Described as a ‘run-through-a-brick-wall’ player who took no prisoners, Steve Morison may just be the perfect fit to lead Sutton United’s League Two relegation dogfight.
Having played throughout the football pyramid, the 40-year-old is best remembered for his Millwall days where the forward made 293 appearances across three different periods.
Initially joining from then non-league Stevenage in 2009, Morison scored 23 times in 52 appearances during his debut season, helping Millwall to Championship promotion via a Wembley Play-Off final win over Swindon.
“Donning a persona of a hard-man with his shaved head, raw finishing ability and super work ethic, it was easy for supporters to take to him,” Millwall fan Ryan Loftus told London Football Scene.
The following season saw not only Millwall cement themselves as a Championship side but Morison, ending the season with 17 goals, as an invaluable asset to the cause.
Having already rejected the advances of Nottingham Forest earlier that season, it was harder for both club and player to ignore those of newly promoted Premier League club Norwich with Morison signing a three-year deal in the summer for a then-record transfer fee received.
Despite performing admirably with the Canaries, he was reduced to a bit-part player in his second season before being subsequently sold to Leeds – a club which at the time was in a continued state of turmoil and chaos.
Therefore, it was little surprise to see Morison seek sanctuary in the comforting surroundings of Millwall – first on a season-long loan deal for the 2013-14 season and then permanently ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.
“On his return, the Millwall faithful quickly discovered there was more to him than had initially met the eye,” Ryan explained.
“This time around, he joined the club as an experienced professional and figurehead – a voice in the dressing room for novice manager and former strike partner, Neil Harris.”
Although Millwall were now back in League One and Morison had perhaps lost a yard of pace, he was able to successfully foster the talent around him, nurturing the likes of Academy graduate Aiden O’Brien and fellow non-leaguer Lee Gregory.
Acting as the lynchpin for a fluid, exciting, and aggressive attack, the Lions eventually returned to the Championship with a 1-0 win over Bradford, courtesy of Morison, in the 2017 League One Play-Off final.
“It was clear he was the best player on the pitch against League One defences,” Ryan said.
“His second Millwall spell was the first time fans got to see the intelligence and game awareness he possessed.”
After retiring from football following a short stint at Shrewsbury Town, there was a natural progression into coaching – once again joining up with his former team-mate and manager Harris at Cardiff in February 2020.
Starting out with the Under 23s, Morison became caretaker manager in October 2021 following the sacking of Mick McCarthy, impressing the Cardiff hierarchy with his attacking brand of football.
“Morison doesn’t heavily rely on the 4-4-2 doctrine of the likes of his former coach Harris,” Ryan added.
“His style is more nuanced, born from a player who has had to come up the hard way and has soaked up many influences along the way.”
While there were rookie managerial mistakes, notably admitting he was ‘too honest’ when talking about his players in post-match interviews, he nevertheless steered the club away from relegation and scooped the Championship Manager of the Month for March 2022 along the way.
A poor start to the following campaign saw Morison sacked before he dropped five levels to take charge of Isthmian League side Hornchurch last summer.
Morison arrives at Gander Green Lane having led Hornchurch to the top of the table, gaining 53 points from 22 games with 16 wins, five draws and just the one loss.
With his battling qualities and eye for goal as a player, alongside a proven flexibility to excel as a young manager regardless of level, it’s a shrewd long-term appointment from Sutton United’s perspective.
If Morison can influence the squad at his disposal as well as bring in those in his mould during the remainder of this January transfer window, then overturning a gap of six points in the remaining 20 games is more than possible.
Regardless of league status at the end of April though, it is clear there is more than enough about Steve Morison to ensure he is the right man to lead the club forward into a new, exciting chapter.