ANDY MORRISON will always be a cult hero for helping drag Manchester City off their knees.
But if he thought marshalling City’s defence while they scrapped in mid- table, third-tier wilderness was his biggest football challenge, he was wrong.
It is the one he faces now, as manager of the world’s 204th-ranked country — a nation that had been banned from playing any football for months of his reign.
Morrison won back-to-back titles with Connah’s Quay and the Welsh manager-of-the-year award when he left in September 2021 to find a new test.
It came with a chance call in May last year, as Fifa looked to bring in Pro Licence coaches to work with lower-rated nations. And they did not come much lower than Sri Lanka.
Morrison, who skippered City to two straight promotions and is now one of their in-house commentators, said: “I’d won pretty much all I could in Wales and stepped away to reinvigorate and energise myself when the call came in.
“I visited Sri Lanka and thought it looked fantastic, so signed up. But it was a really unfortunate time.
“There was a nationwide crisis, no fuel, a lack of electricity and gas, the economy crashed, mass protests against the government — it was anarchy.”
Sri Lanka were suspended by Fifa in January due to government interference in football before getting the green light to carry on in August.
Morrison, 53, added: “When the ban was lifted, we had five weeks to prepare for a World Cup qualifier against Yemen after months without playing. You can’t legislate for any of the things that went on.
“All the players work, it’s not even at semi-professional level.
“We were talking lads who were working in the fishing industry, on the markets or driving tuk-tuks, then leaving their job to play for their country.
“It’s the whole thing — the standard of pitches, the investment, the facilities. It’s not a ‘poor me’, that’s just how it is.
“I’d say in South East Asia we are ten years behind and on the world stage, probably 40. But it is exciting times and things are starting to change.”
Sri Lanka lost that first game to Yemen but drew the return and Morrison is so convinced of brighter days ahead he has signed a deal until 2026.
He said: “I firmly believe we are at the start of something great.
“There is so much work to do but over the next 18 months to two years I think we will see it.
“Success here would give a feeling like no other I’ve ever had in football.”