Welcome to my initial piece, profiling players who were once at the Bridge, only to move to pastures now. I’ll try and keep to ones outside the box but, the initial one was to highlight the excellence of someone and to show that you can overcome initial problems to turn your life around and have a positive impact.
- Boyhood Chelsea Fan.
- Played at Lilleshall with Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen.
- Played in the Youth Team with John Terry.
- Debuted as our youngest ever player to play in the Premier League, aged 16 against Middlesbrough.
- Young Player Of The Year in 96/97.
- Chelsea Captain under Gianluca Vialli.
It all started so well for Jody Morris. Coveted out of Lilleshall, he had the pick of the clubs in England to play for, he chose Chelsea. His boyhood club. Breaking into the team at a time when Chelsea were certainly on an upswing, blending the European finesse of Vialli, Zola and Di Matteo, with British grit, like Eddie Newton and Mark Hughes, the sky seemed the limit for Jody. Talk of England call-ups and being a future captain of both Chelsea and potentially England was not at all fanciful. Chelsea’s Young Player Of The Year in ’97 had the drive, ability, and passion to play and stand out amongst the best.
Six years after his breakthrough season he was gone. The Chelsea lad was offered and turned down a five year contract with the club, citing the wages offered as being below what he expected for someone who I had completed 30/38 league games that campaign, one which saw Chelsea qualify for the Champions League amidst talk of a financial meltdown threatening to consume the club.
So what happened?
Up until the turn of the Millenium Jody Morris’ story was one of a player who was destined to reach the top. A regular squad, if not starting, player for Chelsea amongst a midfield containing Wise, Di Matteo, Petrescu and Poyet, he was the heartbeat. A touch of English steel and very much seen as Wise’s successor to the Chelsea fortune. No less than Xavi described Morris as “my toughest opponent” back in that titanic 2000 Champions League clash where we took them all the way to Extra time at the Camp Nou after having blitzed them in the first half at the Bridge. Morris was tireless, constantly trying to push the team on, trying not to get caught up on the genesis of the Barcelona roundabout as it was later famously named.
The arrival of Frank Lampard and Emmanuel Petit however, bought with it both an increase in expectation as well as an increase in pay packets for the central midfield team. Frank slotted into the team well, becoming a club legend. Petit was slightly less of a success though, having a good game occasionally but not really earning his dough. One can understand the frustration of the Chelsea fan seeing a big name foreigner get picked by a foreign manager whilst doing little to earn that faith, whilst Morris was left to play back up.
By his own admission, Jody Morris struggled himself with the increases in expectation in Premiership footballers, both personally and professionally, getting involved in high-profile bad-publicity incidents in both 2001 and 2002. These incidents, rightly or wrongly, gave Jody the tag of being a bit of a “bad boy” and could have been a factor in his lack of first team action, compared with the professionalism of Emmanuel Petit. When 2003 rolled around, Chelsea qualified for the Champions League and Morris had gone. Playing a sizeable part in our qualification that season, he wanted what he thought he had earnt. He didn’t get it and was off to Leeds, almost signing for Blackburn.
From then on, it wasn’t the best time for Jody Morris. Personal issues at Leeds led to him leaving by mutual consent before he went to both Rotherham and Leeds. By all accounts, his spell in Scotland post Millwall was a success. He had a manager, Derek McInnes who trusted him and they worked well together, a more mature Jody Morris showing some of the leadership skills he had shown in order to become Chelsea captain, albeit briefly, and would show in a later period. McInnes moved south to England, Jody followed but it wasn’t to work as well South of The Border. Morris would retire and pursue a career in coaching.
Here is where the story picks up again. Jody Morris joined our academy staff in 2013/14 as an assistant, working with ex friends and colleagues. A more mature Jody Morris, coupled with the talent and knowledge of the game he never lost, was a perfect fit for the youngsters at Cobham. He was the absolute perfect guy to teach the kids and also warn of the dangers of the professional lifestyle and how it can deter you from your dream, no matter how good you are. 2016/17 started with Jody in charge of the youth team, our all conquering youth team. Could he carry on the good work of his predecessors.
Four in a Row.
Four FA Youth Cups in a row for Chelsea. Thanks in no small part to the second to last player to break through our youth team and become a regular in the first. Hopefully, his guidance and nous can lead to a few more.