Rome may be known as the Eternal City, but for one of its newest arrivals — Ravel Morrison – there is a depressing feeling that at the age of 22, time may already be running out for him to make anything meaningful of his career as a professional footballer.
West Ham’s decision to cut their losses and offload the former Manchester United midfielder to Lazio was as sad as it was predictable. The circumstances of his Upton Park exit were similar to those of his departure from Old Trafford in 2012. Bags of talent, but with emotional and disciplinary baggage of a far greater, overbalancing, weight.
All those who knew their stuff — and there were plenty — agreed that the young Morrison was a player of prodigious talent, with former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson rating him one of the greatest talents he had ever seen. Sadly for Morrison, though, his nose for finding trouble off the field was greater than his nose for finding the net, or a team-mate, on it.
Sam Allardyce knew he was playing with fire when he took a gamble on Morrison in 2012, and to help him adjust to life outside the Old Trafford bubble, farmed the youngster out on loan for a season at Birmingham.
Trying to work out how best to handle his clearly talented but troubled star, Blues boss Lee Clark told Morrison he had more talent than anyone he had seen since a young Paul Gascoigne. Morrison’s reply was ‘Who?’. Anyone who remembers the runaway train that was Gascoigne’s ultimately career-damaging time at Lazio, where Morrison now plies his trade, will find that comparison grimly ironic.
After his Birmingham stint, hopes were high that Morrison might make a meaningful contribution to West Ham’s second season back in the top flight. Sadly, such optimism was misguided.
Morrison helped the Hoops reach the Championship play-off final, scoring a few useful goals along the way, but come the big day at Wembley, Redknapp — someone who, like Sir Alex, has been around long enough to be a decent judge of character — left him on the bench. This cannot have gone unnoticed back at the Boleyn. When the new season began, Morrison was loaned out again — to Cardiff – with Allardyce warning that this was about not about proving himself as a footballer, but as a man .
When he returned early, amid reports of erratic behaviour, it was not so much a case of the writing being on the wall for Morrison’s West Ham career, as the headstone having been engraved and the grave dug — by the player himself. With this season having been such an unexpected party, the last thing West Ham needed was a troublesome gatecrasher.
In December, club owner David Gold tweeted ‘Ravel should look in the mirror every morning and tell himself ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me’; evidently, this he failed to do, and that is why he has been let go, following in Gascoigne’s footsteps to Lazio – his sixth different team in three years.
Having escaped the spotlight that would have come with being Manchester United’s next big thing, Morrison was offered a less pressurised life at West Ham — and utterly failed to take the chance. Quite how he will handle the fevered environment of Italy, with a language barrier thrown in for good measure, is anybody’s guess. But remember what it did to Gascoigne.
Rome is a thrilling place, drawing visitors from all over the world, but symbolically, many of its greatest attractions are the crumbling ruins of once great buildings and places. Whilst it would be nice to be proved wrong, sadly you get the feeling Morrison’s career is destined to join that list of once glorious things, now reduced to ruined husks, for tourists to gawp at.
He can’t complain he wasn’t given a chance — he just failed to take it. And in football, that’s not a great reputation to have.