AFTER taking his final GCSE exam at The Castle School this week, Joe Morrell is ready to embark on a football career that he hopes will take him to the top of the class.

The Wales under-17 captain starts a two-year scholarship at Bristol City in July after turning down a move to Premiership giants Liverpool last year to sign a two-and-a-half-year professional contract with the League One club that will start when he turns 17 next January.

Morrell looks set for a bright future having been one of the most coveted teenagers in the country with several other Premiership clubs chasing him, but the midfielder is looking no further than impressing Bristol City boss Sean O’Driscoll and breaking into the first team at Ashton Gate.

“Initially there were a few clubs (interested) but I felt it was right to stay at Bristol City ,” said Morrell, who lives in Bradley Stoke.

“Every time I hear some club is interested it’s always a compliment and makes me work harder.

“All I am worried about is progressing at Bristol City and getting in the first team as soon as possible.”

Morrell was set to sign for Liverpool after being shown around their academy in Kirkby, but had a change of heart after meeting with then-Bristol City manager Derek McInnes and Academy head coach Willie McStay, insisting he has no regrets.

“Liverpool are a massive club and it was a massive opportunity,” Morrell reflected.

“I was really excited about going, so I went in and said I wanted to go but a few words later they changed my mind.

“When I was a kid I supported Liverpool, they’re a massive club with a good record of producing players. You see players like Raheem Sterling and that encourages you.

“I went up there and it (the deal) was as close as it could’ve been. It was very impressive.

“ I sat down with the manager at the time (McInnes) and Willie McStay and spoke to them about their plans for me. They said they are happy with me and if I work hard good things will happen. “ I felt it was a better set-up in terms of progression and easier to get into the first team. It’s worked out for the best.”

After combining his studies with his commitments for Bristol City and Wales, Morrell is looking forward to concentrating more on his football, while taking a diploma in sport at Stroud and South Gloucestershire College as part of his scholarship.

He said: “I will just be playing football so anyone would enjoy that.

“Going away with Wales means I’ve missed a lot of school but I’ve dropped some subjects and I’ve managed to catch up with most of it.

“Leaving school is a bit of a step up in terms of responsibility. It is a lot more grown up and I’ll be with team-mates that I get on really well with.”

Morrell played youth football for Bradley Stoke and county level at South Gloucestershire before he was spotted by Bristol City, where he has been for the last four years.

He spent two years playing international football with Wales under-16s, eventually becoming captain, and he took the armband straight away when he made the step up to the under-17s this year.

“There is a lot of responsibility as leader of the people and I feel proud because I’ve been chosen,” said Morrell, who is eligible for Wales through his Welsh mother Sian.

“There is obviously a lot of pride about it. It’s a step up from club football and it’s exciting to play for Wales.”

A creative player who is said to be very technically gifted, Morrell looks up to the likes of senior Wales captain Aaron Ramsey and World Cup winner Xavi, and at 5ft 6in he is built in a similar mould as the Barcelona star.

His Castle School PE teacher Lloyd Spacey believes he will have a successful career if he avoids injury.

He said: “We all noticed his talent straight away, but it’s not just his talent, it’s his footballing brain and attitude in general. “He’s very responsible, he doesn’t have an ego and works really hard so he’s a fantastic role model for the other boys.

“He reads the game very well, he always seems to have time and space and his pass completion rate is fantastic.

“I fully expect him to make a positive impact at Bristol City or elsewhere and firmly believe he can go really far.

Morrell is grateful to the support of his father Dave and mother Sian.

Spacey added: “His parents have been really supportive with the school and kept his football and work balance really well.”