Lewis Strapp reveals how Morton spell turned sour as Finnish leap of faith came after hurtful training ground lockout

-Credit: (Image: SJK Seinajoki)
-Credit: (Image: SJK Seinajoki)

For a couple of years at Morton he felt needed.

Now, Lewis Strapp feels WANTED. And that’s why the young Scot has taken the plunge by kickstarting his career in Finland. After 12 years at Cappielow – he was one the club academy’s first-ever inductees – he finished up at Greenock this summer. When he walked out the door for the last time, there was no sadness or regret. Just pride, a little bit of anger and a desire to start a new adventure abroad. Strapp believes he deserved better from the club where he had spent his whole life.

Former gaffer Dougie Imrie and others at Morton will no doubt have their own side of the story. But the 24-year-old left-back is beginning a new chapter at Finnish side SJK under Scots coach Stevie Grieve. He could have stayed in the SPFL, with Championship sides after him. But a new life in Scandinavia, a new style of play – and the prospect of European football – swayed his decision. And Strapp is adamant he’s made the right choice.

As he reflected on how it all ended at Morton, the defender told Record Sport : “I’m from Dunoon, across the water, so I liked to think of myself as a local boy. But I walked out of Cappielow a year ago and had my emotional moment then. This time? It was more anger and relief. I know I did my job at that club and did it well.

“Last year, after coming back into the team, we went from bottom of the league to fourth place. On the last day, every player had a meeting with Dougie who hadn’t spoken to me much at the end of the season. He could only offer me reduced terms and I didn’t even hang around to find out how much. That was enough for me, it was time to move on.

“A year previously, I got a serious injury. My contract ran out while I was injured and the gaffer told me I wasn’t in his plans for the following season. I had to accept that, it’s football. The club said they’d look after me and allow me to get fit again. But when I turned up for pre-season, I wasn’t allowed in the building while the other boys were there. I was only allowed in at 2pm when they’d left.

"I was just written off. My head went a bit after that – I couldn’t believe it was happening and didn’t think it was right. Sure enough, Morton’s left-back Calum Waters then got injured so the club needed me again. Dougie phoned and actually said to me: ‘You probably think I’m a p***k – but if you sign here you’ll play’. He was right, so I signed again.

“I didn’t want there to be any bad blood and it was OK for a few months. I helped them turn last season around with my energy because I had fire in me.

“I was loving it but it soon turned sour again and eventually we stopped talking. Dougie walked past me in the corridor one day and I could see the drift coming my way. It was just awkward.

Morton manager Dougie Imrie
Morton manager Dougie Imrie -Credit:SNS Group

“I had to come off injured in a game against Dunfermline and that was me done. My mind was made up to leave this summer. It was a crazy time because I had such a good relationship with the club.”

Strapp was talking to other clubs in Scotland when the call came from SJK in Finland. The club invited him over for 10
days’ training but he was double-booked. During that period, he had a stag party AND a holiday booked. Suddenly, the full-back had a huge dilemma. But deep down, he knew that for his future, there was only one decision to make. He said: “When this opportunity came up, I was obviously hesitant about moving my whole life abroad.

“When you’re in Scotland, you don’t really think about coming to Finland. You just think England, or maybe a lower end Premiership club. Also, I had a stag do in Dublin and a holiday in Ibiza booked for the time SJK asked me to go over. I’d spent about two grand on holidays but I had to miss out.

“When I got this chance, I had to think about my career and what I needed to do. So I just sacked the stag and holiday altogether. I had to text my mates to say I was going to Finland instead.

Former Morton defender Lewis Strapp -Credit:SNS Group
Former Morton defender Lewis Strapp -Credit:SNS Group

“They understood, it wasn’t like I was pulling out for no reason. I had a FaceTime call with the sporting director at SJK who spoke about why they wanted me.

“Then they sent a contract over before I flew out there. That was really important. It was a case of going to a club – and a manager – who really wanted me. For a couple of years, that wasn’t the case at Morton.”

SJK are currently fourth in the Finnish top flight, just three points behind leaders HJK Helsinki. Strapp has now been given clearance to play for Grieve’s side who are also still in the cup, which could lead to a European spot.

The latest Scot to ply his trade abroad can’t wait to sample a new brand of football in a different league, which could open up doors for him across Scandinavia. Strapp said: “I’m excited about a fresh challenge and new life over here.

“If I’d stayed in Scotland, it would be for the wrong reasons. I fancied signing for another Championship club to play against Morton four times a season. But that’s not right. In Finland, it’s a new style of football and I know this will make me a better player and person.

“Not many boys get this opportunity and it will broaden my horizons in a football sense. It’s a new life experience for me and I’m sure I’ll learn from it.

“It’s been great so far, adapting to a new culture. And having a Scottish gaffer was obviously a big attraction. We’re mid-season right now and just made the quarter-finals of the cup. If you win that, it gets you into the Conference League play-offs, which is a big thing over here.

“I couldn’t play until July 3, so I’m just getting up to speed with the other boys in terms of sharpness. Now, I can’t wait to get going.”