Why Ravel Morrison is not ready for England


Let’s not push our luck with the rookies. Representing England isn’t child’s play; even if a player fresh out of his Premier League nappies made it look that way this week.

Step over for step over, in-form Ravel Morrison is undoubtedly a more gifted all-round footballer than Andros Townsend. Two wonder goals in the space of a few days for West Ham and England Under-21s have therefore only served to strengthen the clamour for him to be the next fledgling star to be helicoptered in for Brazil 2014. 

I fear that would be a terrible mistake. 

Playing for your country on the biggest stage doesn’t just revolve around what you do with the ball at your feet. Discipline, intelligence, composure and most of all mental strength are also critical ingredients. 

The stakes don’t get any higher than at a World Cup. With millions assessing your every touch, dribble and pass back home, and billions watching around the world, the microscopic pressure can be all-consuming if you’re not prepared for it. 

Having done the hard yards on loan at Yeovil Town, Leyton Orient, MK Dons, Ipswich Town, Watford, Millwall, Leeds United, Birmingham City and QPR, Andre Villas-Boas and Hodgson know they’re working with a 22-year-old winger that’s as sound of mind, as he is fleet of foot. 

Tested in varying ways by a plethora of challenging experiences – including several disappointments - Townsend has come through the other side as a young footballer of great maturity. That cool-headed assurance and under-stated confidence exuded from his game during two near-perfect performances at Wembley. He’s ready. 

Is Ravel Morrison in that same mental place? Not even close. 

As balanced and brilliant as the Hammers whiz kid is on the ball, this is someone who’s still spent more time in police custody than he has in Premier League dressing rooms. 

Two years younger than Townsend, the ex-Manchester United prodigy – who effectively had to flee the city in 2011 to escape his troubled lifestyle – can still offer no guarantees when it comes to his temperament. 

He might be calmer than he was as a teenage, but at Portman Road on Tuesday night when cruising to victory against a poor Lithuanian Under-21 side, Morrison still foolishly shoved team-mate Wilfried Zaha in the face. The provocation? He’d been moaned at for holding onto the ball for too long. 

If the fast developing 20-year-old can lose control of his senses at such an inconsequential moment, how can we trust his reaction if an opponent (or team-mate) riles him on Brazilian soil? With the planet watching on (rather than a few thousand BT Sport viewers) the fall-out from a similar instance would be just horrendous; for him and for his country. 

Judged purely from a footballing perspective Morrison has the talent to shine at the World Cup Finals. However, at this stage of his development it’s a risk too far to expect his fragile character to withstand the psychological rigours of a major tournament. 

No matter what happens between now and the end of the season, no matter how many mesmerising dribbles he produces, no matter how many fans are screaming for Hodgson to select him - let’s not forget that Ravel Morrison is a player we should handle with care. 

Leaving him at home next summer will be in his, and England’s long term interest. 

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