Exclusive: Ex-Birmingham boss reveals Ravel Morrison experiences and why he couldn't sign player from West Ham

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Looking at the soundbites from his previous clubs, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about new Middlesbrough signing Ravel Morrison.

While progressing through the academy at Manchester United as a 14-year-old kid, Sir Alex Ferguson described the player as the best he’d ever seen at that age.

Many have commented on Morrison’s ability over the years, yet his failure to fulfil that early potential has gained more publicity since leaving Old Trafford in 2012.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Former West Ham boss Sam Allardyce labelled Morrison ‘the biggest waste of talent’ he’d ever worked with, while the player’s attitude has often been questioned.

Lee Clark signed Ravel Morrison on loan for Birmingham City.Lee Clark signed Ravel Morrison on loan for Birmingham City.
Lee Clark signed Ravel Morrison on loan for Birmingham City.

Boro head coach Jonathan Woodgate has painted a different picture of the 27-year-old, claiming the midfielder’s 'bad boy' reputation has been blown out of proportion.

It’s a view which is shared by former Birmingham boss Lee Clark, the man who signed Morrison on loan from West Ham at the start of the 2012/13 season.

“He was never any problem for me,” Clark tells the Mail when asked about Morrison. ”He was a young player when I signed him from West Ham. There were some little incidents away from the pitch but nothing anything different to what you get with most of the youngsters that you’re dealing with in society and in football.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There wasn’t things happening in his life that were completely different to what I was having to deal with with the other young players in the group.

“What I would say is that he loved football, he would have stayed at the training ground 24/7 if he could.”

Despite a niggling injury at the start of the season, Morrison made 30 appearances in all competitions during his solitary season on loan at Birmingham.

There were reports that Birmingham wanted to send the midfielder back to West Ham due to his lack of commitment, yet Clark says he had no problems with Morrison.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I remember an incident when we were actually playing Middlesbrough on a Friday night,” recalls the former Blues boss. “It was a televised game down at St Andrew’s, the first team had finished training early on the Thursday because it was just a short session to be ready for the game.

“When I went into the staff training room at about 5 o’clock that evening I could hear voices and went into the first-team training ground and there was Rav and his pals who had come down from Manchester, just getting ready after going out on the academy pitches and just playing football.

“That’s what Rav was about. He loved football whether he was playing Premier League, Championship or kicking a ball about with his mates.”

In terms of ability, Clark was also impressed by Morrison’s obvious qualities, and says the player worked hard to improve other aspects of his game.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“He was an unbelievable footballer in terms of what he could do with the ball and how he could make things happen on the pitch,” adds Clark.

“His ability on the ball is second to none in terms of he can dribble with the ball at speed, he had the speed of a winger when I had him as a youngster. He could go past people very, very easily, his skill was fantastic, his passing range was top draw.

“He just had to try and understand the defensive side of the game but he wanted to learn about that, he wanted to work hard and do that.

“As I said, if you said to him about training 12 hours a day on a football pitch he wouldn’t have any qualms about doing that.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So why hasn’t it worked out for Morrison, whose move to Boro marks his ninth different club since leaving United eight years ago.

“There are various different factors,” replies Clark. “He’s moved around Europe, he’s been to South America and had a spell in Mexico.

“I think Rav is getting to the age now where he’s experienced and he’s matured, wants to settle down and find a club and manager who believe in him.

“I think Jonathan Woodgate is a manager who looks like he wants to give young players an opportunity and he’ll enjoy the quality Rav can bring.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Clark wanted to keep Morrison at Birmingham beyond the the 2012/13 campaign but says a move wasn’t possible due to financial reasons.

“We didn’t have the finances to sign him permanently,” Clark adds. “We tried to extend it but he actually got in West Ham’s team and scored that fantastic goal down at White Heart Lane against Spurs.

“I was never in a position financially to make it permanent, I would have and I did try and get him back for a second season on loan but it wasn’t to be.”

After returning to West Ham, Morrison also impressed during another Championship loan spell at QPR in 2014.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The midfielder will now hope for another run of games in England’s second tier at Boro, and Clark believes Morrison can be a success on Teesside.

“I remember Harry Redknapp when he was the manager of QPR ringing me up about him and I spoke highly of him then,” says Clark.

“He went to QPR and did really well for Harry and that was the year QPR got promoted back to the Premier League as well.

“I couldn’t think of anywhere better than Middlesbrough with the infrastructure that they have and the manager that they have at the moment who likes exciting young players.”