“I can’t be a training sergeant major—I’m just glad the guys are coming!” This is the new reality facing Steve Morrison as he seeks to rebuild his managerial career in the seventh tier with Hornchurch after being relegated five times.
Sacked by Championship side Cardiff City a year ago, Morrison has come full circle by returning to non-league where he made a name for himself as a striker with Bishop’s Stortford and Stevenage before becoming Millwall’s and Wales’ third all-time top scorer. international.
Hornchurch trains on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for two hours from 8pm, and Morrison works with players who earn their main income through their day jobs, meaning he takes a lighter approach to football.
“I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. I worked on a shredder truck that used to go around London,” he said. “I would start at 4 a.m. and finish at 1 p.m. It worked well because I was able to get some rest and sleep before training.
“But some days I couldn’t be ***, I would call the manager and say I couldn’t train because I was stuck in London. I knew I would play on Saturday anyway.
“So, I try to make it fun and interesting for them, so they make mistakes and don’t get beat up while working the right way so they want to come to training. Success will help with that.”
Morrison took over at Hornchurch last June, but only after making his almost surprise return to coaching Cardiff eight months after the club sacked him.
The 40-year-old kept the troubled club going into the 2021/22 season in his first senior job, then rebuilt the squad on a reduced budget, but was not given enough time to see his new side develop and was sacked just 10 games into the season. new season.
He admits his exit from Cardiff dented his confidence, and missing out on roles with Swindon and MK Dons were further setbacks. Then came a surprise call from my old employer.
“It was completely random. I was in the shower and my phone went off, and I was like, ‘What is all this?'” Morrison said. “I’ve been asked to go to London to have a talk about getting my job back.
“I went and had the meeting, and met the owner (Vincent Tan) for the first time. It was kind of surreal, and I left that meeting thinking there was a great chance of getting that job back. I didn’t believe it 100 percent.” It could have happened, but I held the meeting because it would have been stupid not to.
“Next thing I knew it was in the press everywhere. I waited to dry out a bit to see the reaction and it wasn’t strong enough in my favor, and they went a different way.”
But at a charity match this summer, a conversation with Hornchurch chairman Alex Sharp, also a Millwall fan, led to an unexpected move from the Championship to the Isthmian League Premier Division.
“You have to put your ego aside,” Morrison said. “I just wanted to work instead of waiting for another opportunity to open up. And it’s a really good opportunity. There are good people there and it felt right.”
Morrison knew what he was getting into after his lower league experience early in his playing career, but the non-league game has evolved significantly from what it was when he was there in 2004.
“It’s more professional,” said Morrison, who also played for England C, an international non-league team. “Players ask questions, everything is shot these days, it was never shot 20 years ago. There are also a lot of third-generation pitches in the league which means teams try to play more and they can be used for training.
“One of the things when I was playing in non-league was you didn’t know where you were going to train. It would be at a school somewhere on artificial turf. It was like that all the time. All you knew was where you were and it was home ground.”
But what if Morrison doesn’t succeed with Hornchurch? Is the prospect of failing at a non-league club at such an early stage in a career worse than failing at an English club?
“Of course it’s a risk. If we don’t do well, it’s obviously a reflection on myself,” he said. “You could say, looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have taken over as Cardiff coach, or should I have left when I continued with them? Maybe my stock was high at the time. But you support yourself as much as you did as a player.”
Morrison’s goal is clear. Hornchurch, the 2021 FA Cup winners, have lost their last two final matches and finished second last season.
They are unbeaten in five matches so far, winning three, and progressing through the FA Cup first round qualifiers.
“The plan is to go up. They dropped four points last season, can we close the gap?” He said. “We’ll keep working, we have a good squad of players that allows us to mix things up. It’s a strong start. I can’t say it was amazing”.
“For me it’s about how you can help. I’m still able to move around, play football and take part in a training session if I need to or with someone specifically. Is there some advice I can give? This is no different than any other.” . level of football.”
Watch the Cardiff City vs Swansea City match live on Sky Sports Football on Saturday 16th September, kick off at 7.45pm