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Morrison hopes to celebrate milestone

6 March 2015

Albion midfielder plots Wembley visit

IT'S all about the milestones for James Morrison right now.

A month or so ago, following Luke Daniels' departure, the 28-year-old became Albion's longest-serving player.

On Tuesday he earned his 200th League appearance for Albion.

Tomorrow, assuming he steps out at Villa Park at some point, the Scotland international will slip on a Baggies shirt for the 250th time in all competitions.

At the end of it lies a potential Wembley place in the form of an FA Cup semi-final. 

That's still an 'if'. Albion players are still raw from their last visit across the Birmingham-Black Country border just a few days ago.

Morrison taps the desk with significant purpose as he speaks about the coming 24 hours. 

He last played at the home of English football in a club match during his first season with Albion.

Joining the club in August 2007, Morrison was to be part of an Albion midfield reshaped by Tony Mowbray following the club's play-off failure the previous May.

Morrison made his first Baggies outing as a 70th minute substitute for Richard Chaplow - one of seven debutants in a miserable 2-1 defeat at Burnley.

To give some context, Albion's side included defenders Carl Hoefkens, Leon Barnett, Tininho; a midfield of Filipe Teixeira, Zoltan Gera and newly-appointed skipper Jonathan Greening. Kevin Phillips and Craig Beattie were up front.

Albion were to end the campaign as Championship title winners, scoring more than 100 goals in all competitions.

They were to reach the FA Cup semi-final, losing to a Portsmouth side in a game that leaves sour taste with fans to this day for all manner of reasons. 

Since then Morrison has played for six head coaches, won a further promotion (2010), suffered one relegation (2009) and been an integral part of a midfield that took Albion to their loftiest top flight positions since the early 1980s.

Now we sit in a training ground office - a room that was merely part of an extension plan when Morrison signed on the dotted line eight years ago. Much has changed: "we even have a pool now..."

Morrison reflects on 2007-15 with a sense of fulfilment. 

Almost. 

Tomorrow's game at Villa Park carries significant weight. The Teessider, only one of three survivors of Middlesbrough's 2006 Uefa Cup Final to be still playing Premier League football (Mark Schwarzer and Stewart Downing, since you ask), wants another shot at a major competition. 

"I never thought I'd have got this far - I've had a good journey," said Morrison.

"I've had some good times at Albion. There was the 5-1 victory, when we beat Wolves - that was a good one.

"Getting to Wembley in 2008, winning the title the same year....that was great.

"But it's been a while since that Wembley game in 2008. Since then we've been very disappointing in the cup. Personally I've been desperate to do well in the cup competitions. When you finish it's something you look back on.

"Hopefully on Saturday we can do the job because we're still hurting from Tuesday. 

"The FA Cup was a big thing for me growing up. I'm desperate to do well in the cup. 

"We know we won't the League but this is one where we can win a trophy....and as a footballer you look at teams winning trophies - it's what you want as a footballer."



Speaking about life at Albion, Morrison continued: "I've enjoyed my time here in the main. It's one of the reasons I've been here so long.

"This is my eighth season at West Brom now. My first year here I learned so much - Tony Mowbray was very helpful, especially as I was also moving town, moving myself - I learned a lot.

"But every manager I've played under I've learned something.

"I feel quite proud to have been part of what we've achieved. When I came we'd just lost in the play-offs. Since then we've spent most years in the Premier League.

"I didn't realise I'd got to 250 games with the club until I was told this week...it would be wonderful to mark the occasion by winning a place at Wembley."

Milestones will ultimately be of little significance if there is a repeat of Tuesday's outcome in tomorrow's match at Villa Park. 

Morrison is fully aware they need to react.

"We didn't set the standards we've set in previous games," he added.

"We improved in the second half but then there was a moment with Ben (Foster) - but he's been solid throughout this season. 

"Hopefully we can put it right for him, the team and the fans on Saturday.

"Ben will come back stronger and wiser for it - he will deal with it and move on.

"The manner of the defeat is extra motivation, especially seeing them celebrate like they'd won the cup - not least as they'd been struggling and won it with the last kick of the game.

"We're glad to have this game. It gives us a chance to get over it

"To lose with the last kick of the game really hurts."

He concluded: "Older fans have the Villa, younger fans have the Wolves.

"I know what it feels like to lose in them and how it impacts on the fans. We know what this game means."


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