Ravel Morrison giving Hammers headache
Far from representing a unified front, West Ham United, 19/2 for a top ten finish, seem to be split down the middle regarding the future of the mercurial Ravel Morrison, with the board and Sam Allardyce reportedly having a difference of opinion over his future.
Hammers’ co-owner David Sullivan backed the young midfield maestro publicly, quick to dismiss any move away, stating: “Sam has said Ravel is not part of his plans but we do – as a board – see him as part of our plans…we don’t agree with that.”
After this admission, Allaryce was quick to clarify his position, claiming he did want to keep the schemer at Upton Park, depending on form and wages: “If he continues to do what he did last season then yes… but that does depend on how much players want, how much they demand.”
It was hardly a ringing endorsement, and with Morrison having only one year left on his contract, his future seems to be up in the air once more.
The 21-year-old brought spark to a side that often lacked attacking guile last term, bursting onto the Premier League scene at the start of the season. After scoring five times in 18 outings, including goals against Everton and Tottenham, he thrilled fans and pundits so much he was considered to be a serious candidate for Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.
Following a dip in form, however, Morrison found himself abruptly out of favour and farmed to then Championship side QPR on loan.
The youngster excelled for the Hoops, and although it came too late for an England call up, the explosive attacking midfielder made 17 appearances for the Loftus Road outfit, and contributed six goals to their promotion cause.
Many Manchester United fans will have watched on with mixed feelings, after the Red Devils academy product left Old Trafford under a cloud of controversy, having made only three appearances for the European giants.
Whilst United have a host of talented players able to play in Morrison’s main position, including Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, there is much pride and pleasure at Old Trafford in seeing a starlet progress through the ranks.
However, it wasn’t to be. Widely touted to be one of the best players United have produced, the West Ham prodigy has some way to go before he can be considered in the same breath as the likes of George Best, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
The previously aforementioned legends had all established themselves by the time they were Morrison’s age, but the versatile attacker has had his share of off-field issues, resulting in Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly selling him for his own good.
Record-breaking boss Ferguson never gave up on a player lightly, but Morrison made the switch to the Hammers hoping for a fresh start.
Aside from a brief purple patch for his parent club last season, the Wythenshawe-born midfielder has spent most of his Hammers stint so far on loan in the championship, but this could be the season for his real top flight breakthrough.
Morrison’s technique and skill have never been in doubt, and any highlight reel of assists and volleys can illustrate his undeniable potential, but he has still yet to earn a senior cap for England.
With younger stars such as Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling playing regularly for their clubs, and earning Three Lions call-ups for the World Cup, Morrison must prove he has the mentality to handle the pressure, or else risk falling behind his peers in the international pecking order permanently.
As for West Ham, they will face the same decision as Ferguson on whether to accept the issues that come with the talent. It is a markedly tougher decision for the east London side though, as whilst United have an abundance of attacking options, the Hammers struggled to score regularly last season, only netting 40 times in 38 league matches.
Morrison could be the one to provide a glut of goals and assists, and help instigate the aesthetically pleasing football some of the Upton Park faithful crave, with his ability to dictate play from both advanced and deeper positions.
If Allardyce is unwilling to gamble on the unpredictable and tempestuous youngster, though, it would be prudent to sell the starlet and make a profit on the reported £1m they used to secure his services. It will be best for all parties, and England, if Morrison is able to hone his abilities in an environment where he can flourish, not simply included to please the board or make up the numbers.
Hoops boss Harry Redknapp has previously been linked with a permanent move for Morrison, after claiming he is in the market for English and British-based players, and praising the attacking midfielder’s talents during his loan spell last term.
He is also reported to be in the market for a replacement for Adel Taatabt, who could be on his way out of Loftus Road, which could subsequently create an opening for Morrison.
Such a move, either permanent or temporary would be ideal, providing much-needed stability and continuity for the midfielder, with a coach who has already proven he can extract the best from the advanced midfielder.
QPR, 13/5 for a top ten finish, have already bolstered their defence, but have yet to make additions in attack. It looks possible Loic Remy will remain at Loftus Road after a move to Liverpool fell through, and Morrison could well be the right man to feed the forward, who enjoyed a fruitful spell last term for Newcastle United.
Wherever Morrison ends up plying his trade, it already feels like it is the last chance for the former United prodigy to prove he can be a truly world class talent one day, and belongs in the bracket of top players.
Fans, aware that he possesses the skill, now want to see the determination, discipline, consistency and grit to reach that level, not just intermittent flashes of brilliance amongst newspaper headlines detailing off-field antics.