MX23RW : Sunday, December 16 20:27:26

Ravel Morrison: Football doing the talking

Following his solo goal against Tottenham Hotspur, Sports Mole takes a closer look at Ravel Morrison's development both on and off the pitch.

"I hope you can sort him out, because if you can he'll be a genius."

Those words came from Sir Alex Ferguson to his old friend Sam Allardyce as he sanctioned the sale of Ravel Morrison to West Ham United in the winter of 2012. Ferguson rarely allowed a talented footballer to leave Manchester United, not without a fight at least.

He had lost his patience with the then 18-year-old attacking midfielder, though. Before he had even made his first-team debut for United, Morrison received a 12-month referral order and was ordered to pay £1,445 in costs and compensation after admitting two counts of witness intimidation.

That was followed by a criminal damage conviction, while an assault charge was dropped. And yet, Ferguson persisted, even enlisting the help of senior players such as Rio Ferdinand in an attempt to tame Wythenshawe-born Morrison, who had shone as the Red Devils youngsters won the FA Youth Cup in 2011.

Still, though, little changed. Rumours of theft from teammates - strongly denied by Morrison, it should be added - further tainted his reputation.

Then, having been named as a substitute for a reserve fixture, Morrison tweeted: "Piss take. I can't wait til the end of the season." Wayne Rooney responded: "It might come sooner than you think." United's fourth-leading goalscorer of all time was not far wrong.

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

"The case with Ravel is well documented. I think he's better out of Manchester to be honest with you. He's got a great talent, but having to deal with that is very important," Ferguson said just days after Morrison had signed on at Upton Park.

This was a player who many believe was the brightest talent to emerge from the United academy since Paul Scholes, quite simply he could become one of the country's finest talents, but he had been sold to a Championship outfit for a mere £650,000.

It was time for Morrison to get his head down and let his talent do the talking. Most felt that he was propped up on the bar of the last chance saloon. Nobody had told him, though. Just one month after arriving at Upton Park, he was fined by the Football Association and warned about his future conduct after posting a homophobic tweet.

On the face of it, the same concerns that had forced Ferguson's hands were engulfing Allardyce. Morrison made just one appearance before the end of the campaign and while the Hammers were promoted, he was being farmed out on loan to Birmingham City for the entire 2012-13 campaign.

City boss Lee Clark was initially said to have been left angered by Morrison's lack of effort and poor attitude, saying in October last year: "I have had a good chat with Ravel this week, and he knows where he wants to be and he knows how he's got to get there. Ravel understands that and he's going to be working extremely hard over the coming weeks to get that sorted."

Slowly, the penny started to drop. Between Morrison and fellow youngster Nathan Redmond, they aided Birmingham's rise away from relegation trouble. Clark wanted to keep him, but there was a second chance waiting for him in East London.

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

He jetted off with West Ham to Portugal and impressed during pre-season friendlies this summer against Sporting Lisbon and Braga. Allardyce felt that the now 20-year-old had earned the chance to show that his talent outweighed the baggage that came with him.

Prior to yesterday's trip to Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham's number 15 had made five appearances, scoring three goals. At White Hart Lane, he truly arrived. It was his Diego Maradona in 1986 or Michael Owen in 1998 moment, in front of a watching Roy Hodgson as well. His goal displayed the poise, balance and self-confidence that England crave.

Of course, it came as little surprise to those that know him, with United centre-back Ferdinand tweeting this morning: "Great to see Ravel Morrison playing well & focused consistently now. That goal wouldn't make his top 3 goals show reel by the way!"

Manager Allardyce went on to wax lyrical during his post-match interview: "The genius of Ravel Morrison. That's a genius goal for me. You'll struggle to see a better goal than that this season. There's a lot of praise going to come his way, and deservedly, particularly after that goal. We've been seeing it – not quite as good as that goal – all season. We've seen his finishing quality in pre-season."

So, has he, at long last, turned a corner? Morrison, who has just been called up to the England Under-21 squad, thinks so. "I am a changed man. Don't judge me on my past. Respect me for who I am and how I've developed," he wrote, again on Twitter last week.

Mud sticks and there will be those who expect Morrison to blow up any day now. He still has plenty to prove, but perhaps a promising footballing career may have just been resuscitated at the point of flat-lining.

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