A spate of injuries which threatened his football career has led to Paul Morgan setting up his own sports physiotherapy practice, reports Dany Robson.
Belfast boy Paul Morgan joined Preston North End at the age of just 16.
But his Deepdale career was hindered by injuries to the extent that he names popular physio Mick ‘Baz’ Rathbone as his best friend at the club during his time there.
Now 38, Morgan has set up his own sports physiotherapy practice in Leyland.
While he admitted there were extreme low points during his football career, Morgan also says these have helped him to make decisions about his future and take the next step.
“I was brought over to Preston from Ireland by David Moyes,” said former centre-half Paul.
“I stayed with the Moyes family for a few weeks and then was in digs on Garstang Road.
“I signed professional terms at 17 and was with Preston all the way from League Two into the Championship but I didn’t play as much as I would have liked as I was blighted by injury.
“You have these dreams about being a footballer but it’s tough when it doesn’t happen as you expect it to.
“I had eight operations in six years. I went under the knife for cartilage operations in my knee, anterior compartment syndrome of the shin muscles and removal of the seasomoid bone in my big toe, as well as a broken collarbone.
“The hardest one was the broken toe as I was out for a year and it was tough to diagnose – they finally found the bone in my toe was dead and it needed a lot of recovery time.
“Throughout this time, Preston physio Mick was my rock really.
“When I was at school I wanted to be an accountant as I was good at maths, but this changed me. Mick made me want to be a physio.
“He kept me going through some very tough times. I was at Preston and came through the youth ranks with Paul McKenna, David Lucas and Kevin Kilbane.
“Preston were enjoying a lot of success so it was hard being on the sidelines through this, especially being a young lad and just wanting to play.
“Mick had such a positive attitude, he had the ability to pick people up, he motivated people and that’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to do. It was a long, lonely time but Mick was always there for me.”
Morgan moved on to Lincoln City after Preston, where he enjoyed his most successful spell in football under the late Keith Alexander.
“I was made captain of Lincoln, the youngest in the league at 23 and that was a proud moment.
“We were in League Two and made the play-offs for five years in a row and twice made the play-off final, losing to Bournemouth and Southend.
“I loved it there. I was 23, there was a group of us of the same age and it was a real family club. I made 400 appearances and we were playing in front of seven or eight thousand every week.
“After so many years with injury, I just appreciated playing every week.”
In 2008, Morgan started a physiotherapy degree at Salford University, funded by the Professional Footballers’ Association, and moved to Bury for two years, where Alexander was director of football, before signing for Macclesfield with Alexander and his pal Richard Butcher.
“It was great at Macclesfield but the sudden death of Keith, with a brain aneurysm in March 2010, really shook me up.”
Less than a year later, in January 2011, team-mate Butcher died in his sleep from a heart condition.
“Richard was a good friend and he had just started a physiotherapy course. I was helping him with an assignment just before his death.
“That was hard to take and that changed me and forced my hand. It pushed me to leave playing football aged 33 – it suddenly didn’t seem important anymore – and to look at my future which was in physiotherapy.”
Morgan took a Masters in sports injury rehabilitation while working as first-team physio at League Two side Accrington Stanley.
He moved on to the first team at Bury but then decided to take a step back in the summer and is now head physio of the youth academy back at Accrington Stanley.
“I decided that I preferred working with the youth team, there is more time for treatment and rehabilitation as well as prevention and it’s rewarding to see them progress,” he said.
“It also fits in with starting my own physiotherapy business where I want to treat people with a keen interest in sport, whether amateurs, semi-professionals or those who go to the gym on a regular basis.
“Baz Rathbone saw me through some tough times and I know how hard, as a sports person, it can be when you can’t do what you love so I want to help others to prevent injuries or help them recover.”
Morgan’s practice is called ‘espire physiotherapy clinic’ - elite sports performance and injury rehabilitation experience – and is on Town Gate in Leyland. He can be contacted on 07927 166431.