Former Wairarapa United goalkeeper Scott Morris has scored a professional contract with English Championship club Stoke City.
Morris, who played for United from 2016 to 2021 before joining former teammate and coach Paul Ifill at Christchurch United, went on to play a pivotal role in the latter’s treble-winning 2023 season, with victories in the Chatham Cup, Southern League, and the English Cup – Mainland Football’s knockout cup. He contributed 12 clean sheets in 20 appearances throughout the season.
The 22-year-old also helped New Zealand to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics by winning the Oceania Confederation qualifying series.
Morris has been training with Stoke City over the past two to three months and told the club’s website that signing the 18-month contract is “a chance I want to grasp with both hands”.
“It has been a long-held ambition to test myself in England, which was something I explored a couple of years ago, and it now feels like the right time and right opportunity to develop my game,” Morris said.
“My immediate goal is to adapt to the professional environment, learn from my new teammates, and be the best version of myself in training every day.”
Ifill, who has known Morris since taking him into his academy as a 12 or 13-year-old, believes he has the attributes to have a lengthy professional career and that the Stoke City managers like what they see.
“Normally, you go on trial, but he managed to secure an 18-month deal, so that says to me that they think he’s ready,” Ifill said.
“He’s been training with the first team. He was on the bench for the under-23s last week, so I don’t think he’s far away from starting for the U23s, and he can push on from there.
“It [the Championship] is a really tough league and a difficult place to start, but I just think the way he is, he’s pretty laidback, he’s got a really good work ethic, and nothing will really phase him, and if he does have a setback he’s happy to knuckle down and work harder.”
Ifill added that Morris’s determination was evident from his early days at Ifill’s Rathkeale-based academy, and he learnt quickly after a tough introduction to the Central League as a 15-year-old in 2016 in a 7–2 thrashing from Miramar Rangers.
“We had to get dispensation to play him because we had no other goalkeeper, and we got walloped by Miramar. We were down 4–0 or 5–0 at halftime; he hadn’t played well, and at halftime, he was in tears. I remember saying to him, ‘It’s only up from here – this is probably the worst it will ever be’.”
Ifill said that Morris has been all class for him over the years, and he thinks he will eventually be New Zealand’s number-one goalkeeper.
“He’s one of those who has taken a bit of time and has kind of flown under the radar. NZ Football, over the past year, has started to see what he can do, and certainly [All Whites coach] Darren Bazeley is a fan of his, which is good.
“He’s now at the best place to do it. He’s at a big Championship club, he’s going to be training with good goalkeepers, good professionals and training every day, so he’s definitely going to have a chance to push on and do that.”