It was, as things turned out, a mercifully quiet transfer deadline day, but the most curious acquisition of the day ended up involving a young player with just a handful of first team substitute appearances under his belt but also, it would seem, the capacity for potential brilliance and and self-destruction in roughly equal measures. Ravel Morrison has been hitting headlines since he first signed for Manchester United, but precious few of them have been for anything to do with his abilities on the pitch. Still only eighteen years old, his Manchester United career ended yesterday with a move to West Ham United – a transfer which may be his opportunity to get his career back on the right tracks, but could easily also the beginning of a slide towards obscurity.
Anybody that watched the FA Youth Cup final between Manchester United and Sheffield United at the end of last season will already be aware of the extravagant talent that this young player could have at his disposal. Already, however, his behaviour away from the football pitch raises concerns that are considerably greater than most teenage high-jinks. Threatening the witnesses in a case against his friends – just one of the reasons why he has found himself in court and, it should be added, extremely fortunate not to be in a young offenders institute – and rumours of missing training sessions at Manchester United hint at demons that not even a club usually renowned for keeping its players on a tight leash could control.
Is West Ham United the answer that could turn around a career that is showing signs of starting to slide from the tracks, though? Players from this club have had disciplinary problems in the past – a point that some were happy to remind the world of yesterday – but Sam Allardyce is a manager from the old school, and it seems difficult to imagine him putting up with a great deal of nonsense. In any case, this is an opportunity for Ravel Morrison to reinvent himself. As a youngster that grew up in Manchester, he will be moving away from the social circles that led to him ending up in the predicaments in which has has found himself over the last year or two.
For the club itself, the appeal of the deal is obvious. Should he get to near the potential that he has shown in flashes so far and keep himself on the straight and narrow, a purchase price of £650,000 could come to look like a bargain by any stretch of the imagination, and his opening wages of £12,000 wouldn’t be struggle for a club the size of West Ham United to reach, with the possibility of an increase to £65,000 being presumably used as a carrot to dangle before him in the hope of refocusing him upon rebuilding his career. It is to be hoped that he can, if for no other reason that, if there is one thing that can be noted about what we know of his career already, he doesn’t seem to “do” moderation.
What his story should remind us of, however, is the youth of those that enter into a football career. Ravel Morrison is nineteen years old tomorrow, and sometimes when we speak about young footballers it can feel as if we do not quite recognise just how young they are. Football clubs are often accused of tossing those that don’t make the grade aside too lightly (although there is nothing to suggest that Manchester United haven’t given him a reasonable opportunity to prove himself at their club), and it is to be hoped that West Ham United consider their duty of care towards an individual who, for all the outward signs of bravado and braggadocio, is still only barely an adult.
Morrison is, however, surely already more than aware that he is living close to the last chance saloon in terms of his chances of staying out of prison should be re-offend again and this may prove to be the tipping point between him making it as a top class professional footballer and not, and at this stage in his life he needs guidance and somebody who understands the difficulties of the world and the culture from which he has come. We can understand that some of his previous behaviour has been vile, yet we should still recognise that he everybody would benefit were he to become a successful, grounded, professional footballer rather than somebody whose most obvious alternative to a career in football might be the lifestyle that he has occasionally drifted into at times already.
It’s difficult to not sound like an exasperated headmaster when considering the career – so far – of Ravel Morrison. Yet the possibility of the life of which thousands – if not millions – of people have dreamt remains in his hands. Football clubs do not tend to waste time and resources on players with the right attitude and a lack of the basic skills or talent that can be honed into becoming a professional player. These basic skills or talent, however, are in considerably shorter supply than players with the right attitude, though Morrison would be well advised to remember that the history of football is littered with talented youngsters who frittered their careers away. Regardless of all the water that has already passed under the bridge, we should wish Ravel Morrison all the best with his move to West Ham United. Ultimately, though, the choice over whether to make the most of the potential that providence has given Ravel Morrison is his and his alone.
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