How the career of Ravel Morrison was saved - and why he had to leave Manchester United

As his stunning goal at Spurs showed, the young West Ham midfielder has talent aplenty, but, writes Jack Pitt-Brooke, it took a loan move to Birmingham for his attitude to finally improve

It was one year ago next week that Ravel Morrison’s young career started to turn around. Last October the 19-year-old midfielder looked like a boy drifting through the football wilderness. On loan at Birmingham City from West Ham United, he could not get in Lee Clark’s struggling Championship team, dropped after playing three games in August.

Morrison was sent to St Andrew’s to play games and grow up but he was doing neither, and out of the side his performances in training were starting to drop. Had he failed to impress there, who knows what West Ham would have done with him, or where he would be now?

But Clark sat him down for a conversation he later described as a “watershed”, about what was expected of him and how he could get into the team. Morrison “knuckled down” in training and on 16 October was picked for Richard Beale’s Birmingham Under-21s against Derby in the Professional Development League Two North. In almost unplayable winds, at Birmingham’s Wast Hills training ground, Morrison – knowing what was at stake – gave a display Clark described as “outstanding”.

Four days later, Morrison was back in the first team, completing his first ever full 90 minutes of senior football in a 1-1 draw with Leicester City. He went on to make another 26 appearances for Birmingham last season, scoring three goals and showing the once-in-a-generation ability that made everyone care so much about how he was doing.

It was a learning process, certainly, as it always is for teenagers making their first steps in senior football. Morrison produced a brilliant performance at Selhurst Park, scoring one and making another in a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace in March, but did need some direction. “My voice is done in because I had to talk him through the 88 minutes,” Clark said afterwards. “He’s like a kid in the park playing with his mates.”

When Morrison returned to West Ham this summer, everyone noticed how much he had grown up. “He went to Birmingham and matured a lot as a player and as a person and we can all see that,” said James Tomkins after Morrison’s first West Ham goal, in a Capital One Cup win over Cheltenham Town in August. “He seems to have grown up at Birmingham, it’s done a lot of good for him.”

Sam Allardyce knows better than anyone else how much maturing Morrison did. “That spell at Birmingham gives time to reflect on what it takes to be a player on a week-in, week-out basis,” the West Ham manager said. “The rough and tumble of the Championship taught him a lot.”

It was very clear beforehand how much learning Morrison had to do. The details of his years at Manchester United (below) are well known, a time of thrilling promise and serious trouble. There was a caution for common assault in 2008, a 12-month referral order in 2011 for two counts of intimidating a witness and then five months later a £600 fine for criminal damage for destroying his girlfriend’s phone in an argument. Beyond that there was exasperation at the club over his attitude and application, particularly to training.

Sir Alex Ferguson – who rated him among the most talented teenagers he had ever seen at United – knew that Morrison needed to leave Manchester and so sold him to West Ham to “start a new life” away from the damaging influences. He arrived at Upton Park in January 2012 but his attitude was not much better than it was at United and he only made one nine-minute substitute appearance in a Championship game at Elland Road.

“Last year we had a lot of problems with him his lifestyle off the pitch,” Kevin Nolan revealed on Sunday after Morrison’s stunning goal against Tottenham. “Mentally – and he will probably vouch for this – he wasn’t quite ready,” added Tomkins. “As a young lad moving from up north to down south it can be hard.” But that season at Birmingham had precisely the desired effect and Morrison came back to Upton Park a changed man.

So Allardyce trusted him in pre-season, and he paid him back with six goals. At the start of this season, Morrison scored a delightful goal against Cheltenham, and was rewarded with his first Premier League start at Southampton on 15 September. Allardyce thought about playing him wide but decided to put him in central midfield, with Mohamed Diamé on the wing instead. Morrison scored against Everton, and against Cardiff, before Sunday’s wonder goal,  when he ran more than half the pitch, beating two Spurs defenders and chipping Hugo Lloris.

This Thursday Morrison should play for England Under-21s against San Marino, his first international appearance after three troubled years. Fulfilment of his undoubted talent is still a long way off but Morrison seems to be back on the right path.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power