JAI Quitongo insists the first team football he’s been getting at Morton this season was key in his decision to pen a contract extension keeping him at Cappielow until June 2018.

Quitongo has made 30 first-team appearances, bagged six goals for the club and impressed so much that he was called up by Scotland Under-21s boss Scot Gemmill earlier this season.

But the teenage ace has a mature head on his young shoulders and reckons that, despite interest from several English clubs down south, his development would be better served in Greenock — playing highly competitive first team football every week.

He told the Tele: “I’m delighted to sign obviously and right now I want to focus on my year here, which has been going fantastically well.

“Watching from the sidelines [through injury] has been a wee bit tough, but the team is doing very well, so nobody can complain.

“It was obviously nice to have interest from other teams, but the contract at Morton was spoken about months ago. It was just a matter of time, really.

“There are guys [at different clubs] who will run out their contract and try to go elsewhere, but I thought it was vital for me to get first-team football, still at such a young age of 19.

“I think that’s key in my development as well.”

Quitongo also credited the management staff at Morton and says they were ‘vital’ in his decision to stay at Ton for the foreseeable future.
He said: “The gaffer, Hagi [Craig McPherson] and Andy [Millen] were crucial in me signing my new deal, the gaffer in particular.

“He’s brought my game on quite a bit and he speaks to me all the time and tells me what I need to do to improve my game further — what I need to do to get to the next level.

“I just need now to continue working hard under the gaffer and Hagi, and hopefully I can emulate my form at the start of the season.

“When I first came to Morton I was playing in the under-20s and I had to work hard to get into the first team. The gaffer told me what I needed to do in those 20s games to prove to him that he could trust me.

“I think originally that’s why the gaffer showed some trust in me and started playing me.”

Quitongo believes that his impressive form before his knee problem had come because he’s been enjoying his ‘best ever spell’ in football.

The youngster is loving his time on Sinclair Street, and Ton supporters are equally delighted to have him signed up for at least another season. And it’s that affinity with the Cowshed faithful that keeps Quitongo firmly thought of as a fans’ favourite.

And he is happy to be considered a key player for supporters.

He continued: “I’m delighted to be at the club and for the fans because I love playing for Morton. It’s my best spell in football that I’ve ever had.

“It’s nice to know the fans are taking to me, I’m delighted all round really and hopefully I can stay in their good books.”

This season’s Morton squad have exceeded many expectations so far, and have been compared to the great Greenock outfits of the past.

Quitongo reckons there is something special about this Ton team — and he hopes they can take confidence from their season up to this point into the latter stages in order to create lasting memories.

He said: “With the season we’ve had, if someone asked if we wanted that at the start of the season, we would’ve bitten their hand off.

“I think we’ve done brilliantly getting to a semi-final, we’ve performed well in the league, got rid of the hoodoo of not beating St Mirren when we beat them 3-1.

“We’ve had a great season, the boys did well at Ibrox in the 2-1 defeat to Rangers

“We’ve spoken about things in the changing room, and even though I didn’t really know the history of Morton as much as other teams, a few of the boys who have been here before have said that this is one of the best teams they’ve seen in the last few years.

“We want to just keep going, keep putting points on the board and see where it takes us come the end of the season.”