Transfer news: West Ham dig in over 'approach' for Ravel Morrison by Fulham
Premier League set to investigate if player was tapped up by Rene Meulensteen
It was not the first time that Ravel Morrison found himself at the centre of controversy in his young career but in the case of the Fulham tapping-up row, the West Ham midfielder can say at least that this one is not a mess of his own making.
When he was asked about a putative bid to sign the Englishman on Tuesday night after Fulham's 3-0 victory over Norwich City, Rene Meulensteen did not just stop at saying that a bid had been placed. Asked by newspaper reporters whether he thought Morrison would like to move to Fulham, the club's manager replied "Yes".
The kindest thing you can say about that remark is that it is the naivety of a new manager just learning the ropes when it comes to playing a close hand on transfer dealings.
The Premier League is expected to announce an investigation of Meulensteen, who is potentially in contravention of regulation T8 which dictates "a statement made publicly by or on behalf of a club [about signing another club's player]... shall be treated as an indirect approach".
For the Fulham manager to know that Morrison wanted to leave West Ham there would have had to have been some contact, either direct or otherwise – an illegal approach that is forbidden under the Premier League rules T3 that deal with the tapping-up of players.
No one would suggest that Meulensteen is about to face a saga as protracted and serious as the most infamous tapping-up inquiry in recent times, around Ashley Cole and Chelsea. Nor that he is the only manager to do it.
Rather, he has made the mistake of potentially incriminating himself. It did not help that West Ham officials were aggrieved to see the offending remark from Meulensteen on the Fulham website this morning, since taken down.
Sources at West Ham denied suggestions that Morrison has fallen out with manager Sam Allardyce over his representatives. The former Manchester United academy player uses the agent Nick Rubery and is 18 months from the end of his West Ham contract. He was signed by West Ham from United two years ago and while the club say that they would like to keep him, he is straying close to the end of his deal.
It is understood that Fulham bid £4m for the 20-year-old, an offer that was dismissed out of hand by West Ham. While Meulensteen said on Tuesday night that Fulham would bid again for Morrison, the mood at West Ham was that they would not entertain any offer from a fellow relegation candidate, let alone one they claim has made an illegal approach.
As for Fulham, they are unperturbed by the allegations made against them and claim that Meulensteen had simply said he believed the player wanted to come to the club in response to a direct question.
At least Meulensteen would be under no illusions as to the kind of player he would take on with Morrison, having played a part in his development at United.
The quirks of Morrison's behaviour at the United training ground became the stuff of legend at the club before Sir Alex Ferguson and academy director Brian McClair finally ran out of patience with him.
As a United player at Carrington, Morrison was nicknamed by his peers "the eel" for his capacity to slip away unnoticed and often not return for days.
On occasions they were able to track him down playing five-a-side football with his friends on the Power League pitches near the Trafford Centre. The attempts by senior players to talk him round were well-documented. In the end, his unexplained absences at United convinced the club to give up on an undoubted talent.
His breakthrough this season into the West Ham team, and for England Under-21s, have convinced some that he has turned a corner in his career. His goal against Tottenham in the 3-0 win at White Hart Lane in the league this season, as well as other performances, including the home win against Fulham in November, have demonstrated what a rare talent he is. So too, for the Under-21s, although he raised concerns with his on-field clash with Wilfried Zaha.
The general consensus is that, for all the discussion of a reformed character, Morrison will always present a challenge to any manager who takes him on and he is an interesting choice for a club fighting relegation. For now, his performances and his youth are sufficient that there will always be someone willing to give him a chance.
Despite the problems West Ham had with him initially, he has never been in the same kind of trouble he encountered in his last year at United when he pleaded guilty to two charges of intimidating a witness and was given a 12-month referral order.
The Premier League asked Fulham for their observations on the tapping-up claims and will hope for a swift resolution. Where it leaves Morrison's career at West Ham is open to question.
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