Ex football player turned coach, now living the American dream. We caught up with Scott Morrison in an interview where we look at his playing career in Scotland and America, as well as his coaching career and his plans for the future.
Scott Morrison is a name most recognised in Scotland for his service to Ross County, where the vast majority of his career games were played. We ask Scott about his horrific injury and how his career was put on hold for a number of months.
With America being one of the fastest growing nations in Football, with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Frank Lampard and Tim Howard being a few of the big names in the MLS. We thought it would be a good idea to start looking in America for some talent and this is why we have interview with players such as Jordan Rideout and Will Seymore. Not only are we focusing on players but the coaching side of the game. With Scott being an ex professional with an incredible amount of experience we thought why not put coaching and playing hand in hand and create this unique interview. By doing so we get a real insight on what it’s like moving across the pond to continue the development of his career and his own personal life.
We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did making it.
You started your career at Aberdeen, the place you were born. What was it like playing for your Local Team at such a high level?
I know it is an old cliché but it was a dream come true make my debut for Aberdeen FC in the Scottish Premier League. My dad had been taking me to Pittodrie to watch the Dons for as long as I can remember so it was surreal experience to have finally made it into the first, Aberdeen scouted me as a 9 year old boy so I had been involved with the club from the age of 9 to 17 when I made my 1st team debut. I put in a cross for Darren Mackie who bulleted his header into the top corner at Tannadice against Dundee United for my first ever assist on my debut in front of 5,500 travelling Aberdeen fans which helped me make a name for myself instantly, that was a moment I had dreamt about growing up! I was born the year after Alex Ferguson led Aberdeen to victory against Real Madrid in the Final of the European Cup Winners Cup so I born into a great era for Aberdeen Football Club, everything I was taught was thanks to the legacy left by Sir Alex Ferguson at the club so I feel that my 13 years involved with the club has stood me in great stead as young aspiring coach in the future.
It’s a dream for any aspiring footballer to play for their country, you were fortunate enough to play for Scotland under 21’s, what was that like?
Playing for Scotland 21’s was undoubtedly a highlight of my career and has left me with many great memories to look back on and to tell my son about, he was born at the time I was involved with the Scotland 21 set up so was a big part of my life at that time although he can’t remember…I remember flying off to Milan to play Italy the day after he was born which was one of many great experiences. His mother is English so we have fun discussing which country he would choose to play for now that we are living out in America! I was fortunate to have a World Cup Winner in Rainer Bonhof as my coach for the 21’s, Rainer won the 1974 World Cup with Germany and told us stories of before the game being told to man mark Johan Cruyff even though he was the youngest member of the German squad. That type of mentoring as a young player was unforgettable!
What went wrong at Aberdeen which led to you leaving to move to Dunfermline Athletic? Was it the manager, lack of game time, or to pursue personal goals?
I left Aberdeen with a year left on my contract which wasn’t an easy decision to make at such a young age however my wife and I had just had our first baby and it was a time in my career where I had to go somewhere that felt right for us as a family, in my 5 years at Aberdeen in the 1st team the club had gone through 3 different managers and with that always brings changes. The opportunity to move to another SPL club whilst I was still involved in the Scotland set up was too good to turn down and it was the first of many adventures for us as a young family, moving to Glasgow at first for a year before buying a house in Dunfermline.
It must of been horrible suffering cruciate ligament damage which prevented you playing. What was going through your mind when you were sidelined for months?
My injury was certainly a turning point in my career, I was riding the crest of a wave having not looked back since I could remember first kicking a ball. I suffered the injury whilst on international duty for Scotland 21’s playing a friendly against Austria on the outskirts of Vienna. I still get flashbacks to that night and the injury which plagued me for the rest of my career, I don’t think I have gone a day since without thinking about it to some degree having been bothered by pain in my knee for last 11 years since it happened. I am grateful to be where I am today though and don’t think I would be back out in the US today if I hadn’t of suffered the injury. After flying back to Glasgow the day after it happened, I was rushed to Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow from the runway at Glasgow Airport, the next day the top surgeon inspected my knee and broke the news to me that I would require at least 4 operations to have a fighting chance of playing again. This was a shock to the system to say the least, never allowing myself to believe that I had hurt my knee that badly. This was confirmed to me after flying out to Vail, Colorado to visit the Worlds most recognized knee surgeon in soccer Dr Steadman 2 weeks later after the swelling in my knee had calmed down. He confirmed that it was the worst knee injury of a soccer player he had ever seen at his grand old age of 72 years old. This did not worry me as he agreed to carry out my operation, attempting to do the whole procedure in 1 operation…I later found out that he had told my Physio at the time that he predicted a 70% success rate but all I knew was that the top knee surgeon in the World was fixing my knee and that everything would be ok. 15 months later and a further 2 visits out to see Dr Steadman in Colorado, I was ready to play again for Dunfermline in the Scottish Premier League…I remember my comeback game was against Rangers at Ibrox in front of 50,000 which is a moment I will never forget!
You played in the most recent Europa League game for Dunfermline where you played Swedish team Häcken. What was that like, to experience that sort of level of football?
My Uefa Cup experience with Dunfermline was unforgettable, we qualified for European competition having made it to the Scottish Cup Final the previous year playing Celtic in the Final at Hampden. It was always an ambition of mine to play in European competition having grown up around the time of Alex Ferguson was achieving European success with Aberdeen. We played FC Hacken of Sweden home and away, the away leg being played at The Ullevi Stadium which was the venue for Aberdeen’s famous victory against Real Madrid to lift the Cup Winners Cup. That night was a surreal experience for me and my dad a lifelong Aberdeen fan!
You then moved to Ross County where you’ve played the majority of your career games. What was it like winning the first division in your last season?
My time at Ross County was a successful time in my career, creating history and winning trophies along the way. From the historic Scottish Cup run where we beat Celtic in the Semi Final 2-0 at Hampden, to getting the club promoted to the Scottish Premier League it was an amazing experience.
Why did you decide to move from Ross County to further your career in America, did you think your job was done or were you looking for a new challenge?
After 4 years in the Highlands and getting back to full fitness again, I wanted to use this success to help get my family and I out to America. My wife Emma and son Kelsea came out to Vail with me for my 2nd visit and we had since always had a burning desire to make it back out to the States with nothing but great memories of the country and the people. It was a tough decision not to accept my contract offer from Ross County however after going out to LA to train with Chivas USA, rubbing shoulders with David Beckham and co at the Stubhub Center my mind was made up that we had to make it back out!
You spent time at Phoenix FC, before joining Arizona United. What was it like changing from Scottish football to American soccer?
My 1st year playing in America with Phoenix FC in the USL was incredible, it was such a highlight of my career getting to play in the US having previously spent most of my time in the US in a wheelchair or on crutches…my crutches on 1 of my visits to the US had 6 inch spikes on them due to it being the start of the ski season in Vail! So being in Phoenix and playing soccer again was a monumental moment and inspired me to be a success out here. My wife and kids settled straight away falling in love with Arizona.
You finished your playing career at Arizona United, a team where you broke club records. In 54 games you racked up a total of 3,883 minutes game time, which translates to an average of just under 72 minutes a game. What made you finally retire in the end?
Arizona United made me an offer to take up a coaching role at the club having gained my USSF in the 2015 off season on the Pro B Course at Bradenton Florida. I saw this as a great opportunity to work under someone with the track record and success of Frank.
What’s it been like coaching since you retired? I bet you are itching to get back on the pitch at times.
I learnt a lot off Frank and Marc Bircham however was most definitely itching to get back out on the field throughout the season!
What’s your ultimate aim in your coaching career? Management, winning titles etc?
I feel like I came out to the States at a good time with the game going through some real growth throughout the soccer pyramid. From the US National teams spirited performance in the last World Cup to the MLS making huge progress, the US Women continuing to dominate, along with the NASL, USL, NPSL, PDL and Youth levels all making good progress its an exciting time to be part of soccer in the US.
As a player was there any clubs you dreamt of playing for or regret not joining?
As a 14 year old I was invited to go on trial with Leeds United who at that time were leading the way in terms of youth with the first Residential Academy in the UK. I remember staying with a family and on the 1st night seeing Harry Kewell walk in the door, he was an idol of mine having taken the Premier League by storm with his big performances and great left foot. Leeds United invited me back however I choose to sign Schoolboy Forms for my local team Aberdeen FC so I always wondered what might have happened if I had gone down to an English Premiership side.
That concludes the interview. I personally was overwhelmed with the responses we got off Scott, the amount of detail and time he’s put into this is very appreciative. Everyone at Dictate The Game are extremely grateful to Scott for taking the time to answer these questions in as much depth as he has. Scott’s a fantastic individual and we wish him the best of luck in America and with his coaching career, but don’t forget to come back to Scotland sometime.