By George Ankers
In signing Ravel Morrison from Manchester United in January, Sam Allardyce must have understood that a close eye would have to be kept on his new charge.
Already establishing himself as one of English football's foremost bad boys despite barely yet having played any of the sport at a meaningful level, West Ham were making a gamble in taking him on. So to see him set to join Birmingham City on loan raises an eyebrow.
Morrison's talent is questioned by no-one but, if you are willing to accept responsibility for a player as troublesome as he (and satisfy the hefty wage demands over which Sir Alex Ferguson lost patience) then one would expect that you would seek to oversee his development as personally as possible.
|MORRISON'S TROUBLED TIMELINE
|GUILTY IN COURT
||Ravel Morrison pleads guilty to two counts of witness intimidation and is given a 12-month referral order|
|FINAL MAN UTD MATCH
|NOV 2011||Morrison's appearance in the League Cup against Crystal Palace ends up being his last for Manchester United|
|SOLD TO WEST HAM
|JAN 2012||The exasperated Red Devils sell one of their finest Academy prospects for £1m with no buy-back clause|
|FEB 2011||Morrison admits an FA charge of using abusive language on Twitter about sexual orientation|
|MAR 2012||The midfielder finally gets on the pitch for his new club against Leeds. He plays no more games that season|
|SENT OUT ON LOAN
|AUG 2012||Morrison moves on yet again as he heads to Birmingham City for a season-long loan|
Indeed, it should be beneficial in the extreme for Morrison if it pays off. The 19-year-old needs games in order to get closer to fulfilling his deep potential and he should be able to make a difference for the Blues if he gets his head down and makes the most of it.
But why would you trust him to make the most of it?
"I think he's better out of Manchester, to be honest with you," Sir Alex observed after the midfielder's move to Upton Park. "He's got a great talent, but having to deal with that is very important."
Morrison's indisciplines have ranged from the unprofessional (absenteeism, throwing his girlfriend's mobile phone out of a window) to the illegal (earning a 12-month referral order for intimidating a witness in 2011). He needs to be closely guided, and Allardyce is putting a great deal of trust in Birmingham boss Lee Clark, a very inexperienced manager, to deal with him.
Of all the places to which the Hammers could have sent their 'problem child', too, another huge city like Birmingham with all the distractions that that brings might not be ideal. The best boarding schools were always those in the middle of nowhere.
Through all of this, it is Morrison who is most likely to suffer. Manchester United is as good a place for a young footballer to be as anywhere in the world but, having had his head turned with the promise of wads of cash and first-team football, the midfielder is now being pushed here, there and everywhere as his agents grin.
Two new clubs in six months is two upheavals too many for a youngster like this. Heading anywhere to chase games rather than staying put and earning them is ill-advised - and he will certainly not be starting every match at St Andrews, either.
The 19-year-old needs level-headed guidance from someone who does not make money every time that he gets a transfer. Ideally, he needs someone like Sir Alex Ferguson, but that bridge has been burned.
Most of all, he needs to settle in one place. Continuous disruption and relocation at a crucial period in a young player's development, when those around 19 years of age tend to either kick on and become big stars or stall, leaving those 'the next X, Y or Z' comparisons hanging before fading away, is a concern.
However well Morrison does in Birmingham colours, he will most likely only be there for a year. Allardyce needs him to do a great deal of personal growth in that time if he is to come back to West Ham ready to fit in for a bigger role.
|BLUES ARE COMING UP|
|20/1||Birmingham are 20/1 with bet365 to win the Championship|
It will not take a quick fix to turn this prospect's career back in the right direction. Whether his loan is to gain experience or for the Hammers to get him out of their hair for 12 months, the club must judge it highly unlikely, on form, that what they eventually get back will be the finished article.
A season of first-team Championship football could prove the making of Ravel Morrison. But it would be no surprise if it merely maintains his troubled trajectory instead. Here's hoping otherwise.
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