Joe Morrell  . . . The Journey From Margate To Euro Finals With Wales, Via Bristol And Lincoln

Joe Morrell . . . The Journey From Margate To Euro Finals With Wales, Via Bristol And Lincoln

Wales midfielder Joe Morrell is hoping to realise a personal ambition – and complete a remarkable football transformation – by being part of Ryan Giggs’ UEFA Euro 2020 finals campaign this summer.

Since going on loan to Lincoln City from his parent club, Bristol City, last summer, so much has changed in a short space of time for the 23-year-old.

Impressing in the Imps’ midfield in League One, Morrell was called into Giggs’ squad last August, making his debut in the home friendly against Belarus.

He went on to play a part in the final four Euro 2020 qualifiers as Wales sealed their place in this summer’s championship.

“It’s been a good season, not one that I necessarily expected,” he said in an interview with S4C’s Mwy o Sgorio. “I’ve come to Lincoln to get game time and that’s brought more than expected.”

That much is an understatement from Joe – short for Joseff – who qualifies to play for Wales through his mother Sian, who comes from Merthyr Tydfil.

Having coming through the ranks at Bristol, three years ago, Morrell was struggling for game time at Margate in the National League South.

He said: “My story is pretty unique. Three years ago I was struggling to get a game in the sixth division of English football and now I’ve qualified for the Euros with my country.

“I’m obviously not playing at the same level as some of the lads, but I’m playing every week.

“At that stage, playing for Margate, I felt like it could be the end of my career, a very short career. You do feel like, ‘where do I go from here?’ Luckily, I stuck with it and kept the faith in myself. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today.”

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Having being capped at under 17, 19 and 21 level for Wales, Morrell knows exactly what it means to be Welsh – despite being born in Ipswich and having spent most of his childhood in Bristol.

“It’s never entered my mind to try and play for England,” he said. “I’ve played 50 times for Wales at youth levels, something that has shaped who I am today. For me, it’s only ever been about Wales.

“I’m half Welsh, but in a football and in a life sense, I do feel Welsh, without speaking the language and without growing up there. I feel proud to represent Wales every time I’m out there and I know what it means to the people.

“The anthem is such an important part of playing for Wales. You have to learn the anthem and at 15, I learnt the anthem. One of my first memories of youth level football with Wales is standing in a room with 17 other lads singing the anthem in front of Cled [Cledwyn Ashford, long-serving Welsh Football Trust education officer].

“I remember in the under 17s, we went out to Russia for the elite qualifiers and in my group you had the likes of Dan James and Harry Wilson.

“We were singing the anthem and the speaker broke halfway through. I think a lot of teams might have gone ‘oh well, speaker’s broken’, but we finished the anthem without the music. We lost the game but that was one thing that really stuck with me about what it’s like to be Welsh. Whenever I hear the anthem, I get goosebumps, and it’s the same when I watch the rugby.”

After starring in the latter stages of Wales’ qualifying campaign as well for Lincoln, Morrell was rewarded with a contract extension with Bristol City. He hopes that his performances in the red shirt will have sealed his place on the plane to Baku and Rome this June.

Joe Morrell talks to S4C’s Mwy o Sgorio.

“I want to play higher, that’s my ambition and until I get to the top, I won’t be satisfied. If I don’t get to the top then so be it, but I think what Lincoln City has given me this season is the springboard to show what I can do.

“I’ve got a lot be thankful for to them. Without them, ultimately. I would never have had a Wales call-up.

“My aim this summer is just to be part of the squad. If I’m lucky enough to feature at some point, then that would be a dream.

“Last summer I was on holiday all summer, but as an international footballer, I hope I won’t be on holiday this summer.”

Watch the interview with Joe Morrell in full on Mwy o Sgorio, on demand at S4C Clic or BBC iPlayer.


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