21 Midfielder Cardiff City (on loan from West Ham United) England
2014 has been...
After finishing 2013 in West Ham’s first team and playing well we felt well within our rights to pick Ravel as our poster boy for this year’s 100. We reckoned 2014 was going to be special, we even whispered to a few select ears that we felt he might make a plane to Brazil in the summer. High hopes maybe, but he really is that good.
What happened instead was the same things that have cursed Ravel’s career to date; questions about his attitude, incidents in his personal life, the route to first team football blocked and several things we’re not sure we can talk about or are willing to put to print. It has been a horrible year. Another one.
His talent is immense and for proof you only need head to YouTube or listen to the words of others. The problem is there is always a “but” somewhere. For example, Rio Ferdinand said he’d “pay to watch him train” and he had “brilliance” within, but he has also had to defend and exonerate Ravel on Twitter after accusations that he’d stolen first some trainers and then a watch from Rio himself.
Sir Alex Ferguson too has a “but”. He described him as the best 14-year old he’d ever seen and spoke openly that of all the youth team players he’d seen, Ravel was the one he was certain would make it. The “but” was coming however, and after a turbulent couple of years, mostly with off-the-field legal problems which left his manager with nothing to defend him against as his performance in training dropped too, he left Old Trafford with Sir Ferg admitting he “was better out of Manchester” and had to “start a new life”. Tellingly, no buy-back clause was inserted to his deal with West Ham. By this time many at United were not sorry to see him go.
So West Ham United took the plunge and Sam Allardyce spoke about the signing like a man delighted with his lot. He used words like “exceptional talent” and spoke of how much he was looking forward to working with him despite the worries over his personal life. He was loaned to Birmingham to gain first team experience and settle down. So far no “but” from anyone in the East End then.
At Birmingham, manager Lee Clark spent time with the midfielder hopeful to get his best. At first it went to pattern, early promise then inconsistency, but then came a couple of outstanding displays that left everyone who saw them purring.
Where’s the “but” you ask?
It was coming, as it always does, and the first sign was Clark admitting he had lost his voice as he had spent “88 minutes talking him through the game”. Eventually the work put into the results they were getting from Morrison was deemed impractical and he found himself in and out of the side. His loan spell ended with a few fond memories but overall disappointment that a level could not be found week in and week out. Lee Clark remains a fan but admitted it became a full time job trying to get the best from Ravel. A learning experience for both maybe, and yet another “but” against his career.
At the end of 2013 the messages seemed to be getting through and everyone was relieved, we were finally going to see just how good Ravel Morrison really was. Sam Allardyce was moved to say they were worried they would have to get the doors widened to get the young midfielder’s head through, such was the praise he was attracting. A goal in an away game against Spurs was the pinnacle, an effortless run from the halfway line past three challenges with a chipped finish. We weren’t the only ones getting over excited.
But then came an unedifying fall out with his manager and murky allegations around pressure placed to change an agent came from one side, and denial and counter accusations of a poor attitude came from the other. January was spent with the persistent rumour of a move to Fulham hanging around, which gathered so much pace the player was forced to deny he had gone on strike over a failure to conclude the deal. It seemed his time with West Ham was at an end almost as quickly as it had started.
So then came an *ahem* “emergency” loan move to QPR where he played okay in a league that, to be frank, is below his talent. Many may point to the fact he’s varied from the sublime to the anonymous in the Championship in spells with Birmingham, QPR and now Cardiff (we’ll get to that) to rubbish that last statement but you have to understand who Ravel Morrison is. He’s uniquely gifted, he has prompted direct comparison with Paul Gascoigne for good reason and has played at every England youth level deservedly. He’s been described by more than one figure in the game as a “genius” and “a magician”. He’s the real thing but we’re starting to wonder if the problem with Ravel is that he knows it.
His form was QPR was okay but yet again the consistency was all over the place. Then came the summer and another police charge, this time two counts of common assault against his ex-girlfriend and her mother, and as details emerged that he’d allegedly threatened to blow up his ex’s house and throw acid in her face, Brazil had never felt further away. He has been cleared of those specific allegations but still faces a trial in the New Year on three remaining assault charges, all of which he denies. West Ham refused to comment but made it known he was available for loan (and we would tentatively suggest transfer) in the summer, Cardiff taking the plunge on a three-month loan deal.
As we write this Cardiff are apparently having serious doubts after, as usual, a bright start has faded away to nothing. Sam Allardyce is alleged to have said that this loan was his last chance, if that’s the case he’s not taking it and showing no inclination to try.
Who knows? There is to be no doubt that Ravel Morrison is, as it stands, two things – 1] Outstanding but 2] Difficult to manage (and we’re being charitable putting it like that). Which one will one win out in the end?
It looks to all intents and purposes like his West Ham career is over. His manager talks a good game about there still being a future at the club, but (another but, of course a but) it feels like there would have to be a turnaround of epic proportions for this to be the case. There had been talk at the start of the year that he had matured and settled down, then came the January transfer window and its troubles, then a capitulation of that view in the summer.
If he moved where would he go? Manchester, we’re told, is trouble for him and tellingly the incident in July happened there hence a banning order from the city until his trial. London hasn’t worked out, neither did the Midlands. Is it the company he’s keeping? Does he need to move somewhere way off the radar? Does he simply struggle with the spotlight and need somewhere so low-key he won’t attract more than a sideways glance? Questions, ifs, buts and maybes – the story of his career to date.
We wish this was more positive and through the year there has been the odd moment on the pitch that breaks your heart further when you see how good he is. The mark is a reflection of his year overall weighed against the potential, but in truth if it was solely for his form on the pitch it would still be low as the inconsistency is brutal for both fans and managers to watch. Ironically he has perhaps been most consistent in an England shirt, playing well in his brief U21 career to date and scoring goals.
He’s a riddle yet to be solved. We want someone to help but there has to be a willingness to accept that help in whatever form it takes. The issues off the pitch clearly affect his form on it and people are giving up on Ravel Morrison. Manchester United had to, Lee Clark nearly did, and now Sam Allardyce is unsure about his future at West Ham. Even his loan club are wavering about whether to keep him.
What does he do next?
Well that’s up to him. The talent is immense, the trouble persistent, the questions never ending. We made him our poster boy last year for a reason, we only hope we’re proved right in the longer term for both the footballer and the young man involved.
“I personally lobbied for Ravel to be in the 100 two years ago and was delighted to see him on this year’s list. What’s come next has been backwards step after backwards step. Football to one side, there is a young man here who needs some form of help or a new focus to make some long-term changes, I really, really hope he gets that from somewhere” – Dave Hartrick
"Only Charlie Austin (19) has scored more league goals in 2014 for QPR than Ravel Morrison (6)." - OptaJoe
E The real disappointment comes when you see the flash of talent that makes you realise he really is special. In danger of throwing it all away, we’re worried.
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