Is West Ham’s young starlet worth the risk?

Everyone knows the old sayings of ‘no risk, no reward’. These are never more prevalent in the media than when the debate over World Cup selection is raging.

We love the idea of a ‘risky’ selection. The thought of heading to Brazil with a squad selected of proven Premier League and international calibre players isn’t enough for many. So how about Ravel Morrison?

Since his emergence on the scene at Manchester United his career has been fraught with incidents that only Nile Ranger can better in terms of their asbo-worthy credibility. His rambunctious reputation stems from witness intimidation to stories about the theft of Rio Ferdinand’s watch from the United training ground. Morrison’s track-record hardly makes him a star pupil.

But Sir Alex Ferguson was left under no illusions when it comes to his ability. When he sanctioned the sale of Morrison to West Ham in January 2012, Fergie told Sam Allardyce: “I hope you can sort him out, because if you can he’ll be a genius.”

Fourteen months on and the 21-year-old Mancunian has taken a step down, on loan in the Championship at Queen’s Park Rangers, but he finally appears to be coming good.

Up until the turn of the year, Morrison had arguably been West Ham’s star performer. But after five goals in 18 appearances, including a wonderful solo goal at White Hart Lane to cap a memorable 3-0 victory over Spurs, Morrison’s relationship with the club turned sour.

Following an injury at Old Trafford and a publicly rejected bid from Fulham, amidst further rumours of unrest off the field, his career in East London began to dissipate just as quickly as it had begun.

Ferguson described him as the best 14-year-old he had ever seen. Rio Ferdinand revealed how Fergie would take him over to the youth pitches to see him train. Birmingham manager Lee Clark said he’s the best prodigy he has seen since Paul Gascoigne. After White Hart Lane, Big Sam eulogised over “the genius of Ravel Morrison”.

Nedum Onuoha said in a recent interview:

“He’s a good player now, but if he continues to be nurtured and does things in the right way then he is going to be something special for the country.”

Seeing Morrison up close and personal every day in training, and then seeing him tear into Championship defences in the fashion he has done over the past two weeks, Onuoha is in a good position to judge where Morrison is currently at.

In five games since he joined QPR on loan, he has scored four, bagging match-winning braces on both occasions. The first double came away at Birmingham where he followed up a nonchalant free-kick with a well-timed run and first-time finish to give QPR a 2-0 win.

The second came on Saturday where Morrison fired home QPR’s first goal as he shimmied away from a closing defender to strike the ball home with perfect technique from 20 yards. He then got QPR’s third as he coolly tucked away Niko Kranjcar’s pass.

But it wasn’t just the goals which made Morrison stand out. He is a class above the players who he currently shares a pitch with and his arrogance is reflected in his style of play. With the ability to carry the ball from deep he can ease pressure against his side and in one run cause imminent danger to the opposition. He possesses flair, quick feet in tight spaces and a good eye for goal. He has everything you would expect from all the hype.

Amongst the current crop of promising English talent there are currently few better players. Since his exile from the Premier League, conversation and cries for Morrison’s selection in the England squad seem to have quietened. The excitement he caused with his performances at West Ham in the autumn seems to have gone. All the talk has been replaced with the furore surrounding Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Off the field Morrison has proven to be unpredictable. But on it he’s certainly one to watch. If his time at QPR acts as a positive liminal period in his fledgling career then he may, just may, be worth a punt.

Presently, he remains far behind his Premier League competitors in the England manager’s pecking order. But if Roy Hodgson is looking for a mystery man in May, Ravel could just be worth a shout.


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