“I’m Just a Down To Earth Lad Who Will Do Anything for My People”: Tyler Morton is Liverpool’s Living Proof that Hard Work Pays Off
Tyler Morton still finds it surreal balling out alongside some of the best in the business. But he's never lost his composure on his route up to the top for The Reds.
Tyler Morton has been busy turning his dreams into reality for his boyhood club.
From The Wirral to the biggest of world stages, the 19-year-old has been patiently waiting for his time to take off. A “freakishly good” product of the renowned Junior side Greeleas FC, Morton went on to link up with Liverpool’s Academy at the age of seven. He's continued to level up ever since.
The last two years at Liverpool have seen him rise up from the U18s and U23s to earn himself some game time playing alongside some of the best midfielders in the world for the senior side. But he’s taken everything within his stride, with his warm demeanour and humble ambitions are much more grounded than the sky high talent he possesses.
You can definitely tell he’s living his dreams, though. Morton’s positivity as we speak today is as unshakeable as his impressive performances for Liverpool so far this season. Having been given game time in Liverpool’s Premier League, FA Cup and victorious Carabao Cup runs, Tyler’s most notable performance was treating a must-win game at the San Siro like our walk around Stanley Park. Taking everything in his stride with ease.
Liverpool’s local park is the setting for today’s shoot as we reflect on his rise in and around Anfield. A stadium he frequented as a season ticket holder as a kid, where he watched his idol don No.8 to wearing the No.80 for the senior side himself. But while he admits he's got a long way to go to cement his position in Liverpool’s midfield, today’s shoot coincides with Nike securing Morton’s services with a brand-new sponsorship deal – fully illustrating that his hard work playing and performing up the ranks is paying off.
We caught up with Tyler Morton on the day he signed a new contract with Nike in Liverpool to talk through his rise to the top, his experiences of his breakthrough season and discovering what his ultimate ambitions are while playing for the club he loves.
Photography by Todd Duncan
VERSUS: You played at one of the best junior sides in the country, Greenleas FC, where you’ve developed with some of the other academy boys today. Was there a moment when you were younger, where you thought you could really make it in football?
Tyler Morton: Greenleas FC was a bit of a rite of passage for a lot of the lads I’ve been friends with for the majority of me life. I’d definitely say it’s one of the best in the country – Sean (Wilson) and Max (Woltman) are still with me at Liverpool now, and it’s just a dream playing alongside them. We were all wanted by a few clubs but Liverpool stood out to me personally, and also for a lot of the other lads. That’s who we supported.
Who was influential for you from a young age to keep you sticking at the game?
Me mum, me dad, me brother and me nan were all pushing me from a young age and kept me grounded. They’re all big Reds, so it meant a lot to them I was playing, but they still made sure I was levelled out. They made me set standards for myself really – but they were never too harsh on me, which I was really thankful for.
I’ve got me own focus on what I want to achieve and I’ve got high standards for myself, though. The players around me too naturally give me that sort of lift and drive, week in week out – you’ve got no choice but to level up with them around. My dad would never change with me, and has never changed with me either. He’s always treated me the same throughout my career – he just treats me like normal kid who doesn’t even play footy!
Being a local lad from The Wirral, how much do you channel the mentality you’ve fostered from your home into your game?
It’s actually a big part of me game. It’s the club I’ve always grown up loving and supporting and who my family have supported, so that’s just made me more committed mentally than anything to play for this football club. I’m not from Liverpool itself but it still feels like home. I feel the love from the fans as I’m from the local area too for sure – it’s boss!
How special do you think Liverpool’s Academy set up is for fostering your development?
The Academy is a special place for sure. There’s a real freedom that comes from being there on a day-to-day basis. It’s a very good place to learn too. Because of the area we’re from, it’s a proper down-to-earth environment too – everyone’s just on a really sound level there. It’s every boy’s dream to play for Liverpool – and just to even be amongst it with lads that have shared that dream makes it a really special place to be.
You’ve moved from Melwood to The AXA recently, how did that switch up feel for you personally?
With The AXA now, the U23s feel closer to the senior side than they ever have done. When I first went up, it wasn’t always the same – but now the integration just feels way more connected between the two set ups. It’s really helped all the lads in my age group develop a lot. Even if you’re not training with the first team, just seeing them around the place and feeling like you’re side-by-side with them is very inspiring for us.
Someone else that’s climbed up the ranks from academy to first team regular is Trent – is his journey inspirational for lads like yourself?
Having him around the place and seeing how he conducts himself is massive for us. He’s someone that has gone from graduate to a key player, and his growth as both a man and a player has been amazing to see first hand. He’s gone from young leader to being the main man. He’s boss.
It’s not just Trent you get to play alongside with either. You’re blessed enough to link up with the likes of Thiago, who has even singled you out for praise, and Fabinho who has been a big influence for you. What’s it been like playing and learning from them?
It did feel a bit surreal to be training alongside them to be honest! But now I think I’ve got into a nice groove. It’s not as unusual for me as it once was – I’ve just got to play my own game and do what I do best. I know the ways in which they play can complement my game and vice versa. But yeah, just receiving the ball off them sometimes and having them guide me has been boss.
Jurgen Klopp is obviously a big figure in your own development too. What sort of things has he done for you that have helped you as a player?
His man-management is second-to-none. He’s just been boss with me ever since I’ve come through. The way he talks to me about stuff away from just football is the stuff that really sticks with me too – those are the things that have really helped me develop as a person.
I know Jurgen’s been trying to get you in the gym, too…
(Laughs) Yeah he has, but that’s definitely something that I’ve been wanting to work on myself, too!
On that note, what sort of music are you listening to in the gym or dressing room?
You know what, I actually love a bit of house! I like a big mix of stuff though. I can throw a bit of afrobeat in there too occasionally – no-one expects it. Harvey obviously loves his UK rap, but he’s got a bit of house in him too, I know it!
Speaking of UK rap, Hazey is another local lad doing bits – are you enjoying seeing his come up story?
It’s good the way everyone’s taken to him, man, all around the world too – not just in Liverpool. Seeing Trent and him snap a pic together after he dropped that verse in his song was class.
You pulled up today in a pair of Dior Runners and a Monclizzy – not many people will have had you down as a ‘clothing head’ going off your gram!
Nah I don’t mind it you know! I really like some of these pieces I’m in today actually – the Supreme x Nike puffer is really nice, and these Jordan trackies are nice too. I actually do a lot of my shopping just seeing stuff off Instagram you know – I just see stuff I like on there and think “yeah I’d suit that!”
As a long-term fan, does it feel particularly good that you’re signing a contract with Nike today then?
I’ve always wanted to be with Nike growing up, as I’ve always loved them as a brand. I’ve always loved Tiempos growing up – that sort of classic leather boot is very much my sort of style and great to strike a ball with.
I know you used to have a season ticket at Anfield. Who was your biggest idol growing up, watching from the stands?
It has to be Gerrard, of course. I saw a lot of the end of his career at Liverpool, but more often than not, he was still the best player on the pitch. My dad always used to tell me: “you’ve not even seen him at his best,” but even when I watched him he was crazy good. He was definitely me idol. But he didn’t have it easy, though. But that’s what I liked about him the most – he was resilient.
How did it feel making your debut for the first time?
It was Norwich in the League Cup… I really didn’t expect it one bit to be honest. I was just warming up, smashing the ball into the net, then I heard Naby had a bit of a niggle and I was coming on. Next thing you know, I’ve got Pep Ljinders coming on telling me I’m coming on in the No.6.
I’ve not always been a CDM, I’ve been more of a No.8 really, but I love playing CDM as I just get the ball loads. But as soon as I came on and did the basics right, that set me on the right path and gave me belief that I could do it at this level. I like shooting from distance, too, so hopefully I can give the fans some goals from midfield in the future.
You’ve been thrown into some pretty massive games in your career so far. How do you deal with the pressure at playing for Liverpool in the Premier League and Champions League?
I just don’t really put pressure on myself like that you know. The players who I’m playing alongside take it off me quite a lot of the time too. If I were to lose the ball, you’ve got quality around you like Joel, Virg, Ibou… and Fab especially! These sort of guys really calm me down and make sure I stay composed with my own game.
I’ve got to ask, how did it feel like when you stepped out into a packed-out San Siro under pressure?
There were some nerves, but they were good nerves. It was always a case of taking the game as it comes and trying to think about doing the simple things well – that’s my game. I just really enjoyed myself out there. Now I can just watch clips back of myself and gain confidence from those experiences.
I’ve never put too much pressure on myself to make it. The way I play, I’m quite calm and quite relaxed. I think I just took everything as it came and have managed to do well with the opportunities given to me so far. Hopefully I can carry on delivering! I try and live in the present quite a lot – I’m really happy with where I am right now.
You’re playing alongside a lot of seasoned players and a few lads that have come up with you in the academy – who are you closest to in the dressing room?
I’d definitely say Harvey – he’s a really funny lad who I get on with well. Then all the younger lads like Kaide Gordon, Rhys Williams, Caiomhin Kelleher are all my boys, too. Then from the senior side I’d say Andy Robertson, Milly and Hendo are two big leaders too.
What’s your overall dream as a player?
I’m someone that really lives in the present – I’m not someone who thinks too far ahead or dwells on stuff, so I just focus on the here and now. I’m a professional footballer playing for the club I love and I’m loving every minute. My ultimate goal is to be a Liverpool footballer and become a regular starter for this club. But in the meantime, I’m just happy to be a professional footballer.
How would you describe Tyler Morton the person?
I’d like to say, I’m just a down to earth lad who will do anything for the people closest to me.