MARK MORRIS - a promotion-winning former Wrexham number one - was handed his big chance at Liverpool thanks to a fellow shot-stopper who would probably go down as the Reds worst ever keeper.

Morris - the longest serving coach on the staff at Premier League leaders Liverpool - owes his Anfield appointment to Xavi Valero whose disastrous four game spell at The Racecourse in January 2005 ended with him being hauled off at half-time by Denis Smith at Chesterfield.

“If it wasn’t for Xavi, I wouldn’t have got the chance to come to Liverpool,” said Morris, who is now U23 goalkeeping coach at the Merseyside giants.

“It was 11 years ago and I remember vividly how it came about. I was about to go on a golfing break to Dumfries with Kevin Reeves, Brian Flynn, Brian Prandle, Tony Humes and a few others when I got a call from Xavi.

“I was coaching at Stockport at the time and Jim Gannon and Peter Ward - the ex-Wrexham midfielder - had been offered to chance to manage in Scotland.

“I didn’t fancy a move up north so to say the call came at the right time was a complete understatement.

“Xavi came with Rafa Benitez to Anfield and said he wanted me to come for an interview to be part of the coaching set-up.

“Rafa had been told that he could bring in his own back-room staff and Xavi recommended me. He said ‘I know you can do a job for us!’

“And that was it. I got the job and I’m still here now 11 years on and the longest serving member of the team.

“I feel very fortunate but it’s a job I love.

“I find myself in a very privileged position working for Liverpool and I come in every day with a big smile on my face.

“There’s not many people who can say that, and I look forward to helping our goalkeepers progress.

“As always, our priority at the Academy is to get as many players as we can up to Melwood to train on a regular basis and then the rest is down to them to try to get a first-team opportunity. When they get that chance it is a very proud moment.”

Former Tranmere keeper John Achterberg head the keeper’s coaching team at Anfield where Neil Edwards and Ian Dunbavin, who played for Rochdale and Shrewsbury, also work alongside Morris.

“Goalkeeper coaching has evolved so much over the years,” added Morris, now aged 51. “Gone are the days when the back-up keeper just used to take shots at you in the warm-up,

“We have a big input in all the defensive and attacking set-pieces as well as assessing reports on keepers that come in from our scouts all over the world.”

One of the keepers who did come through the Wrexham and Liverpool ranks is Danny Ward.

Ward didn’t play a first team game for Wrexham but the financial rewards of his sale to Liverpool and then to Leicester City has given the North Wales club a sound financial base amid the worries of uncertainties that the coronavirus brings.

“It was great to see Danny develop as a keeper and play a part in that development,” said Morris, who first joined Wrexham on the Youth Training Scheme in the early Eighties.

“I think I made my first appearance as a 16-year-old against Bangor,” said Morris, who had to bide his time before becoming a regular between the sticks under Brian Flynn.

“Mike Hooper was the number one at Wrexham when I first came into the first team squad but he’d been sold to Liverpool within six weeks.”

Dixie McNeil handed Chester-born Morris his debut at home to Exeter in January 1986 and he kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.

But his run lasted three games before Don Ferguson, Mike Salmon, Chris Pearce and then Vince O’Keefe all became McNeil’s favoured number ones heading into the 1990s.

“Being a number two goalkeeper is a dreadful job, you’re waiting for dead man’s hoes,” added Morris, who patience was rewarded with a 40 game run in Flynn’s youthful side that finished bottom of the entire Football League in 1991.

Morris lost his place to O’Keefe - including the FA Cup run that saw the Reds famously beat Arsenal 2-1 at The Racecourse - the following season and Flynn brought in Ken Hughes the following summer, it looked like life on the sidelines again for Morris.

But the 1992/93 season was the stellar one for Morris as he played 34 league games as the Reds won promotion on a night to remember at Northampton.

“It was a brilliant side,” said Morris. “Good young players. Benno, Watkin and Connolly getting the goals although it was the signing of Mike Lake that really made us click.

“There were Wrexham fans everywhere. I remember the ref tipping me the wink that he was going to blow for full-time so I could make a dash to the dressing room. We started drinking in there and I don’t think we stopped partying for days!”

But Morris’ roller-coaster ride of being in and out of the side continued the following season.

“It was tough,” said Morris, who also had a spell as a Wrexham Football in the Community officer before heading into coaching. “Andy Marriott came in and that was it.

“Flynnie released me at the end if the season and I told him I didn’t think it was the right decision but I didn’t burn my bridges because you never know in football.

“A few years later he offered me the job of coaching the U17s,19s and 21s side with Wales. That’s just another example of how fortunate I’ve been in football.”

But there’s been nothing lucky about the career Morris has had. This tale tells you that!