Persistance pays off for Callum Morris
FOUR years after nearly turning his back on football, Callum Morris has justified his dad's insistence he persist with the sport by earning a maiden Northern Ireland call-up.
The 26-year-old former Newcastle trainee had dropped as far as Morpeth Town in the Northern League when an opportunity to have a trial at Dunfermline came up in 2012.
It was a chance Morris may have turned down had his father, Gery, not been so adamant he should explore the option.
"I've been right to the bottom, I was on the brink of quitting football altogether at one stage," he said from Northern Ireland's training base in Austria.
"My dad in particular was a big believer in me and a lot of the time when I could have gone part-time and got a job he told me to keep going.
"I did work for my friend's dad for a bit on a construction site which wasn't great - especially when it's your best mate and we just messed about instead of getting a lot of work done.
"He said to exhaust every avenue but when the call came (from Dunfermline) I wasn't going to go but it shows you how much a 20-minute conversation can change everything.
"That's how it goes and how I've come out the other side and things are on the up."
Newcastle-born Morris' journey from non-league to the international ranks is not that unique these days given the likes of Jamie Vardy, Michail Antonio and Northern Ireland's own Conor Washington have plotted similar courses.
What does make him stand out more is his decision to swap the Republic of Ireland for Northern Ireland, rather than the other way around, which the likes of James McClean, Marc Wilson and Darron Gibson all did in the junior ranks.
One-time Republic Under-21 cap Morris revealed it was not a recent move, though, explaining he was persuaded to play for the country where the majority of his family hail from five years ago.
"I got a phone call from Northern Ireland because at that stage I could still pay for the under-21s," said Morris, whose strong family ties are displayed in tattoos of his grandad's on both his chest and forearm.
"At the time I was pushed towards the Republic but Northern Ireland was always there. My dad was the only one in the family who left so I always go there during the summer.
"It is a massive part of my life and it is great to be involved at senior level now."