What next for Ravel Morrison?

Posted on July 30, 2014

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Sir Alex Ferguson described him as the “best kid he’s ever seen” and for the first 6 months of the 2013-14 season, it seemed that after a troubled past, Ravel Morrison was beginning to live up to his star billing.

He was the dominant attacking threat at the heart of West Ham’s midfield, showing skill and composure beyond his years.  The comparisons to Paul Gascoigne were obvious especially after his majestic, solo goal against Tottenham in the Premier League.  Running from his own half, Morrison glided through the centre of the field leaving the Spurs defence in his wake before chipping the ball over Hugo Lloris to seal a 0-3 win for the Hammers.  His ability with a football was never in question and his off-field problems were allegedly behind him.

United’s hottest prospect?

Morrison was arguably the best player in a team of talented youngsters which rivaled that of the famed class of ’92.  Morrison’s talent was matched only by that of French midfielder, Paul Pogba.  Former England and United defender, Rio Ferdinand praised Morrison’s ability when he spoke BT Sport in late 2013:

He was about 14 at the time. He was taking the mick out of all the other players on the pitch, he’s that good, he trained with the first team at about 16.”

Ferdinand also referred to a conversation he had with  United team-mate, Darren Fletcher:

Darren Fletcher said to me, he runs with the ball, he just runs with it and he’s almost looking at me while he’s running with the ball, and waiting for me to make a move and then reacting. The top players can do that, they react to defenders movements.”

Morrison in action for Manchester United during an FA Youth Cup match against Sheffield United

Morrison in action for Manchester United during an FA Youth Cup match against Sheffield United

Morrison’s troubled past at United is well documented, the attitude and actions of the young midfielder outside of football threatened his fledgling career.  He was in court several times for a variety of offences including intimidation of robbery victims to prevent testimony and domestic disturbances after an incident with hi girlfriend.  This only exacerbated his ‘gangster’ persona and untameable, bad boy image.  Sir Alex Ferguson eventually lost patience with the young rebel, declaring I think he’s better out of Manchester… He’s got a great talent, but having to deal with that is very important.”

Unfortunately, Morrison’s talent went unfulfilled at United but he was offered a chance of redemption after he completed a move to West Ham in January 2012.

The Hammers and injury

It seemed Morrison had matured both as a player and as a person at West Ham under Sam Allardyce.  Consistent exposure to first team football allowed him to showcase his abilities on the big stage and 3 goals and 2 assists in 12 Premier League games captured the attention of the wider football community.

He had quickly become one of the hottest, young prospects in the league during the first half of the 2013-14 season.  There was even talk of a potential England call-up should he maintain his form throughout the rest of the season for the Hammers.  He’d already done well for the England u21 side and a goal he scored in training for the young lion’s oozed confidence and natural ability.

However, Morrison’s good run of form in the West Ham first team was interrupted in ambiguous circumstances as he joined Queens Park Rangers on a 3-month, emergency loan deal in February 2014 which left Hammers fans scratching their heads.  The full tale of Morrison’s exit is an unusually intricate story, shrouded in mystery but ultimately it has proved detrimental to his progress as a footballer.

Morrison was sidelined through loss of form and a persistent groin injury.  According to West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce and the medical staff at the club, Morrison’s injury shouldn’t have prevented him from playing.  Allardyce was quick to denounce Morrison’s claims of continuous groin pain in February 2014:

“Listening to our medical staff there is no problem that he can carry on – not at all.

“Lots and lots of players throughout the country will be playing with a similar type of injury that the medical team say you can carry on with, it’s not a problem.”

This was only the tip of the iceberg in a far more complicated situation where the groin injury may have posed as a cover story to hide underlying issues between the player and manager.

A sinister subplot

After Morrison’s auspicious start to life at West Ham, it was reported that football agent, Mark Curtis had organised a meeting with him in late 2013 to determine whether the player would consider becoming one of his clients.  Curtis already represented many West Ham players and more generally, players who currently play or have played under Sam Allardyce and this is where the situation becomes a shadowy affair.

Morrison had apparently felt pressured by Allardyce and other players in the West Ham squad to change agents and become a client of Curtis.  Allardyce strenuously denied the allegations:

“It’s completely unfounded.  I think the rumours or allegations will be made probably by Ravel’s representatives. But there is no truth in the fact I have sat with Ravel Morrison and tried to press him into signing with any agent, never mind mine.”

Morrison’s chequered past makes it easy to jump to conclusions; suggesting the player and his representatives were attempting to force a move away from the Hammers, with a £4 million pound move to Fulham the most obvious choice.  However, the dubious past of Mark Curtis should also be brought into the equation.  Curtis was given an official warning from the Football Association in 2008 for his part in Luton Town’s illegal transfer activity.  This plunges the whole situation into what could be perceived as a black hole of shadow games and bully tactics in some sort of strange, football agent client cartel.

The loan move to QPR allowed Morrison the opportunity to find his form again with 6 goals and 2 assists in 15 Championship appearances.  However, the drop to the Championship essentially ended his chances of making the England squad for the World Cup.

Ravel Morrison glides past the Tottenham defence

Ravel Morrison glides past the Tottenham defence

What now for Morrison?

Morrison returned to West Ham this summer but his future with the Hammers remains in-doubt.  As it transpired, the midfielder has had surgery in the close-season to repair hernia problems he had been suffering from, thus casting serious doubt over the statements Allardyce made in February 2014 criticizing Morrison for not playing through the injury but also shattering any image that the injury was a cover up.

In a complete reversal of his earlier statements, Allardyce was quoted in the Daily Mail speaking about Morrison’s hernia operation and potential future at West Ham in July 2014 stating:

“I think he’s had a hernia op. Once that’s healed up I hope he becomes a better player because he has been playing with it for a while. The groins have been causing him a problem for a while.

“If you’ve got pain, I don’t think you perform to your best. Hopefully that pain will have ended and he’ll be a much freer, more active player for us.”

The conflicting elements of the story make it almost impossible to determine the truth of what actually happened.  All the components just don’t add up and whilst the affair still continues, the burgeoning questions continue to grow; what next for Morrison?  How can he move on from this prolonged and sorry episode?

With the talent he possesses, it would be a great shame to watch him waste it all moving from one club and conflict to the next.  However, he has not helped his own cause after he was very recently, charged with the assault of his ex-girlfriend and her mother in late July 2014, actions which are inexcusable for anyone, never mind a professional footballer and role model.

It would be a great loss to football should he not realise his potential.  Once Morrison has fully recovered from his groin operation and served his punishment for assault, it will be important for him to decide his immediate future, whether that’s at West Ham or elsewhere.  Then he can concentrate on returning to form, playing the type of football we saw during the first half of the 2013-14 season, exciting fans with goals like that at White Hart Lane.  Maybe one day he will lead England’s creative edge on the world stage as his early promise suggested and Sir Alex Ferguson envisaged.

By Jamie Allen

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Posted in: Football