I was not in the least bit surprised yesterday to read that Red Bull New York have extended the contract of Lewis Morgan and are absolutely over the moon that he’s decided to sign the deal, because I’m sure he’d have had plenty of options elsewhere.
Lewis Morgan is one of those players who has constantly forced me to re-evaluate how I see him as a footballer. Here’s what time and a lot of thought have led me to conclude.
Lewis Morgan is one of the shining stars of his generation of Scottish born footballers. At 26, he should have had a better career than he has and I cannot help but mourn that he has played some of his best years in the States and will probably give to their league the finest spell of his career. He should have been a huge success in Europe.
And for all that, I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend why we signed him for Celtic.
I think I’ve briefly alluded to this bafflement in a small way in a larger article, the retrospective on the record of Peter Lawwell.
Morgan was signed (allegedly) by Brendan Rodgers in the winter window of 2017-18.
In that window, after we’d reached the Europa League knock-out stages after a third place finish in a disastrous Champions League campaign the club could have given Rodgers the backing a manager going for our first ever back-to-back treble deserved.
Instead, he got Charley Musonda on loan, a German defender best forgotten about … and three Scottish based players, which made it four for that campaign. (Jonny Hayes, in the summer, had been the first. The others were Jack Hendry and Scott Bain.) Someone at our club – and I do not believe it was the manager – decided that these were the sort of footballers we needed to take that next step towards being a credible force in Europe.
Morgan clearly had talent, but to expect him to raise his game to that level in a team that should have been reaching for a much higher rung on the ladder, was simply barmy. Hendry would play just over two dozen games for us in total.
Morgan, infamously, found himself playing, under Lennon, as a central striker. The whole logic behind signing him was unfathomable and his sparse use in the team was beyond comprehension. It was an utter waste of a player who would have been better off if some genius at Celtic Park had never suggested we sign him in the first place.
He was signed in January 2018, and we immediately let him go back to the club we signed him from, where he spent six months on loan. At the start of the following season, we gave him the number 16 shirt, hardly played him and then in January 2019 we sent him to Sunderland for six months to work under Jack Ross, who’d been his boss at St Mirren.
In January 20202, we sold him to Inter Miami, where he spent two good years, before he wound up playing for Red Bull in New York.
Overall, he played more games for us than Hendry did, but his “two years” at Celtic were just a waste of that kid’s time, and the best thing he did was accept that and move on, for the good of his own career. We never got to find out what we had because he was misused from the start, as we’d evidently signed him with no long term plan in mind.
I’ve watched him play in the MLS for both of his clubs; I love watching that league. At New York he has become, in a very short time, a fan favourite. That he’s played in two such incredible cities in the States, and been well paid for doing what he was born to do certainly convinces me that he’ll have no regrets whatsoever about how his career turned out.
But I sometimes wonder if we should because there was a player there and it was obvious and between foisting him on a manager who didn’t want him and then on another who didn’t have a clue what to do with him we didn’t even get more than a fleeting glimpse of what he might have offered us had we brought him to Celtic to play for somebody who’d actually wanted him or who recognised his talent and how to get the best out of it.
Lewis Morgan is what happens when the football department isn’t run by the football people but by some smug pretender who believes he understands the game better than the professionals who should be making those kinds of decisions.
I am just glad we didn’t cost that guy more than just those couple of years. I am delighted that he’s done so well over there, and I wish him nothing but good things in his football adventures to come.