LINKS between a Manchester United legend who cut his teeth in Scotland and the Royal County of Berkshire would seem few and far between. But in Willie Morgan’s case, the connections are numerous.
The winger shared the Old Trafford dressing room with esteemed Reading Football Club manager Steve Coppell, while close friend John McLaughlin is the general manager at Hilton Reading. Morgan’s love of golf has made several trips down to take on the county’s finest parkland courses.
But the 79-year-old’s latest visit to the Ding will undoubtedly prove most memorable as he stopped off at Windsor Castle to collect his MBE on Wednesday.
Speaking to Reading Today hours before receiving his award, Morgan said: “I’m very excited. It’s a great day for my family, particularly my wife and granddaughter who came down with me. Most importantly, it’s not raining.
“We had a letter through the post, my friends and daughter went behind my back and arranged it all. I don’t mind, it’s nice for my family and friends. They’re all really excited.
“It’s nice to be back down in Reading. We had dinner a couple of weeks ago and I managed to get a round of golf in; I’ve made some good friends down here so it’s good to see everyone.”
A great day at Windsor Castle to collect my MBE with my family, Willie🎖️⚽️ @GaynorMorgan @JessMorganHoole @manutdirishreds @Callum7McFadden @NSPCC pic.twitter.com/Bx2Tp4CBTD
— Willie Morgan MBE (@WillieMorganMBE) October 12, 2023
Morgan’s inclusion in the 2023 Birthday Honours List recognised his services to charity, specifically his extensive fundraising work for the NSPCC through the Howard Keel Golf Classic.
After a chance encounter with the Hollywood star in 1987, the pair committed to holding an annual all-star golf day at The Mere Golf Club, with proceeds going to the children’s charity. Raising millions of pounds across 27 years, Morgan continued to organise the golf day after the Dallas star’s death in 2004, only stopping just before the pandemic.
“I had black hair when I first started, I certainly don’t anymore,” he said in jest. “It really took over, but it has been a great thing to be involved with.”
For Morgan, life began in the Central Lowlands town of Alloa. He began his professional career at Burnley, where he made 231 appearances, before Sir Matt Busby brought him to Manchester in 1968 for a then-record fee of £110,000.
He inherited the Reds’ famed number seven shirt from George Best, who switched to the number 11.
George Best. Weekend out with the lads? Rare pic from early 1972 with Carlo Satori, Denis Law, Willie Morgan, and Sammy McIlroy. #mufc pic.twitter.com/E3OvQZErEe
— Ben (@Bred147) September 23, 2023
“It was quite simple taking the number seven shirt off George to be honest,” Morgan explained. “Sir Matt Busby paid a record fee for me so I felt comfortable enough to wear it.
“George and I became great friends both on and off the pitch. He was certainly happy enough moving to the number 11.”
During his seven seasons with United, Morgan scored 34 goals, helping his team gain promotion from the Second Division. He also represented Scotland at the 1974 World Cup Finals. But in 1975, manager Tommy Docherty signed a diminutive right winger from Tranmere by the name of Steve Coppell, which put paid to his playing time and ultimately saw him return to Burnley.
Morgan was full of praise for the former Reading boss, he explained: “He was a good winger, played in the same position as me out on the wing. He was a nice lad as well and had a great time at Man United and with England.
“I’ve not heard from him for a while, but it was good to see him do well.”
From Turf Moor, he moved on to Bolton Wanderers, where he enjoyed a handful of seasons on-loan in the MLS, before returning to England for a farewell campaign at Blackpool.
The Scotsman now tries to fit a round of golf in every day, weather permitting, and has worked his way down to a seven handicap, reputable for most, but not in the same league as his grandson who plays off plus three.
He also stays up to date with ongoing events at Manchester United through The Willie Morgan Show, which is uploaded to YouTube.