Many have their opinions on Ravel Morrison. Few actually know what he’s like.
But one thing everyone seems to agree on is that he had all the tools to become a top player.
He was a star as a Manchester United youngster and was a key player to the side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011, winning it alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Michael Keane.
Morrison was not just thought to be better than the likes of Pogba, but he was compared to the likes of Paul Gascoigne, while Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly said he was the best kid he’d ever seen on the ball.
It’s not turned out the way Sir Alex hoped, with Morrison failing to make a real impact with the Red Devils at senior level or any of the eleven other clubs he’s represented during his journeyman career.
He’s now on trial at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, and was reunited with ex-teammate Jesse Lingard at Pride Park where the Rams took on the Red Devils in a pre-season friendly.
All sorts has been said about antics off the pitch but Bernie White, who works as a teaching assistant at the school Morrison attended as a child and was a mentor for the aspiring footballer, knew Morrison at a more innocent time in his life.
“I talked to the boys to see if they’d done their coursework which in Ravel’s case probably not… he got in trouble a few times but he wasn’t as bad as people made out,” White told talkSPORT.com.
“He sat in the car with me for about half an hour and I thought he was all right. He was a bit of a handful but a very talented footballer.”
Mrs White adds that both Man United and the school (St Anthony’s Roman Catholic School) gave Morrison ‘every chance’ to succeed. And while he dazzled at times, there were increasing concerns about his attitude.
It led to a one-on-one meeting with the big boss, who spoke frankly at the youngster in an attempt to get through to the talented boy who was at serious risk of falling away.
“He had a meeting with Sir Alex and I was in the meeting,” White added.
“Alex Ferguson quite openly said to him ‘Ravel, I didn’t get all of this for not working hard and making sacrifices.’
“Ravel just looked at him and took it all in. He was quite in awe of Alex Ferguson calling him in.
“I thought he’d taken it on board, as we did every time but he was actually quite shocked Alex Ferguson was addressing him. It was a big thing.”
The message from the Old Trafford legend didn’t hit home enough as Morrison would leave the club in 2012 having made just three appearances for their first-team, none in the Premier League.
Enough had been said about him by this stage to encourage other clubs to take a chance on him, however. West Ham were the first to do so.
It looked like Sir Alex had dropped a clanger when Morrison scored a stunning solo goal at Tottenham in October 2013, the strike earning West Ham’s goal of the season award.
Mrs White managed to get a ticket for that match and looked on with pride as the boy she used to drive from St Anthony’s to Man United’s Carrington training ground was doing so well at such a high level. There was a brief reunion between her and Morrison afterwards too.
“He was made Man of the Match that day and as I left the ground I waited at hospitality,” White said.
“The crowds were going ‘Ravel, Ravel’ and I went ‘RAVEL!’ and he was so pleased to see me.
“He asked me to go down the town with him and have a drink with him but I didn’t go. He really appreciated me being at the ground. He used to try to give me all these coats and jackets he got from his agents, although I couldn’t take them off him.”
Exchanges like this shed light on the Morrison we seldom hear about and his former mentor is in no doubt that there are plenty of misconceptions about him.
“He had a good heart, he was nice, especially to his mum and brother,” White said.
“People annoy me because most don’t know him and I did, he’s a nice boy. Some might think I’m mad for saying that and yes we had tricky moments with him but you do with everybody else. Life wasn’t easy for him and that’s it.
“Unfortunately it didn’t happen but to watch him play was unbelievable.”
Rooney, who knows exactly what Morrison is all about, echoed what Mrs White said, claiming the player is ‘misunderstood’.
Time will tell on whether Derby will sign him up and if Rooney can be the one to get the best out of Morrison.
But there was a huge sense that Morrison should have been playing against Derby rather than for them on Sunday afternoon.