Unravelling a prodigy

Nothing would delight me more this season, apart that from us staying in the Premier League, than to see Ravel Morrison crack it at the very top level.

Not just because it would really get up the noses of my Manchester United supporting mates, but because the one thing we all surely love most in football is to see talented youngsters fulfil their potential.

Much has been written about Morrison's background, his troubled teenage years and the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson gave up on a player who has been described as the new Paul Scholes or the best youngster of his generation.

And by God, the kid has come up the hard way. He is not 21 until February, but was once described as being closer to prison than a Manchester United start in the Premier League.

Born in Wythenshawe - that's Shameless without the humour - and brought up in Denton, east Manchester by his grandparents, Morrison crashed from one off-field problem to another. He was clearly a target. A youngster with fame and money in the toughest of inner-city areas.

Fergie reckoned he "needed to get out of Manchester" and Big Sam obliged, knowing that inside this troubled young man was a football genius trying to get out.

Now when he arrived at our place in January 2012, Fergie, nearing the end of his own career and maybe just a bit too tired to battle on with him, had given up on the wild child of Manchester football. He had driven the youth coaches mad at Old Trafford, had been through several brushes with the law and his general behaviour and attitude to discipline and authority was to say the least, poor.

Everyone around the Manchester area knew this kid was one of the best youngsters that United had ever produced. Many Man U fans were horrified when he was shipped out to Upton Park; they still are.

I can understand why. Morrison has the potential to be a Gareth Bale, he is that good, believe me. His talent has been likened to Gazza. The funny thing, though, is that when that comparison was mentioned to the youngster, so the story goes, he had never heard of the England hero!

I am sure West Ham fans knew precious little about Morrison, either, when he joined us, other than that he was a problem boy. But then they are two a penny these days. Morrison though, will never be two a penny.

He can be anything he wants, and be worth a fortune. Manchester United, I believe, have no buy back clause or percentage of a future transfer.

Little was seen of Morrison in his first few months here to disprove the myths and legends that followed him around. He had one short run-out as a second-half substitute in a tough game at Leeds, and then was sent away to Birmingham on loan for the whole of last season.

It has been well documented that he expected to walk straight into the first team at West Ham.

He then clearly got up almost everyone's' nose at Chadwell Heath, seemingly Kevin Nolan as well. There is a famous story now of how Nolan and either Mark Noble or Andy Carroll (depending on whether you believe Noble's version or Ms Brady's in her Sun column) took the kid aside and gave him a really up-tempo, confidence-boosting chat; a real helping hand.

They returned to base, all thumbs up, saying how well it had gone with the kid. Problem was, Morrison failed to turn up for training for the next three days, something he was famous for at Manchester United.

Because I live in the Manchester area, I have been much more aware of Morrison's talent and potential from a very early age. All the baggage that he came from a broken home, a chav estate with some very dodgy mates, were part of the soap opera.

But boy, could he play. Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville both offered to take him into their homes to help him sort himself out. Brian McClair, by now on the coaching side, tried to give him lifts to training. All to no avail.

Too often now, however, whenever Morrison is mentioned in the media, his lawless track record gets trotted out. I am not surprised, that is the real story. But I don't intend to do that, other than to single out a Guardian article by Daniel Taylor in December 2011. It is a sympathetic view of the youngster and clearly leaves you feeling what many also felt in Manchester, that everyone wanted to see him become a success.

On target: Could Morrison gatecrash the England party next summer?

And here England comes into the equation. Morrison has played just five youth internationals since 2008, without a hint of an Under 21 call-up, such was the fear at the FA that his fragile temperament just could not be trusted. Morrison even tweeted he was considering playing for Jamaica.

My believe, a bit through rose coloured spectacles maybe, is that if Morrison continues the way he has started this season, he will be on the plane to Brazil for the World Cup, he is that good.

Several of my Man Utd friends used to make special trips just to watch him play for the reserves or youth team, where he virtually won the FA Youth Cup for United single handed a couple of years ago.

They all knew the talent is there, and we are now beginning to just see it ourselves. I am fearful that there could be some further trouble down the line, it seems to follow Morrison around. But I pray not.

He should be handled with kid gloves. I am disappointed, even, that our club is already using his picture to advertise future games. Not yet, please. But we have a club who are advertising the forthcoming game against Manchester City as "Come and see City's superstars..." I ask you, we are not a non-league club plugging a pre-season friendly.

But Morrison says he has changed. The Twitter feed that has given him so much abuse and grief over the years, now says: "I am a changed man, don't judge me on my past, respect me for who I am and now I have developed." I just hope this new version of Morrison is true.

If you count his eight pre-season games, as well as his six in the real season, he has scored eight goals in 14 matches. His performance in the first-half against Everton was stunning.

He dominated midfield, finding space continually and always wanting the ball. Everton actually changed their whole system in midfield at the break to counteract what Morrison was doing.

I can only say what I did at the beginning of this piece. I desperately want Morrison to succeed for his and our sakes. And England, too.

Roy Hodgson was in the stand to watch the Everton match, Ross Barkley the obvious target, But Morrison was as good and the FA should now be brave and pick him for the under 21s.

Morrison has already been taken to their hearts by West Ham fans. We have all seen a few special young players come through the ranks here. Morrison can be that good.

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