Fond farewell, Michael Morton

2014-05-10 00:00

WHEN Michael Morton joined Maritzburg United three seasons ago under coach Ian Palmer, no one would have predicted the impact he would have on the club. An Orlando Pirates-owned player on loan at Wits, Morton arrived at Maritzburg full of passion, but just how he would fit into the squad was not immediately clear.

He was known more as a right back than a holding midfielder, and he lacked pace as well as there being questions over his ability to pick out a killer pass. Fast forward to the present, and Morton — United’s club captain — is a vastly improved player who has been instrumental to United’s success in the second half of the 2013/14 campaign.

In the physical shape of his life, Morton is a quicker, stronger and far more technically sound player today than he was when he arrived in Pietermaritzburg. His desire to win back possession coupled with his new-found ability to distribute the ball quickly and accurately have made him crucially important, and his absence will surely be felt at Harry Gwala next season.

On his way to Pretoria’s SuperSport United next season, Morton will play his last game in a Team of Choice jersey in this afternoon’s clash against newly-crowned PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns at Harry Gwala.

Adored by the Maritzburg fans, Morton is sure to be given a warm send off — one attraction of what is a largely insignificant league match.

“It’s going to be really good to get a send-off at home,” the 25-year-old told Weekend Witness yesterday. “I can’t thank the fans enough. Even when they knew I was leaving they gave me their support. They have been phenomenal and I’ll miss that.”

It is a move that makes sense for United’s midfield workhorse, who will be remembered for his never-say-die mentality and boundless energy.

“It was a big decision for me to challenge myself again, but it was just something I felt that I had to do,” he said. “Initially I will look to break into the side, play regularly, and then we will take it from there.”

SuperSport, a bigger and more successful club than Maritzburg, is also a logical step in terms of Morton’s ambition to represent Bafana Bafana.

It was Morton’s professionalism and dedication that persuaded coach Ernst Middendorp to hand him the captain’s armband at the start of the current campaign, and this is one of the things he is most proud of looking back at his time at the club.

“The captaincy was a massive honour for me and I really enjoyed that,” he said. “But I think also being involved in some of the wins over the big teams — Sundowns and Pirates — are the moments that stand out for me.”

On the other end of the scale, Morton identified last weekend’s Nedbank Cup semi-final defeat to Orlando Pirates as the lowest point of his United career.

While farewells of this nature are tougher for the fans than the player, Morton is sure that Team of Choice supporters are in good hands under coach Steve Komphela.

“If you look at the work that Steve has done since coming on board then it bodes well for the future,” said Morton. “The club is moving in the right direction and I am sure that it will be in a position next season to better itself.”

Morton scored one goal in his three years at United — a penalty in last month’s 2-0 win over Ajax Cape Town in PMB.

Today’s match against Sundowns kicks off at 3 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

PSL FIXTURES TODAY (all 3 pm)

Moroka Swallows v Free State Stars

Maritzburg United v Mamelodi Sundowns

Bloemfontein Celtic v Wits

SuperSport United v Polokwane City

Black Aces v University of Pretoria

Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates

Kaizer Chiefs v AmaZulu

Platinum Stars v Ajax Cape Town.

LOG

P W D L GF GA GD Pts

Sundowns 29 20 4 5 50 24 26 64

Chiefs 29 18 6 5 40 17 23 60

Wits 29 15 8 6 33 20 13 53

Pirates 29 12 7 10 27 21 6 43

Celtic 29 10 13 6 35 31 4 43

Aces 29 12 7 10 34 32 2 43

AmaZulu 29 11 9 9 27 32 -5 42

SuperSport 29 11 8 10 34 34 0 41

Platinum 29 10 9 10 29 32 -3 39

Maritzburg 29 10 7 12 33 36 -3 37

Ajax 29 9 8 12 27 33 -6 35

Tuks 29 9 5 15 24 28 -4 32

Swallows 29 8 7 14 29 36 -7 31

Polokwane 29 7 7 15 29 39 -10 28

FS Stars 29 6 8 15 29 43 -14 26

Arrows 29 6 3 20 25 47 -22 21

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