Troubled Ravel Morrison in last-chance saloon?

Sports Mole considers whether controversial midfielder Ravel Morrison is now in last-chance saloon at Wigan Athletic.

In terms of determining the talent and ability of young players, Sir Alex Ferguson is well placed to judge. The former Manchester United boss had his fair share of special youngsters at Old Trafford and a select few of those helped the club win trophy after trophy during their most successful period.

Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and David Beckham are among those to have made the grade, while Paul Pogba – via Juventus – and Jesse Lingard have been vital performers for the club this season.

Ravel Morrison, however, had the most "natural talent" of any youngster at the club. Indeed, Ferguson wrote in his book Leading: "He possessed as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed, but kept getting into trouble. It was very painful to sell him... he could have been a fantastic player. But, over a period of years, the problems off the pitch continued to escalate and we had little option but to cut the cord."

Ravel Morrison playing for Manchester United's youth side in 2011.© Getty Images

Pogba and Morrison were at the heart of the Man United team that won the FA Youth Cup for a record 10th time in 2011. Much has been said and indeed written about Morrison's performances in the youth system and he should have gone on to star for the club over a 15-year period. He should still be there now, learning from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.

Off-the-field problems and a poor attitude, however, led to Morrison leaving Man United for West Ham United in 2012 and the Manchester-born midfielder departed the Red Devils having made just three first-team appearances, all of which came in the League Cup. The once 'golden boy' of Old Trafford never turned out in the Premier League for the club.

"A brilliant footballer. Brilliant ability. Top-class ability. Needs to get away from Manchester and start a new life," Ferguson told then West Ham manager Sam Allardyce about the controversial midfielder.

Morrison had talent that many could only dream about. Close control and an eye for a pass, the attacking midfielder starred as a young player and at the age of 17, was widely regarded as one of the best teenagers in English football. Talent-wise, he was almost faultless and his skill should have earned him a brilliant career.

Ravel Morrison of West Ham United competes with Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United on December 21, 2013© Getty Images

Talent can only ever take you so far, however, and Morrison lacked the work ethic and attitude to really make it count. He scored three times in 18 league appearances for West Ham, but spent time on loan with Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff City during his spell at Upton Park after failing to nail down a first-team role with the Hammers.

There was that spectacular goal against Tottenham Hotspur, however, and there were some that wanted Morrison to be England's wildcard at the 2014 World Cup. Nine days after registering against Spurs, Morrison scored twice for England's Under-21 side against Lithuania and suddenly things were looking up.

But during the same game, Morrison was involved in an altercation with teammate Wilfried Zaha and the pair had to be separated following a scuffle in the middle of the pitch. Instead of the headlines being about his two goals and a positive performance, the midfielder's temperament was again called into question. It was a case of one step forward, another two back.

Morrison left West Ham for Italian outfit Lazio in July 2015, and in October of the same year, the Serie A club's director Igil Tare said that the midfielder "has undoubted ability and is world class, as well being a little mad".

Ravel Morrison of England Under-21s drives with the ball against Lithuania at Portman Road on October 15, 2013© Getty Images

The Englishman should have used the opportunity to become a favourite of the Lazio supporters in the mould of a Paul Gascoigne or a Paolo Di Canio, but it must be questioned whether he wanted it enough, whether it meant enough to him.

The opportunity to learn a new language and play in the top flight of Italian football is something that Morrison should have grabbed. While many youngsters struggle to earn a place at a non-league club after being released from a Premier League academy, the midfielder was given the chance to represent one of the most famous teams in the history of Italian football.

"I pick those who deserve to play, who train consistently, professionally and openly. Morrison has to work harder. He still doesn't speak a word of Italian," said then Lazio boss Stefano Pioli when questioned on the Englishman's lack of action.

Morrison made eight appearances for Lazio last season, but has not featured this term and it was confirmed earlier this month that he was training with Championship side Wigan Athletic, who are managed by former Man United coach Warren Joyce.

With respect to Joyce, managers more successful and more experienced than him have tried and failed to make Morrison see the light, but the 51-year-old is the latest to take on the challenge provided by the troubled midfielder.

"There were players like Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and the Keanes coming through at that time, and he was possibly the star player ability-wise, so it's one that's worth looking at for us so we can assess where he is at this stage of his career," Joyce told Wigan's official website.

"I know how much of a talent he is from my days at Manchester United. It's a unique opportunity for us really because we've got a chance to look at him and assess his fitness. We know he has talent but it's all about how quick we can get him up to the levels we need him to be at here."

Sooner or later the penny has to drop for Morrison. In early 2011, he admitted two counts of witness intimidation, while there was also a common assault charge against his former girlfriend and her mother in late 2014. On January 15 2015, Morrison was cleared of those particular charges, but it was the latest in a long list of sour events which have really harmed his career.

West Ham's Ravel Morrison celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Cardiff during their League Cup match on September 24, 2013© Getty Images

Harry Redknapp wrote in his book It Shouldn't Happen to a Manager: "Ravel Morrison was another genius at school. Sir Alex Ferguson thinks that he was the best young player he has ever had.

"I could believe that from the time I spent with him at QPR. I liked Ravel. He was a bit wayward but he was not a nasty boy, and a fantastic talent. Ravel could be a world-class player, and it is not too late for him, but that desire to maximise your ability has to come from within."

At the end of the day, it is up to Morrison. Whether or not he decides to stop the nonsense and start playing football is his choice. The advice has been there throughout his career, but he has to want it. He has to ditch those friends that are around him for the wrong reasons and embrace this latest challenge at Wigan.

There will come a point where Morrison runs out of chances. Sure, he is talented, but there has to be a point where enough is enough. He has to love football again. The boy that had the world at his feet and loved the game is still in there, but he has been lost amid a long line of nonsense.

Ravel Morrison in action for Birmingham City against Crystal Palace in March 2013.© Getty Images

On January 26, Wigan will travel to Man United in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Whether Morrison is present for that match is still to be determined, but there is a strong possibility that he could be given the chance to perform at Old Trafford once again.

Morrison's application and effort while on trial at Wigan has been kept under wraps. Little has been revealed about just how the 23-year-old has trained since being given another chance by a coach that knows him so well.

There will be those that feel that he has had enough chances, enough of people's time. But the beautiful thing about football is that it is never too late. Maybe, just maybe the penny will finally drop.

Ravel Morrison in action for West Ham on July 12, 2014
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