New York Red Bulls winger Lewis Morgan has set his sights on breaking back into the Scotland squad this year.
The 25-year-old has only two caps to his name – both in friendlies nearly four years ago – and was an unused substitute for four of Steve Clarke’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.
But with the versatility and form he has found in America for Inter Miami and, now with his new side Red Bulls, Morgan has made it his main aim to get back into the fold ahead of a potential World Cup in Qatar in November.
He told Sky Sports News: “Personally, I always want to be the best player in the league. It was my mindset last year and although it didn’t really transpire that way it doesn’t change my opinion this year.
“Being a forward player you always want to get double figures for goals and assists.
“And I think playing well here and trying to get myself back into the Scotland national team is the big aim for this year, but that’s only going to happen if I play well for Red Bulls.
“That’s the biggest honour a player could have. My two caps were in friendlies but it’s still the biggest honour that I’ve had in my career so times that by 100 – if you’re going to be representing your country at the World Cup. It’s every boy’s dream growing up in Scotland.
“So that would be fantastic but I’ve got to make sure every single week I’m performing here to give myself the best possible chance and I fully intend on doing that.”
Morgan hasn’t been part of the Scotland squad since 2020
Arguably one of Scotland’s weaker positions is right wing-back, with Motherwell captain Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson recently battling for that starting slot. However, the latter has not featured in a Premier League game since making the move from Rangers to Everton earlier this season.
And Morgan, who played most of last season at right wing-back, believes he’s now accomplished in that role and his added versatility could strengthen his case for a call-up.
He said: “Right wing-back is one of those specialist positions – not everyone plays a back three. I definitely wasn’t comfortable there at the start of my time in Miami last year. But playing there a full season I now know the role.
“I think it’s a good thing to have now especially with how our national team plays. I know the manager likes that formation and I know without doubt that I can perform at a good level in that position. I also know on the flip side that I can add more goals and assists playing a little bit higher up the pitch.
“Even this year I played the first game of the season at wing-back and contributed with an assist, so it’s a role that I am comfortable doing. And anything that gives me a bigger chance to break into that national team… and if it is that I can cover a couple of positions, then it’s only a good thing so it’s an advantage for me.”
Despite an impressive first few seasons in the MLS, Morgan hasn’t been part of the Scotland setup since he made the move to David Beckham’s Inter Miami in January 2020.
Morgan is one of a handful of Scots in the MLS, with Vancouver Whitecaps’ Ryan Gauld, Sporting Kansas’ Johnny Russell, Philadelphia Union’s Stuart Findlay and Colorado Rapids’ Danny Wilson all trying to impress Clarke from across the pond.
The former Celtic, Sunderland and St Mirren player believes the distance and travel required makes it tougher to get a look-in for the squads and insists Scottish players in the MLS have to perform that extra bit better to get picked.
He said: “Before the Euro campaign got off I spoke to the manager and wished them all the best. I was involved in most of the squads before I came out here. Then with Covid issues the next year and the squad doing so well, he had every right to be loyal to them.
“But all I can do is perform every week for Red Bull, score goals, assists and eventually I’m going to get back in the setup – I’m sure of that. I just need to focus on my club football at the moment and a by-product of doing well here is to try to get myself back in that national team.
Morgan scored a hat-trick in New York Red Bulls’ win at Toronto last week
“There’s no doubt that it’s easier if we’ve got guys playing domestically and playing very well and getting called up. I don’t begrudge any of them and I’m not saying I deserve this and they get it easier, it’s not like that at all.
“Playing international football is the biggest honour a player can receive so everyone in that squad is deserving of it. Maybe it is a little bit tougher because of where we are – logistically it’s tougher for the manager to get out and see games.
“But I’ve always been a believer that if you’re playing well then it doesn’t matter. If I’m scoring goals I’m always going to be on the radar even if it is a little bit tougher.”
Morgan hasn’t just been progressing on the pitch. Adjusting to the different cultures at Miami and New York has led to a lot of personal development and life experiences he wouldn’t necessarily have had if he stayed in the UK.
The Greenock boy learned Spanish quite quickly to adapt to life at Inter Miami, where there is a strong Hispanic culture – English is the second language at the club.
It helped him form a special relationship on and off the pitch with Argentine great Gonzalo Higuain.
And now he’s acclimatising from the tropical weather of Florida to more Scottish-like temperatures in New York, since moving north up the east coast.
Morgan completes his hat-trick against Toronto FC
Morgan said: “I wouldn’t say I’m fluent (in Spanish). It’s okay… it’s pretty good.
“I got on with Gonzalo really well. Obviously he’s a top player, you can see that with his CV and the clubs he’s played at and the games he’s played in. He was great to play with, learn off of and I obviously got on really well with him as well.
“I sampled two different cultures and lifestyles here. Being out in Miami is very different to here in New York. So still it’s a big adjustment. Football is great out here and lifestyle is obviously different but it’s one I’m enjoying.
“In Miami, English is very much the second language down there – especially at our football club. So learning Spanish and living abroad – us Scots don’t travel too well historically! That was a big jump.
“But now living here I’m loving it, my family are loving it here. New York is a little bit climate-wise closer to Scotland than Miami was anyway. We’re enjoying it, it’s all different experiences, the football’s great. I don’t think the league gets the respect it deserves, although the public’s perception of that is changing a little bit. But I can speak from experience that the standard is very high.
“Personal development-wise it’s been really beneficial to be coming here. Even things as small as learning different languages, different cultures, playing with these real big personalities. My personal development has grown at a faster rate than it would have if I stayed in the UK.
“But that’s not closing the door on that, I just think this league has been really good for me in terms of developing as a player. I feel like I’ve been playing forever, because I broke into the first team when I was 16-17 years old. I’m 25 now but feel like I’m coming into my peak years and being out here and playing regularly has helped bring my game forward.”
Flying in the MLS again with a hat-trick last week for Red Bulls – and his family settled – the shock move to America from Celtic has paid off for Morgan and he has no regrets about leaving.
But despite not being able to live up to his potential at the club due to injuries and the strength of the Quadruple Treble-winning squad, he still has fond memories of being there.
Morgan has two Scotland caps to his name
He added: “At Celtic I was still getting to play a part in the squad but mostly I was playing as a 9 – up front myself. Probably wasn’t showing myself in the best light. I didn’t really get the rub of the green or the bounce of the ball when I went to Celtic, with injuries and what not.
“I just wanted to get away and somewhere where I was going to play more often. All credit to Celtic that we had such a strong squad that no-one is guaranteed that, but I did want to get somewhere where I knew I was going to play my own role more consistently. And I just thought for the benefit of my career that I left.
“The only thing that I wish was different were the injuries. When I went to Celtic I was flying – that first season with the Champions League qualifiers I felt brilliant. Then after having knee surgery I didn’t get my rhythm back for a while. There’s nothing I can do about it now. I still got to play in big games – Champions League, Europa League, cup finals.
“When you look at it like that there’s still positives for me to take although I didn’t perform how I wanted to perform. Everything happens for a reason and now I’m here and I’m enjoying my football – there’s no hard feelings or nothing towards it.
“After having surgery – especially on your knee – it’s tough to get that rhythm again. And when you are at a club like Celtic where you’re not going to be afforded five, six, seven games on the spin to get your knee feeling 100 per cent.
“I think I knew once I got back to playing regular football I knew I would start playing well and I hope that continues.”