“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – The words of Winston Churchill, and also a rather succinct analogy for the quandary Newcastle fans find themselves in when deciding whether they want the club to pursue a bid for Manchester United midfielder Ravel Morrison.
You won’t have to conduct an extensive search to find glowing reports on how supremely talented Morrison is, even Brian Marwood (now DOF at Manchester City) discussed his admiration for the youngster, when talking to Henry Winter;
“I signed him at Nike at 15. I know the baggage there. United will work hard to get him back into line. A lot of other clubs give up on that side and indulge him because he’s a talented footballer.’’ (Via thebusbyway.com)
However as Marwood mentions, Morrison comes with a degree of baggage. Charged with two counts of intimidating a witness, to put it bluntly there’s a reason we stand a chance of getting him. Despite brushes with the constabulary and a reported poor attitude, Sir Alex Ferguson still wants to keep Morrison at the club. This week he intimated they had begun contract discussions with the 18 year old, but that his demands (at the present time) were unreasonable.
Of course this isn’t the first time Newcastle have looked to manage a difficult ‘character’. Nile Ranger was the south coast’s answer to Robin Hood while at Southampton. Having had similar introductions with the authorities in Newcastle, some fans have expressed a concern that Morrison’s situation seems all too similar to that of Ranger’s.
There is one notable difference however – Morrison is genuinely talented. Ranger for all his hustle and strength, lacks any real technical ability, and despite a proficiency in the reserves he’s unlikely to ever make it in England’s top tier. By contrast Morrison has been consistently earmarked as the pinnacle of his generation, to compare him to Ranger seems somewhat naive, given the glowing reports and the fact his name is fairly familiar to those with an interest in youth football. He is no overnight sensation.
It should also be remembered, that with any transfer it’s a calculated risk. Many thought that with Ranger, the chance to distance himself from potentially bad influences would settle him down, unfortunately the bright lights of the Bigg market seemed to only enhance the Tony Montana of Morpeth.
With balance an objectivity in mind I introduce an example of a rehabilitated character. Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa was perceived as something of an ‘enfant terrible’ in France for his fiery temper. Even in his youth at the Clairefontaine Academy he was somewhat disruptive, almost coming to blows with a young Abou Diaby (which can be seen on Youtube). Initially taking him on loan, the video compilations of his undoubted talent were often accompanied with warnings of a poor temperament. The fact Marseille were willing to sell a 12m investment for half that fee typified this.
Yet as we quickly saw, being away from the spotlight of his homeland seemed to address certain issues with professionalism. With similar ties in Manchester, the chance to severe those may provide Morrison with a calming environment in which to flourish, especially given how grounded the majority of our current young players (Ferguson, Abeid, Vuckic etc) seem.
Thursday’s press conference saw a tight lipped response from Alan Pardew as he fielded questions about a reported £500,000 bid for Morrison. With confirmation coming from Sir Alex Ferguson of the first bid, it now seems obvious that Pardew believes he can manage an unstable if not precocious talent
Given the recent quotes attributed to Davide Santon you can see why. The Italian struggled with a different kind of mentality issue when in Italy. The pressure of being dubbed ‘the new Paolo Maldini’ seemed to weigh heavy on the youngster, with injuries hampering his chance of a consistent run of games, he moved to Cesena where he appeared as a left back.
With his confidence somewhat diminished, it seems Pardew has played an important role in building him back up. While not always tactically astute, it would be fair to say Pardew’s strength lies in his ability to motivate and man manage. Whether that ability stretches to someone in Morrison’s position remains unclear.
To digress down a slightly more cynical path, there is no guarantee that all of this conjecture and speculation is not a calculated move from the player and his advisors. Now in the final six months of his deal, interest from other suitors (both above and below us) may force Manchester United’s hand in the same way Wayne Rooney did last season.
Press speculation has suggested that we will return with a further bid. There is no indication as to whether this bid will be accepted, but it raises further debate into how far the club should stretch. If Morrison was to achieve his potential, the windfall for the club could be huge given some of the fees bandied around for English midfielders.
As it stands Manchester United would receive around £300,000 from a tribunal were we to poach the player in the summer. Given the tight financial constraints of our January budget, how much we afford to his capture is a difficult question to answer. £2m? £3m? I’d personally struggle to justify parting with more than the former. After all we are far from bereft of young midfield talent. Haris Vuckic & Mehdi Abeid are both good prospects with neither even looking like being an ounce of trouble away from the pitch.
As December highlighted a centre back and a striker are our real requirements, meaning the purchase of Morrison is far from essential, quite the opposite in fact. Should a loan option arise with a future fee agreed, that may suit us far better. One thing does remain clear, Newcastle in the transfer window remains wholly unpredictable.