With the Hammers now underway in their pre-season schedule, having already been on a tour in Cork and played two friendlies, a 6-2 win over Cork City and last night’s 3-0 win at Boreham Wood, West Ham seem to be shaping up pretty well for Cardiff on the first day, and speaking for myself, I’m pretty confident with the way the squad looks at the moment. Sure, Cork and Boreham Wood aren’t exactly testing opponents, but we can’t ask for more than two wins, and nine goals is not to be sniffed at over two games. However, Ravel Morrison, who has just returned after his season long loan at Birmingham last year, has started pre-season very well with us, scoring a goal in both games. So this asks the question, will he break into the first team next year?
Now, I haven’t seen Morrison play too much if I’m honest. After we signed Ravel in January 2012, he has made just one substitute appearance, in the 1-1 draw at Leeds that season, and then he was off to Birmingham last year, so I haven’t watched much of him at all. But it seems, according to what people are saying, Morrison had a decent season last year in the Midlands, and has started pre-season very well for us.
During his stay in Birmingham last season, despite starting slowly, Ravel hit form as the season went on, and eventually made a total of 27 Championship appearances, scoring three goals in the process, as well as creating numerous others. After a 3-3 draw at Millwall, having been 3-0 down, a reporter from Birmingham seemed to be impressed with Morrison’s ability, claiming ‘it wasn’t just his elegant, effortless ability on the ball and passing, but work rate, too’. So, by reading that, he seems like quite an exciting player, the kind that we love at Upton Park. And to go through the youth system at Man United, as well as representing England at U16, U17 and U18 level, Morrison is undoubtedly a talented footballer, but can he break into the first team next year?
He seems to have the skill, the trickery and the confidence of a young player hoping to make his break, and might be good enough, but as yet there are still questions to be answered. He isn’t proven at all at Premier League level, but he never will be if Allardyce doesn’t give him a try next year. Plus, as we’ve all heard before, he seems to be a bit of a nutter. Sir Alex claimed once he’d sold Morrison that we would do well to keep him out of prison, which, in fairness, we’ve managed to do so far but I’m not filled with confidence by quotes like that. Plus, Birmingham manager Lee Clark supposedly very seriously considered terminating his loan spell early due to problems with his attitude. And also, despite being just 20, he’s already had run-ins with the FA, and the police. That’s probably not a good thing. However, Big Sam has taken on players like El-Hadji Diouf before while at Bolton, and calmed him down a little bit, so the big egos like that don’t seem to bother him too much.
The main reason, however, that I think Morrison’s chances will be limited again next season is due to no fault of his own. It’s down to the quality midfield we have already. With the midfield three of Nolan, Noble and Diame, that combines just about all the aspects you want in a midfield, it would be very difficult to find a place for Morrison. He would have to be used very occasionally, as that has to be the preferred three, in which case, he’s better off getting more experience somewhere else. There has been talk of Morrison returning to Birmingham for another season long-loan, and Neil McDonald confirmed the other day that this was a possibility. On top of that, Lee Clark has said in the press that he would be happy for Ravel to return to St. Andrews for another loan spell.
So, in my book, Ravel may have ended last season and started pre-season pretty well, but it will be very difficult for him to break into the first team next year, and so would not be getting as much time on the pitch as he wants. I think he should still be seen as one for the future, so another loan spell at Birmingham would work, playing more often at a decent level for a reasonably big club. Then again, Morrison has come out and said he’s determined to make his mark on the first team this year, so it will be interesting to see how he does if we do keep him this year.