For Glenn Morris, the 500-appearance mark was but a distant dream five years ago. But if anybody can take anything from the Crawley Town goalkeeper’s story, then it’s never to give up hope.
The Reds’ number one is ticking off milestones as he goes but this weekend marks his biggest achievement yet.
Morris arrived in West Sussex in the summer of 2016 under the guise of a player-coach with the intention of taking his first steps into coaching, but he eventually re-established his place between the sticks.
“I never thought I was going to get there,” he admitted. “I was quite a way short when I joined Crawley. I was under 300 appearances and I didn’t think I was going to be making 400 let alone 500, so I’m really pleased with that.”
Following his departure from Gillingham, the now-37-year-old was at a crossroads – but his path revealed itself when the shot-stopper was recalled to the starting line-up in September 2016. He went on to make 41 appearances across the 2016/17 season and hasn’t looked back.
“My first initial reaction, if I’m honest, was, ‘I don’t think it’s for me’,” he continued. “I was starting to think that I hadn’t played at Gillingham, I’d been released at 32 and I’ve got to start thinking about the long-term future of my career.
“The Sutton manager, Matt Gray, was the assistant manager at Crawley at the time, and I knew him from before at Aldershot. I got released from Gillingham and he called me up pretty much the same day and said, ‘do you fancy coming in as a goalkeeper coach and third choice at Crawley?’ He said, ‘look, come and meet the manager – Dermot Drummy at the time – and see how you like it’.
“I never expected to get the chance to play and kick on again, which came about quite quickly. It only six or seven League games and I was thrown in because we weren’t doing that well.”
A mentor and a master, the Woolwich-born ‘keeper took Chelsea loanee Mitchell Beeney and former Liverpool trainee Yusuf Mersin under his wing, whilst also balancing his own training routine and preserving the number one berth.
“It was a weird one because I was a goalkeeper coach at the time and we had two young goalies so my priority was them still, even though I was playing. I was having to look after them and do training sessions, work around them and keep them going, then I had to prepare myself for a Saturday. They both understood that the manager needed a bit of experience at that time.”
Over 200 appearances later for the Reds, Morris has cemented himself as a firm fans’ favourite, scooping the Player of the Year award three years in a row no less.
And last season, Crawley kept a record 15 clean sheets, equalling the Club’s previous high since joining the EFL, as John Yems’ side placed 12th in the Sky Bet League Two – one better than the previous campaign.
“Even now, I still feel like my body is in a good place. I’ve played pretty much every game since then. I’ve not had many niggles, touch wood. My body is holding up so I can probably carry on for a few more years yet!
“The last five seasons have been the best of my career. I didn’t feel wanted at other Clubs. You always felt like a bit-part goalkeeper coming in and coming out, always feeling that the managers at the other Clubs were looking for someone else because I’m not the biggest, or I’m not this or not that. I felt they weren’t seeing what I do bring, they were seeing what I don’t bring.
“I’ve never played that many games for one Club. I felt at home at Crawley so it’s special to get to that milestone at Crawley. It’s been the place I’ve felt most at home. Wherever you feel comfortable is where you play your best and I’ve felt comfortable from day one.”
This weekend, Sutton United make the 45-mile-round trip to The People’s Pension Stadium, with Matt Gray’s men eyeing four wins on the spin. Crawley, meanwhile, come into the local encounter on the back of a 1-0 victory over Rochdale.
“They’re on a good run,” Morris noted. “It’s a local derby for us and we haven’t had many of them so it’s going to be a big crowd and a good atmosphere. They’ve got a direct team who play a physical game.
“There’s a lot of ex-players that we know there and the manager I know from Crawley, as well. Hopefully we can be on the winning side!”