I hate when some young lad signs for a club, and all you hear from the fans is “yea, he’s supposed to be the next big thing.” Too many times we’re promised that a youngster will be as big as David Beckham. So when we signed Ravel Morrison from Manchester United, and I was hearing similar expressions, I was sceptical and thought we had another one of those ‘almost made it’ kids.
So imagine my surprise at this point in time, as we appear to have a genuine talent on our hands. So far, so good, and Ravel Morrison is living up to the hype that preceded his performances in claret and blue, and he might just be one to watch in years to come. His start to the current season has lead to a place in the England U21 squad, and according to his club captain Kevin Nolan, a full international call up won’t be too far away.
I know we always said that about Mark Noble, but you win some, you lose some. To look at a brief history of Morrison in English football, we need to first jet to Manchester, where a troubled boy wanted to play football for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Manchester United obviously recognised his raw talent, but they couldn’t cope with the baggage. Reports of intimidation, assault, and criminal damage don’t generally do wonders for one’s reputation, and Fergie sent Morrison to West Ham in the hope that he would turn his life around.
There would be no immediate start for “Ravel” (as his shirt clearly states – he’s even a rebel when it comes to shirt names!). He was carted off to Birmingham on loan for the 12/13 season and had a shaky start, with manager Lee Clark criticising his attitude to training. But towards the end of 2012, we’d turn on Soccer Saturday to hear pundits waxing lyrical about his performances in a Birmingham shirt. He seemed to know how to impress .
Allardyce then decided that we’ll have that lad back, because he might be a bit good. He played a part in the pre-season friendlies and I personally watched him at Cork City. I was more excited about watching him than I had been most young players. I was suitably pleased, but still containing my judgement on how he could cut it in the Premier League.
I then saw him in the Premier League at Hull in September, and on the spot noted that he has an edge that no other player in our squad has. Forget all the fancy footwork that he can do, because that doesn’t always mean much, but he’s got an eye for being in the right place, putting in the right ball and running at defenders. Alright, it wasn’t the greatest game in the world, but I came away that day feeling like there was hope for him.
For West Ham, Morrison’s early career record is as follows: scored in his debut against Cheltenham in the League Cup, scored on his first league start against Everton, and scored one of the most memorable goals he will ever score in claret and blue in our great league win over Spurs – and it’s only October. Allardyce has been asked about Morrison a lot in his post match interviews. He described THAT goal (as it will now be known) as “genius” and noted that he’s getting on well with his training and with his colleagues.
Big Sam is modest in his role in Morrison’s turn of fortunes, probably a wise move in the hope that the youngster will take credit himself and feel a sense of responsibility. I have no doubt that Allardyce would give him a loud slap on the wrist should he step too far out of line. Fans, players and the media have to be careful when it comes to over-hyping such an easily influenced “bad-boy”. Morrison’s feet need to stay on the ground and his head needs to be level. Having said that, it is difficult not to get a bit excited at the media talking about a West Ham player again.
The biggest question is how long will he be a West Ham player? With recent news of a dreaded release clause in his contract, are we in for a long January or summer? The next visitors to Upton park could be amongst the big names trying to get the signature of this young talent, unless of course other teams are scared of putting too much effort into keeping one lad on the straight and narrow.
Manchester United and Birmingham City had both complained that he was difficult to work with, so maybe he’s not even worth the £19 million that will supposedly lead him away from East London. One thing’s for sure, Big Sam seems keen to keep hold of him and may even be offering him a new contract, minus release clause, as you read. We’ve heard comparisons to a young Michael Owen in the last few weeks.
Unfortunately, when you hear his name these days you think bench and jumpers, but in his day, he was as exciting a young English player as you could come across. I think we’ve got a tense few years of keeping Ravel Morrison, but I’m certainly looking forward to watching him blossom as a player and a man.