ELLA Morris has got history with upcoming opponents Bristol City. Good history, in the most significant season of Saints Women’s history so far.
Marauding forward in the very first minute of extra time, at St Mary’s, the defender netted a rare goal to boot the then-superior opposition out of the FA Cup just nine months ago.
The rest of the season went as it did and now, after promotion again, Saints and the former WSL side compete in the same division for the first time.
It was another marker that the playing staff, coaching team and already existing and newly developed infrastructure was in place ready to make the next step.
“We had done it a few times before, we beat Lewes in the league above before and we competed with Birmingham, who were previously in the WSL, only losing 3-2,” Morris tells the Daily Echo.
“You’ve been able to see the foundations we have set in previous seasons and we’ve kept growing as a team.
“We had the squad to compete in the Championship for a few seasons now. It was about building on that a bit more and proving we could compete long-term.”
Still. A die-hard Saints fan scoring her first goal at St Mary’s, after battling toe-to-toe with one of the most established women’s teams in the country for over 90 minutes?
There is no level of belief or pre-existing expectation that can diminish that. The Daily Echo photographer’s effort at capturing the moment has even made it into the Morris family home.
“The emotions took over me,” Morris recalled, after being showed the image again. “I’m not usually in that goalscoring position but the ball fell to me and thankfully I put it in.
“I can’t remember exactly what was going through my head but I remember the feeling. Looking at the fans and Raff’s (Laura Rafferty) arms grabbing me is one of my favourite pictures. I think it’s my mum’s laptop screensaver!”
With a golf swing celebration, Morris paid homage to a club legend she had grown up watching from inside the very stadium at which she was now a goalscorer.
Saints captain James Ward-Prowse has iconised the golf swing when he scores – earlier revealing his young son Oscar had selected it and even showed the England international how he should do it.
“A goal at St Mary’s – as a Saints fan it doesn’t really come much better than that,” Morris added, now sharing a training ground with her icon everyday as a full-time professional footballer.
“It’s a bit surreal, we’ll be walking up off the training ground and we’ll be passing them. I’ve grown up watching you play every week, going to all the games and I’m just walking past like we’re equal.
“That’s pretty amazing. Since the age of seven when I first joined the Hampshire setup – which then got converted into the Southampton RTC – it’s always been a dream to talk about,” she insisted.
“I’ve had to put in the work throughout my whole life. It’s not been easy so credit to my mum for taking me on all the rainy nights and getting back home late before taking me to school early in the morning.
What a dream and what a team! 🔥 class from all the girls today, a real shift from everyone 🤩🤩 https://t.co/Afvm4dvn8r
— Ella Morris (@ellabmorris) January 30, 2022
“The hard work has come from all of the family.”
It used to be a real family matter for Morris at Saints, sharing the dressing room with sister Caitlin. Unfortunately, Caitlin was one of seven players who moved on in June.
Among those also included Katie Rood and Alisha Ware, pictured celebrating with Morris in the Bristol City photo from January’s meeting.
“Southampton has always been a place where the player is important but the person is just as important,” Morris said. “We got on well with all the girls and personally I was really close with both Roody and Alisha.
“That’s why it’s great to see Alisha smashing it out in America and Roody (Hearts) I think scored a penalty the other day. It’s amazing to watch them carry on their journeys, and it’s really exciting.”
Such is the nature of football, the journey continues relentlessly at Saints. They now travel to Ashton Gate on Sunday (3PM), with eyes firmly forward.
Saints have just picked up their first win of the Championship era at then league-leaders Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park – a result Morris says leaves her “buzzing”.
Bristol City – with three wins from three and the concession of zero goals – now top the table themselves. But this Saints team love to keep writing their own history.
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