A few years ago, a clip of Ravel Morrison in training went viral.
It was from an England Under-21 session and caught Morrison pulling off an outrageous finish in which he crossed his right foot behind his left leg and flicked a first-time volley off a cross into the top corner of the net.
It was the sort of moment you’d see described as ‘Tekkers’ on Soccer AM, but it served as a snapshot of the ability in the feet of Morrison, arguably the most hyped English talent of his generation. This was, after all, the player Sir Alex Ferguson supposedly labelled “the best player he had seen at that age.”
Of course, as we all know, Morrison wasted his talent. From Man United he left for West Ham, going on three different loan spells that only underlined the impact off the field issues were having on his game. Then there was a peculiar move to Lazio where he made just four appearances, an even stranger loan switch to Atlas in Mexico and most recently a stint with Ostersunds in Sweden.
At just 26, Morrison, a troubled figure, has already become the quintessential cautionary tale for young English players.
Yet he has been handed one last chance. Sheffield United have taken a punt on Morrison, signing the midfielder to a one-year contract. Morrison has done little to warrant this opportunity, but now he has it he must ensure he takes it.
There is still time for Morrison to make good on his potential. He is not entirely washed up, not yet.
✍️ | Exciting forward player Ravel Morrison is the latest addition to Chris Wilder's Premier League squad.
Following a trial period, the former Manchester United academy graduate has signed a one-year deal with an option for a longer stay with the Blades.#SUFC ?
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) July 16, 2019
Out of the spotlight, it can often be difficult for players like Morrison to find motivation. However, he will have a Premier League platform this season to prove himself. If he plays well and shows a new maturity, people will notice. That wasn’t the case at Atlas or Ostersunds.
“We’ve already seen things from Ravel [in training] which make me think ‘dear me, if we can get this boy up to speed, what a player he can be for us,” Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder said when pressed on how Morrison will fit into his team.
“He’s someone who can bring people to their feet. He brings that x-factor with him only a few people can.”
Wilder certainly isn’t the first person to have made such comments about Morrison.
The challenge he will face is in focusing a character seemingly unwilling or unable to. “We’ve spoken to people about him and we’ve trusted what we’ve seen with our own eyes,” says Wilder, but if he were being truly candid he would surely admit doubts.
There are few left in the English game who haven’t had their say on Morrison over the years. Sam Allardyce said he was “the biggest waste of talent” he’d ever worked with as a manager. Lazio coach Stefano Pioli said he “had to work harder.” Warren Joyce, who coached Morrison at youth level at Man United, spoke about how “there were times when we took it in turns doing his community service with him.
“He could be in the room now and you’d all go: ‘what a nice lad he is’. But on another day you might think different,” Joyce added, summing up the issue Sheffield United could face this season.
Morrison is, essentially, the same player he was eight years ago when chatter about him drifted along the Old Trafford corridors.
There’s no point in dwelling on what might have been, though. Morrison’s natural talent remains and has been enough to convince Sheffield United that the game is worth taking. If it pays off, we may look back at Morrison’s past troubles as the making of the player and the man.
There has to be more to Morrison’s career than just a viral clip and a few quotes referencing his brilliance. He has to show it.