Long read: Another missed opportunity for Manchester United academy graduate Ravel Morrison after Sheffield United and Middlesbrough exits

Ravel Morrison made just three appearances for Middlesbrough.Ravel Morrison made just three appearances for Middlesbrough.
Ravel Morrison made just three appearances for Middlesbrough.
Another club. More suggestions of unfulfilled potential. Ravel Morrison’s short spell at Middlesbrough never even got off the ground.

The 27-year-old has now had nine separate clubs in eight years after coming through Manchester United’s academy and leaving Old Trafford in 2012.

And the perceptions that Morrison, who was once dubbed for greatness by Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson, is a player who has wasted his much-hyped ability will only increase following his time at the Riverside.

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Many would have recognised the risk when former Boro head coach Jonathan Woodgate signed Morrison on loan from Sheffield United in January.

Ravel Morrison on his Middlesbrough debut against Wigan.Ravel Morrison on his Middlesbrough debut against Wigan.
Ravel Morrison on his Middlesbrough debut against Wigan.

The Teessiders needed a playmaker to address their lack of goals, especially after Patrick Roberts suffered a lengthy hamstring injury against Birmingham towards the end of the month.

At Championship level, Morrison had proved he could provide that creative spark during spells at Birmingham City and QPR, yet his time on Teesside simply hasn’t worked out.

Woodgate defended Morrison following his arrival, insisting there were no problems with the player’s attitude.

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“I just think he’s an absolutely outstanding player, and I think we can get the best out of him,” said Woodgate at the time.

“People say he’s had issues, but who hasn’t had issues? I’ve had a few myself. It doesn’t concern me one little bit.

“Go and meet him. I’ll bring him in here, see what you think of him. He’s a top lad, a really nice kid. Sometimes the press portray you in the wrong way, and I think that's what happened with Ravel.”

Yet the player made just two appearances under Woodgate and couldn't force his way into a side which was spiraling towards the relegation zone.

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In his Boro debut, a 2-2 draw at Wigan, Morrison looked keen to get on the ball but was understandably a little rusty after making just one league appearance for Sheffield United in the first half of the campaign.

When the player was recalled to Boro’s starting XI for a trip to relegation rivals Barnsley two games later, Morrison appeared lost operating in an advanced midfield role, regularly dropping deep when he was supposed to be playing higher up the pitch.

It turned out to be his penultimate appearance for the club, yet Woodgate continued to back his January signing before the season was suspended.

“He has been brilliant, I spoke to him this morning, like I do when players are out of the team,” said Woodgate ahead of Boro’s 1-0 win over Charlton in March, the Teessiders’ final game before lockdown.

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“He has been really good, his attitude in training is second to none. I can’t get him off the training pitch really. When they are off, he wants to train with Under-23s. He is still learning.

“Just because he is 27 he knows he still needs to learn. He wants to improve in certain areas.”

So could it be possible that Morrison’s ability has simply been over exaggerated all this time?

When asked about the player in January, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder didn’t question Morrison’s work ethic or attitude, simply explaining there were better players available.

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“Ravel has been good for us,” said Wilder. "Really, really good in fact. I see him as a successful signing. People don’t see what he does in training. Trust me, he’s done well.

“He’s just been unlucky that John Lundstram and the other central midfield players have been in such good form.”

Yet Morrison’s performances in training continued to catch the eye.

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"I said to him yesterday, all these managers can’t be wrong," said Warnock on the eve of the game. “You’ve got to now see where you want to go.

"I don’t think his ability is in question, I think Ravel has got to brush up on other parts because it would be a waste if he couldn’t get a regular place somewhere and display his ability, within a team structure not just as an individual.

“Before the end of the campaign if I can give him an opportunity I will do but Ravel has to do it himself.”

"He did something on the training ground yesterday and I wish someone had filmed it because I couldn’t work out how he did it. He went past somebody with a shimmy and it was amazing.”

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Morrison received his chance a day after that press conference but was substituted midway through the second half as Boro were beaten 1-0 by Rangers.

It proved to be Morrison’s third and final appearance for the club as his departure was confirmed following Saturday’s defeat by Cardiff City.

The playmaker wasn’t even on the bench for the second match running as Warnock named just seven out of a possible nine substitutes against the Bluebirds.

“I didn’t think I’d use him today,” said Warnock when asked about Morrison’s absence. "I looked at what we had on the bench and if we had five to use I would have used the five.”

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It seemed a damning assessment, especially the Boro boss had spoken openly about Morrison’s potential just a couple of weeks earlier, comparing him to Adel Taarabt and Victor Moses who transformed their careers under Warnock.

Morrison wasn’t able to do the same and leaves Boro as a free agent after his contract at Sheffield United expired last month.

Another club. Another opportunity. Another case of what could have been.

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