Callum Morton has been playing professional league football for less than six months. As well as a professional league debut, in those months he has scored seven goals in 11 appearances, won a Player of the Month award, scored a brace in what can only be described as a stunning Play-Off Semi-Final fightback, and now he’s set to feature in the League Two Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium. Not bad for a 20 year old.
The on-loan youngster from Championship side West Bromwich Albion has made quite an impression on Cobblers fans since arriving at Sixfields, and to say a serious injury kept him out of the game for almost a year just recently, not even he expected to achieve what he has in such a short space of time.
“I enjoyed my time playing in non-league last season,” Morton says speaking to the EFL ahead of Monday’s League Two Play-Off Final.
"I was only there briefly, I think I played 14 games but it was a really good experience. It was my first loan and I was just getting to grips with mens football. It definitely gives you a good perspective of what it’s going to be like, especially going from Under-23s to playing with people who might not necessarily get paid unless they win the match so are really fighting for something.
Having signed for West Brom in 2017 as a 17 year old, Morton spent some time on loan at Braintree Town, playing in the National League South but his time was cut short after suffering a serious injury that kept him on the sidelines for almost a year.
“When you get injured like it it’s all about how you react. I had good people around me and good people working with me so it helped keep me on track and on target for getting back into the game. Fortunately for me, a month after I came back from injury I hit the ground running again and was doing well."
Despite not having much first-team experience to his name, Northampton decided the youngster was worth the risk in the January transfer window. And they were right. Morton took to league football like a duck to water, and upon giving him his professional debut, Keith Curle was almost instantly repaid with some fine performances from the 20 year old.
“Having made the jump up from non-league to League Two, I’ve done even better than I would have imagined,” he admits.
"I’m playing in a good team and I’ve scored goals. I think especially with me having been injured for so long, I didn’t necessarily expect it because I was a young lad who hadn’t played much football and Northampton really took a chance on me. Luckily it’s paid off for me and the club.
“At first I was a bit in and out of the team which is understandable with experienced players ahead of me, but once I managed to work my way into the team I think I’ve shown that I can be a threat and a good addition to the side.
“Being young and having such a serious injury recently, I just wanted to play football and I’m fortunate that Northampton have given me that chance and I like to think that I’ve managed to repay their faith in me with my performances since January."
Sevel goals in 11 appearance and now a Play-Off Final would suggest so.
“I didn’t expect my first season to be this good to be honest, it’s a bit surreal,” Morton continues.
"When I won the Player of the Month award I was really shocked because I just didn’t expect it - I think it was my first month of league and professional football. To then go on a score two in a Play-Off Semi-Final and now hopefully end the season with promotion, it would just be a dream first season in professional football."
After the League Two season was curtailed, Northampton finished the season in seventh place, clinching the final Play-Off place and after facing Cheltenham Town in the Semi-Finals - and losing 2-0 in the first leg - it looked as though they’d be spending another season in League Two.
However, a brace from Morton in the Semi-Final second leg saw him steal the headlines - as well as receive the Man of the Match award as Northampton ran out victorious.
The Cobblers' 3-0 victory over Cheltenham to overturn a 2-0 deficit has proved that they can rise to any occasion, even behind closed doors.
“We went into the Semi-Final second leg against Cheltenham with a plan and yes, it looked impossible to overturn a 2-0 defeat against the team with the best defensive record in the league from the outside, but we were relentless and that’s what we went there to do.
“Scoring those goals in front of thousands of Northampton fans would of course have been amazing, but because of the game I scored them in and the scenario we were in, they felt just as good and it was an unbelievable feeling.
“Playing in a Play-Off game now seems so surreal. After the Semi-Final my friend posted a photo on Twitter of us at the Play-Off Final back in 2017, so it seems so surreal to have been there watching that and now to be a part of the game and being given a chance to play at Wembley, I just can’t believe it."
It’s not every year your team plays at Wembley, or that you have the chance to win promotion and Monday night will only be Northampton’s fourth visit to the National Stadium. Unfortunately, with the game being played behind closed doors due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, fans will have to tune in to support their club from home.
“Without the fans at Wembley I think the pitch is going to seem even bigger than it normally would do and it won’t be the same,” Morton continues. “But I think the fans will still be willing us on from home and we’ll be motivated in our own way, because to get the win for the club and the fans, even without them being there, would be really special.
"We’ll be 100% motivated to go and get a result there.
For someone so young and with very little first-team experience, Morton’s confident approach to each game is admirable and he clearly sees this as an opportunity to ‘put himself in the shop window’.
“Ironically I thrive off playing in front of a big crowd which I wont have on Monday, but I know there’ll be hundreds of thousands probably watching on the TV, which still motivates me because I’m in the public eye, and I’m a young lad who needs to impress and show the world what I can do.
“When you look at some of the careers that some of the players at Northampton have had, you can see their experience and I think that definitely helps me.
"In the dressing room they know the right things to say at the right time, they know when to put an arm around you or when to give you a rocket and it’s been really good to be around players like that with the experience they bring to the side."
Some players go their entire career without having the chance to play at Wembley and sealing promotion on Monday night would cap off a perfect first season in the EFL for the on-loan youngster.
“I don’t think I could put into words what promotion would mean to finish this season,” he admitted.
“It would be the ultimate goal for the club. I think people had written us off after the Semi-Final first leg, so as an individual and as a club we know that we have what it takes to win on Monday.
"We know it’s going to be a difficult game, because the games we’ve had against Exeter this season have been tough, but everyone’s goal when playing professional football is to win promotion, win titles and win trophies, and if I can do that in my first season I wouldn’t know how to sum it up.
“A lot of people have said to me that players go 15 or 20 years without playing at Wembley or winning a promotion, so for me to do that at 20 years old would be just unbelievable.”