The career of Ravel Morrison took another disappointing backward step when he was released by Dutch Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag – where did it all go wrong?
Be honest, readers – how many of you were aware that Ravel Morrison, once labelled as the future of English football, was playing his football in the Dutch Eredivisie for ADO Den Haag?
The historic 115 year-old club based in The Hague in the south of the Netherlands, who last season had Alan Pardew as their manager, signed the ex-Manchester United academy star on a one-year deal in September, after he had been released by Sheffield United. Since winning promotion back to the Eredivisie in 2008, Den Haag have been perennial mid-table finishers until the previous campaign, when they were one place from the foot of the table in 17th and only saved a dramatic relegation fight due to the season being cancelled because of Covid-19. The signing of Morrison was designed to inject the creative flair they had been missing.
On arrival Morrison stated, “I hope to be able to make a lot of playing minutes here…football is really my passion. I would also like to show that to the fans.” The Technical Director of Den Haag, ex-Tottenham Hotspur coach Martin Jol, was unrestrained in his optimism, saying, “We are convinced that with his great talent he can not only help our club, but also help himself to get ahead again.”
Less than four months later, Den Haag and Morrison terminated the contract by mutual consent.
The creative midfielder had played just five times, including two starts, without a single goal or assist. It marks the end of yet another fleeting stay for a player who turns 28 this year and has now appeared for 11 different clubs without reaching 30 appearances for any of them.
At the start of his career, Sir Alex Ferguson is believed to have rated Morrison above Paul Pogba in the United side that won the 2011 FA Youth Cup and that he could potentially be better than Ryan Giggs. And there was a period, in the 2012/13 season, when he looked like fulfilling this potential at West Ham United, with one solo strike against Spurs in particular leaving a real impact.
This latest disappointment however has barely left a ripple. In fact, for many his move to the Netherlands was barely spotted in the first place. The official statement from Den Haag on his departure was cryptic, “The roads of ADO Den Haag and Ravel Morrison will separate immediately.”
So what were the actual reasons for Ravel Morrison’s Dutch adventure with the club falling apart so quickly?
The first thing to establish is that it has nothing to do with any misdemeanours or bad behaviour from Morrison. A common theme of a career to date that has also taken in Lazio, Atlas in Mexico and Ostersund in Sweden has been of immense talent unfulfilled and undermined by a lack of commitment and a questionable attitude. It has become a popular stick to hit Morrison with by the media and ex-players. However, the ADO Den Haag chief executive Mohammed Hamdi praised Morrison’s attitude in an interview discussing his release, placing on record that the player had been very respectful, had done his best to adapt and that it was nothing personal. There is no doubt a lack of application is a big reason for Morrison’s problems in the past but it is an accusation that cannot be aimed at him on this occasion.
Secondly, whilst you have to admire Morrison’s desire to kickstart his career abroad, the move to the Cars Jeans Stadium was arguably a case of the right player at the wrong time. Den Haag again find themselves in a relegation fight, with just two wins from 17 games and the third worst defence at time of writing. This has led to the adoption of far more defensive tactics in an attempt to stem the flow of goals and build a platform upon which they can pull themselves towards safety. Like many forward-thinking midfielders, the best hope Morrison had of adding value was with the ball, not just chasing it. With the second-worst goal-tally, one would think Den Haag needed his attacking input but quite simply the man who received his first international cap for Jamaica last year did not fit into the Dutch side’s rigid conservative set-up.
Quite often struggling teams will play the desperation card of bringing in a new Manager, in the hope it will provide a magical upturn in results. This can be to the detriment of a recent signing brought in by the former manager though and is what occurred for Morrison. Initially signed with Aleksandar Rankovic at the helm, the Serbian soon lost his position in November to former PSV Assistant Manager and seasoned Eredivisie ex-player Ruud Brood. Despite only having one won league game since arriving, for whatever reason Brood continued to overlook Morrison, with him making just two cameo substitute appearances and spending more matches out of the squad than in it. The previously mentioned chief executive Mohammed Hamdi stated in the same interview that Morrison technically didn’t offer Brood what he wanted for the style of play he was keen to introduce. Sometimes a player just doesn’t align with a new Manager’s plans and that was clearly the case for Morrison.
Furthermore, what may have contributed towards Morrison’s isolation was the fact the two-time league champions are going through a phase of remodelling their squad. They have had a huge 16 players arrive since the end of last season, excluding those returning from loans, with even more departing. That is a huge turnover and not an ideal environment for a foreign player looking to finally get some regular game time. Some of their more recent acquisitions also show a move to signing experience with plenty of games under their belt – such as 34-year-old centre half Gianni Zuiverloon, 30-year-old central midfielder Marko Vejinović and 31-year-old full back Daryl Janmaat. Despite being at an age when he should be coming into his prime, Morrison simply doesn’t have the seasoned match experience that Den Haag are currently looking for.
The final factor to consider is one that should be viewed as a positive – Morrison simply wants to be playing football and asked to leave in order to be able to hopefully do so elsewhere. His initial willingness to move to the Eredivisie to join a struggling side was motivated by a desire to start playing week-in, week-out. Evidently he wasn’t going to get it in The Hague and doesn’t want to spend the rest of the season kicking his heels on the bench or at home. It has been reported that it was the player who came to the club after Christmas to request that the deal be ended, with Den Haag reluctantly accepting. When a player wants to leave in order to get more time on the pitch, it is difficult for a club to stand in his or her way.
The ending of the short-lived link-up between Morrison and ADO Den Haag is a disappointing one, for the player and club. The former hasn’t been able to kick-on as he would have wanted, whilst Den Haag have lost someone who may have been able to deliver the attacking spark and ingenuity they need to pull away from the relegation zone.
Ultimately, rather than a case of a relationship quickly unravelling, it perhaps simply was a match that wasn’t right from the very beginning.
Lead photo credit: tuttocamp.it