the guys getting injured. It’s really disappoint­ing for them. But it was just about being ready, continuing to play well for my club and that’s how the opportunit­y came along. There was no need to persuade Red Bulls. They were brilliant with me. They knew how big an opportunit­y it was to come here and represent my country. I’m sure they were a little bit unhappy but they were all good.”

Morgan’s appearance against Finland on Friday was his first under Clarke. His first two caps for Scotland came under Alex Mcleish in friendly matches against peru and mexico, which both ended in defeat with Morgan coming off the bench in the second half. a lot has happened since then with Covid lockdowns not helping his cause – nor the fact that Scotland have been doing particular­ly well in his absence. “The guys that

It’s my job to come in here, do well and try and force the manager’s hand Lewis Morgan

were in the squad were doing incredibly well and it’s been tough to get in,” Morgan said. “And rightfully so – that’s how it should be. I’ve waited my time, performed at club level, and that’s what’s got me back in.”

Morgan came off the bench while Scotland were 2-1 up against Finland and while frustrated the team were not able to see out the victory, he gave a glimpse of his quality with a pinpoint cross that almost provided a winning goal, with fellow substitute and debutant Tommy Conway seeing his header brilliantl­y saved by Viljami Sinisalo.

“Obviously, we were dis a pp in ted to come on and not manage to see the game out ,” Morgan said .“That was the one frustratin­g thing. But it was good, especially after all the travelling, to get some minutes in my legs, and get a little bit of a run around. Going forward I can hopefully continue to make an impact in training and see what happens.”

With three friendly appearance­s now under his belt, Morgan will be hoping to earn his first competitve cap at the Euros, with the prospect of featuring against Germany in the opening match an exciting one. “It would obviously bean honour,” he added .“everyone in the squad has been excited for the start of this week.”

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 ?? ?? Lewis Morgan earned his first Scotland cap since 2018 in the 2-2 draw with Finland on Friday. He has been deployed as a striker with New York Red Bulls, having previously played on the left wing for Celtic
Lewis Morgan earned his first Scotland cap since 2018 in the 2-2 draw with Finland on Friday. He has been deployed as a striker with New York Red Bulls, having previously played on the left wing for Celtic
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