It was announced this week that Cardiff City have signed 21-year old winger Ravel Morrison on loan for the season from West Ham. On the face of it, it could be a decent move for both parties, despite Cardiff already having what is being reported as 'the biggest and best squad ever assembled in the championship.' Morrison is undoubtedly a player of quality, and needs some game time after finding himself marginalized at the Hammers. When Sam Allardyce signed him from Manchester United he said the England U-21 international needed to "Get away from Manchester and start a new life," which seemed to hint at some unpublicized issues.
Tellingly, Morrison has played only 18 games for West Ham, and been farmed out to Birmingham City and QPR over the past two seasons. Reading between the lines, I sense there is something about Morrison. Maybe his off-field problems are weighing heavily on his young shoulders - he is due to go on trial over allegations of harassment of a former partner early next year. The question must be asked, do Cardiff really need a player with this kind of baggage? The club is already in the news almost constantly, and usually for the wrong reasons.
Despite having a wealth of luxuries, especially in midfield, the current Cardiff squad has been criticized for having a lack of raw pace. But with ten or twelve potential first-team midfielders already at the club, do they really need another one? I see eerie comparisons between Morrison and a mostly-forgotten player from the Hammam era.
Anyone remember Leon Jeanne?
If not, you could be forgiven. He arrived at Cardiff under similar circumstances from QPR in 2001, having fallen out of favour with then-manager Gerry Francis amid a series of disciplinary problems. Cardiff, his hometown club, was supposed to be a new start, but weeks after joining he tested positive for a class A drug. He was handed a suspended sentence and allowed to continue his career, but when tested again later in the season the sample he gave was not urine. That was enough and his contract was terminated after he had made only two first team appearances. From there his career nosedived and over the following decade he played for no less than 18 clubs, including Barry Town (twice), Merthyr Tydfil and Afan Lido. All in all, it's very tragic story, and a cautionary tale of a talented young footballer letting it all slip.
I'm not suggesting for a moment Morrison has the same problems, or that his career will follow a similar trajectory, but the similarities are there. At the same stage in his career, Jeanne was a highly hyped, pacey, skillful midfielder with the world at his feet. He had a few off-field issues, but City took a chance on him. Now he plays for Weston-Super-Mare. Nothing against Weston-Super-Mare. It's a nice place. I visited once. But let's hope Morrison doesn't go the same way.