Before their controversial transformation into Milton Keynes Dons, Wimbledon F.C. had a mouthwatering prospect in their ranks. Lionel Morgan was a winger who many had down as a future international star.
He attained a god-like status among players of Championship Manager in the early noughties for his rapid rise to the top of the fictional game.
But his real life career was a far cry from what many hoped and believed…
Lionel Morgan had played just 62 minutes of an England under-19s game in November 2001, but it was long enough for him to have made his mark.
Denied a goal early on by the woodwork, Morgan went on to set up two goals for England as they beat their Georgian counterparts. Morgan’s pace and direct attacking style on the left wing was a menace throughout, and his departure, brought about through cramp, was a welcome respite for the Georgian defenders.
Morgan was named man of the match for a performance that some described as reminiscent of John Barnes.
Despite having played only a handful of games for Wimbledon’s first team, Morgan had caught the eye enough for Premier League Tottenham Hotspur to make a concrete offer believed to be around £750, 000 for his services.
Spurs’ approach was rebuffed, and Morgan continued to dazzle, and scored his first professional goal in typically spectacular style. He arced a superb free kick into the top corner to give Wimbledon a 1-0 victory over Rotherham United, a strike described by his manager at the time, Stuart Murdoch, as “Beckham-esque”.
Just days later though, Morgan’s euphoria turned to dispair as he suffered a damaged cruciate ligament in a game against Crewe Alexandra.
The injury required two operations and kept Morgan out of action for seven months.
Morgan made his comeback the following season and scored in his first start, but his progress was again halted by injury just three games later. Morgan had been subjected to some rough treatment in a match with Portsmouth, and a tackle by Tim Sherwood left him with a bruised ankle.
Morgan’s knee continued to be the biggest cause for concern though, and following further surgery, he looked set to eventually join Tottenham, who had returned with another bid of £400,000.
But it wasn’t to be, as Morgan failed the medical prior to the move.
His next comeback came in September 2003, but again Morgan lasted only a few games before breaking down with injury. An innocuous training ground collision aggravated his troublesome knee, and Morgan found himself on the operating table twice more.
Initially, doctors were hopeful that Morgan could make a full recovery, but Wimbledon chose not to renew his contract at the end of the season.
Morgan hasn’t played professional football since.
Lionel Morgan’s story is one that promised so much but delivered little; an unfortunate young footballer whose gift was cruelly snatched from him by persistent injuries.