Ravel Morrison: The curious case of the born again midfielder

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When Manchester United won the FA youth cup in 2011, defeating Sheffield United, there was one player in particular that shone out in the final. Despite now being one of the highest rated young stars in Europe with Juventus, it was not Paul Pogba who stole the show that day. It was Ravel Morrison. 

Whereas the former turned down the opportunity to remain with the Red Devils, instead opting to join Juventus in pursuit of first-team football, the latter, despite his already evident talent, was allowed to leave the club with United's blessing, joining then championship club West Ham United, in January 2012. 

The move surprised few affiliated with Manchester United, well known as the 'bad boy' of the United academy, it appeared as though his potential would always be undermined by his life off the pitch.

In 2011, he was convicted of two accounts of witness intimidation, followed by an order to attend domestic violence counselling after admitting to throwing his girlfriends phone out of a window. 

The local lad had blown his chance at Manchester United, but with the move from Manchester to London, it presented Morrison with a chance to become more career focused, to move away from the apparent distractions that lay in Manchester, with Sir Alex Ferguson telling West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: 'A brilliant footballer. Brilliant ability. Top-class ability. Needs to get away from Manchester and start a new life'. 

The then United manager also proclaimed Allardyce would be a 'genius' if he could sort Morrison out. But almost immediately after arriving in the capital, Morrison was fined £7000 for making homophobic remarks on Twitter. 

After just one appearance at West Ham in his first half a season at the club, Allardyce saw fit to loan the youngster to Birmingham City, with the hope of him getting the first-team football necessary to kick-start his career. 

His time in the Midlands did not bring off the pitch controversy, but questions over his attitude remained, with Lee Clark considering terminating the loan over his attitude in training. Again, not unheard of with Morrison. 

But it was here that the midfielder seemingly overcame the doubts shrouded over him, remaining at Birmingham and putting in the level of performances expected of him by any coach or manager who knew what he was capable of. 

Returning to West Ham this season offered Morrison a chance in the Premier League, a chance to use the experience gained at Birmingham and begin to become the footballer many expect him to become. 

Although not initially being given a chance to impress in the league, the 20-year old took his full debut with the Hammers in his stride, scoring in a 2-1 win against Cheltenham Town in the League Cup.

Since then, the midfielder has not looked back, beginning with his first league start for the Hammers in the 0-0 draw with Southampton, and culminating before the international break with one of the early contenders for goal of the season against Tottenham. 

The solo goal against Spurs was the epitome of what Morrison can do, for one thing that he has in abundance is self-confidence. Running through a Spurs defence that prior to the game had only conceded two league goals takes a talented player.

This early season form suggests that Morrison has started to put his career first, under the guidance of Allardyce and with a captain like Kevin Nolan - a player who was asked to help Andy Carroll in his days at Newcastle - means Morrison has people around him to keep him focused. 

His form for the Hammers has seen his first under-21 call up, another opportunity grasped by the midfielder, with a bright performance against San Marino, and bagging a brace in his second appearance for the under-21's against Lithuania.

The challenge for Morrison is to maintain this professionalism, and keep a career focus so necessary to the modern footballer. In the age of social media, and footballer's 'celebrity' status, the decisions made off the pitch are just as crucial to those made on it. 

But this season is a clear turning point for the former Manchester United man, a player whose time at United saw words such as 'trouble' 'arrogance' and 'wasted talent' used just as much to describe him as 'talented' 'genius' and 'brilliant'.

It is up to Morrison to decide which group of words will be associated with his career. 

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