Once described as the best young talent since George Best and likened to Paul Gascoigne in his prime, Ravel Morrison seemed to have the world at his talented feet. Several years on, and now at 24 years old, his career indicates he still has much to do to get anywhere close to some of the best to ever grace a football field. At present he is a wasted talent.
Ravel Morrison: The Chronicles of a Wasting Talent
Morrison started out at Manchester United in 2009. He signed his first professional contract on his 17th birthday a year later. The youngster made his first team debut later in 2010, coming on as a substitute during a League Cup tie. He was also in important part of United’s youth team who emulated the Busby Babes and Class of 92 by winning the FA Youth Cup.
The team included the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard, but it was Morrison who shone. He was a game-changer who could beat players with ease and score incredible goals. It was his exceptional performance and two goals that helped United lift the cup that year as they beat Sheffield United 4-1 in the second leg of the final to win 6-3 on aggregate. At this stage it was Morrison, not Pogba or Lingard, who was being tipped for the top.
Better than Best?
Morrison’s talent was there for all to see and the prospect of having a potential superstar at the club had many at United excited. Alex Ferguson stated that he believed that Morrison possessed as much natural talent as any youngster the club had signed. Paddy Crerand, a United legend from the Busby Babes era, watched Morrison on many occasions. He believed that he was the best youngster at the club since George Best. If he could keep his feet on the ground then the potential was there for Morrison to be one of this generation’s best.
Wrong side of the law
After praising the talent of Morrison in his book ‘Leading’, former United manager Alex Ferguson finished by saying “But he keeps getting into trouble”. Off the field problems were now becoming a major issue for everyone at United. Talented and potentially a world star, he could not keep out of trouble off the pitch, and his attitude was also coming into question.
Morrison was brought up in a tough area of Manchester; an area and a difficult childhood which he found hard to leave in the past. Not only was he unable to dedicate himself to his career, often turning up late and refusing to stay after training to work on his game, he was getting into serious trouble off the pitch.
Amongst the off-field issues included a fine and a referral order given when he admitted to two counts of witness intimidation. He was also convicted of criminal damage and ordered to undergo domestic violence counselling. With United staff and players running out of ways to keep the talented youngster out of trouble, his time at Old Trafford looked to be coming to an end.
West Ham United
It was believed by many that a change of scenery and area could be the best thing for Morrison’s career. Ferguson, despite not wanting to lose such a talent, admitted defeat for the sake of the youngster’s career. In January 2012, Morrison left Manchester for London and signed for West Ham. Both Ferguson and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce knew that he could become a brilliant player.
He made his West Ham debut a month later but failed to cement a place in the team. For the following season, he was sent out on loan to Birmingham City. Allardyce believed that the experience would be good for him. As with most things, it didn’t start too well at City. His time-keeping became an issue once more, but once this improved he became a key player. His performances were gaining plaudits from many, and many were starting to believe that he could finally fulfil his potential.
He returned to West Ham the following season. It would become a season of mixed emotions. In October he scored one of the goals of the season. Against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Morrison picked up the ball in his own half and proceeded to run at pace at the Tottenham defence. He left the defenders chasing shadows, waited for the goalkeeper to go down and coolly lifted the ball over him. At this stage, he was performing well and keeping out of control.
Morrison was somewhat unexpectedly sent out on loan to Queens Park Rangers in early 2014. It is alleged that he was dropped from the team because he refused to sign with an agent Allardyce knew well. These allegations resurfaced soon after Allardyce lost the England job. While at QPR he helped the club reach the Championship play-off final, which they won 1-0. He was now expected to be part of the West Ham first team squad, but during the summer of 2014 he was charged with common assault.
Morrison was once again sent out on loan, this time to Cardiff City. He managed just one start for the Bluebirds, and even though it was a man of the match performance, it was not enough to convince Cardiff that his future lay in Wales.
In 2015, Morrison signed a pre-contract agreement to sign for Lazio. It was also during this time that he was cleared of all charges regarding the assault charge. Things were once again looking up for the talented youngster.
His contract with West Ham was terminated early and he began to train with the Italian side. He officially moved on a free transfer in July 2015. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before rumours began to surface that he wanted to leave Italy. His appearances for Lazio were few and far between, and he drew criticism for his lack of effort and inability to speak or learn Italian.
Back to England
In January 2017, Morrison headed back to England and his native North-West. He began training with Wigan Athletic and they were keen to sign him. Coach Warren Joyce, who knew him at Manchester United said, “There were players like Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and the Keanes [Michael and Will] coming through at that time, and he was possibly the star player ability-wise.” His wages were too high for Wigan, but QPR stepped in and took him on loan once more.
Now a free agent and currently training with Birmingham City, Morrison should be able to pick his club, but this is not the case. Some of the game’s top clubs and managers have tried and failed to get the best that is undoubtedly there out of him. At 24 years old he has done more than some will in a lifetime and yet still has time on his side to fulfil the potential that many saw when he began playing.
Maybe in the right environment, with the right club and the right manager, Ravel Morrison could yet prove to be this generation’s Best or Gascoigne, but without the off-field problems. He has the talent but does he have the will, belief and temperament to succeed? He has watched former team-mates such as Pogba and Lingard go to have great success. Maybe this should be his motivation.