Sheffield United: The sheer depth of research The Blades undertook on Ravel Morrison is revealed

His research, it seems, involved a little more than collecting character references. Or watching how the individual in question interacted with his prospective team mates during their pre-season training camp in Portugal.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 14:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th July 2019, 15:02 pm
Sheffield United are heading for the Premier League: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

When Chris Wilder decided to offer Ravel Morrison a contract, it emerged Sheffield United had analysed playing surfaces in Sweden, where the midfielder had just completed a four month spell with Ostersund, as well.

"Ravel, as everyone knows, has got a little bit of a heel problem," Wilder said, referring to the injury which forced him to miss United's friendlies against Real Betis and Burton Albion. "It's nothing serious and over there, in Scandinavia, they do a lot of work on artificial pitches. That's probably why he's feeling a little bit sore there."

After agreeing a one year deal earlier this week following their return from Europe, Morrison could make his first appearance as a United-player-proper when Wilder's squad visit Northampton Town on Saturday afternoon. The excitement surrounding his involvement - a final decision will be taken tomorrow - speaks volumes about the player's talent. But, given the narrative surrounding long chapters of his career, there is also a curious fascination about how, following a series of well-documented issues away from the game, Morrison will perform under a manager known for his dislike of high-maintenance footballers.

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Wilder, the person best placed to make such a judgement, has no concerns. Indeed, after acknowledging he had canvassed opinion among former coaches and team mates, the United manager explained he delves into the backgrounds of all potential signings.

"He (Morrison) has been brilliant around the place," Wilder continued. "And to be honest, with what people told us, that's exactly how we thought it would be.

"With how he came here in the first place, that was a box ticked for me. Ever since he's been working with us, Rav has thrown himself right into it. He's worked ever so hard and that tells you, as far as I'm concerned anyway, a lot about his desire to do well here."

Morrison, aged 26, joined United on trial earlier this summer after leaving the Jämtkraft Arena where he scored once in nine appearances. But the former England under-21 international has been recruited to create chances, not take them. And on the evidence of what he has seen so far, the talents which once saw Morrison described as the most gifted young player of his generation have not disappeared. They simply, Wilder suspects pointing to some recent examples, need harnessing.

Ravel Morrison has joined Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"Sometimes, you just find a home," he said. "That's what you need. For one reason or another, things don't work out and then suddenly you arrive somewhere and it just clicks back into place.

"Look at Didzy (David McGoldrick) when he came here. He didn't have a club, has just been let go by Ipswich, but he was brilliant for us last season and a major part of us doing what we did. Olly (Oliver Norwood) hadn't been playing at his (parent) club (Brighton), came here and again, look what happened."

"Some of things we've seen him do in training, well, you just stand there and smile," Wilder continued. "There's never been any questions about the lad's ability. None.

"He's a really intelligent footballer, you can see that with the things he does, the things he sees and the positions he takes up."

Ravel Morrison and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Both McGoldrick and Norwood emerged as driving forces behind United's promotion from the Championship after moving to South Yorkshire last summer. Morrison's job, although Wilder is convinced most of last season's side can make the step up, is to help establish themselves at the highest level.

After progressing through Manchester United's youth system - and helping them beat his new club in 2011's FA Youth Cup final - Morrison was sold to West Ham after Sir Alex Ferguson told them they were acquiring "a brilliant footballer" but one in need of a fresh start away from the North West. A number of disciplinary matters, including being convicted of witness intimidation and criminal damage - had begun to take their toll. Following spells on loan with Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff City, Morrison headed for Lazio, where he completed temporary spells with Atlas and another at Loftus Road. United swooped after being alerted to his availability after leaving Ostersund.

Despite brushing off concerns about Morrison's fitness, Wilder is keen to see him play as quickly as possible. If this weekend's fixture comes too early then, barring any unforeseen complications, Morrison will be pitched into action at Chesterfield on Tuesday.

"No one has been more frustrated than Ravel," Wilder said. "Because he just wants to get out there, up and running. He's been working himself so hard and, because we play slightly differently, you want the new lads to be involved as much as possible at this stage.

Ravel Morrison could feature at Northampton Town this weekend: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"But we're not putting any pressure on him. We just want him to enjoy being with us, the same as everyone else, because that's when players are at their best."