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Ravel Morrison: The sad, sorry tale of a wasted talent

The West Ham midfielder has ventured down a well-trodden path and lost his way.

THE WORDS WERE damning.

“Most young talented players I worked with over many, many years who I’ve met later have said, ‘Oh, I wish I’d listened to you’. When you meet them later in life they regret not taking the opportunity with the talent they had. It’s never just about talent, it’s about a lot more than that.”

You can lead the horse to water but you can’t make it drink. There’s only a certain amount of times you can tell somebody what they should or shouldn’t be doing. If they don’t want to take it on board there’s little you can do. “It’s very difficult to sit and watch such a great talent wasted.”

That was Sam Allardyce talking about Ravel Morrison on Monday. The 21 year-old has been at the club since January 2012 and with the exception of a brief few months at the start of the 2013/2014 season, his time in London has been a stubborn, frustrating and joyless experience.

This season, Morrison has made two appearances for the Hammers. In September, he took to Twitter to voice his displeasure at a lack of playing time. Allardyce had seen enough but he still showed mercy on the youngster. Instead of cutting him loose, he sent him on loan to Championship side Cardiff. It was seen as a last chance. And Morrison wasted it.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Millwall v Cardiff City - The New Den Source: Stephen Pond

He made one start – against Brighton in late-September. There was a glut of substitute appearances and nothing more. Now, it appears his chances of redemption are rapidly fading away.

“Rav didn’t perform at Cardiff,” Allardyce said.

“He went there to play games of football and try and reinvent himself. If he’d have done the business there he could have created a much more healthy position. “He has left himself in a very difficult position now.”

Morrison’s reputation means few teams will touch him. Many fans speculate on what he could potentially bring to a struggling side but Morrison is an inconsistent luxury, a troubled, difficult character who has shown little in the way of rehabilitation, despite a long battle with ill-discipline and disruption.

Inexplicably, if today’s rumour-mill is to be believed, Lazio are keen on bringing the troubled midfielder to Serie A. But with a pending court date later this month over allegations that he assaulted his girlfriend and her mother last summer, it remains to be seen how the logistics of bringing him to Italy would work.

And above all, it seems Morrison consistently runs away from his problems rather than confront them head on. He’s flitted from club to club, the same issues repeatedly ensuring largely undignified exits. Any likely transfer this month will almost certainly follow the same path: his new manager discusses his potential and the consequences of a poor attitude, Morrison puts his head down for a few weeks, displays some quality before either off-field distractions or a general disinterest in towing the line costs him another opportunity.

Soccer - FA Youth Cup - Final - First Leg - Sheffield United v Manchester United - Bramall Lane Source: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport

Rio Ferdinand tells a story of Sir Alex Ferguson calling him over at Carrington one morning and saying ‘Look at this kid, number 7, on the training pitch’. Come and watch him for a minute. He’s the best I’ve ever seen at that age.’ The pair looked on as a 14 year-old Morrison effortlessly teased those around him with his pace, trickery and impudent impulses.

And there are plenty of YouTube videos that certainly prove the reminiscing isn’t invented. The bulk of them showcase a free spirit, a player that caresses and embraces the ball, each flick and trick pours easily, naturally, organically – almost as if Morrison can do nothing else.

But there are other videos too. Notably one from October 2013 when Morrison grappled with international team-mate Wilfried Zaha during an Under-21 game against Lithuania. Afterwards, another team-mate, Nathan Redmond said:

Source: Gon Lourenzo/YouTube

“Rav’s a class player, sometimes he just has to move the ball a little bit quicker. Sometimes you do get a little bit frustrated with him but you just have to let Rav be Rav because of the things he is capable of.”

Morrison is an individual who moves proudly to his own beat. There’s something to admire about his steadfast refusal to conform but his attitude is costing him his career. The biggest issue is that Morrison himself seems to not to care too much.

He’s probably acutely aware that talented, acclaimed youngsters that fall by the wayside don’t vanish from the game like they used to. Before, failed prospects were a regular part of the game but, disillusioned, they’d fade back into ‘normal’ society. Now, players with even the most vague reputations, travel the world and pick up a sizeable pay cheque. Freddy Adu, who became the youngest player ever to sign with a professional team when he joined DC United at fourteen, was last spotted in Serbia. Before that, he was in Brazil for a short stint. Before that, He was back in the US with the Philadelphia Union. Before that, there were seven other clubs in the previous seven years.

Morrison could follow a similar path. At 21, he’s already played for five teams in the last three years. The chances of him picking up a contract with another English team appear slim. When he left Manchester United in 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson told Allardyce at West Ham that Morrison was a brilliant footballer with brilliant ability. He just needed to start a new life elsewhere.

On Monday, Allardyce said:

In Ravel’s position, the talent is there, he just has to change his whole life and then hopefully somewhere down the line he’ll become the player he should be.”

It’s history repeating. And despite his chequered past, Morrison shows no signs of wanting to change his future.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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