COMMENT: Just stay. If a contract is put in front of you, don’t hesitate. Just sign it. That has to be the advice to Ravel Morrison at Ostersunds this week.
At the time of writing, it appears over. Ian Burchnall, Ostersunds’ English coach, conceding their January signing, with his deal up at the end of the month, would be leaving.
“I do not think it is likely that there will be anything more after this,” admitted Burchnall, before explaining why the split now appears likely.
“He has had bad luck with injuries. Against Elfsborg he was fantastic, against Eskilstuna he was also there, before he was injured. It has been very tough for him.
“He came here to play and get fit again.”
Indeed, barely a half dozen Allsvenskan appearances wasn’t what was planned when Morrison and David Webb, OFK’s sports director, came to an agreement in January. As Burchnall says, the move to Sweden was to help Morrison find some playing rhythm and match fitness. But injuries – including some dental problems – have worked against the now 26 year-old.
For Burchnall, the pessimism comes as a surprise. Before starting Morrison for the Norrlandsderby against GIF Sundsvall last week, the manager had been more than upbeat over the prospect of working with the former Manchester United midfielder a little longer.
“There is no clear decision yet. We’ll talk to him about all this right now,” Burchnall insisted. “He (Morrison) thrives here and we like him. He has had a hard time with injuries. But he is one of several players with outgoing contracts that we are talking with.”
A couple of days later and a recalled Morrison was helping OFK draw that derby with GIF 1-1 – and handing Burchnall a little relief after a run of three consecutive defeats – all games missed by the Englishman.
Which is part reason why Morrison, if OFK offer to extend the deal, should take it. He owes Burchnall. He owes Webb. And for scouts. For watching managers. He needs to show he can put a run of games together.
The Allsvenskan is the ideal platform for Morrison to relaunch a career. A career that can still finish on the big stage. Indeed, OFK is the ideal platform. A club with a huge English influence. One with a recent history of selling players to the Premier League and Championship. And a team which has scouts from across Europe now regular attendees at games.
Ken Sema was sold to Watford. Saman Ghoddos left last year for Ligue 1Amiens. And at that Norrlandsderby, Leeds United had scouts posted to watch Morrison’s teammates Dino Islamovic and Hosam Aiesh. OFK is a shop window. A platform to bigger things. For a player of Morrison’s talent and – even at 26 – potential, there’s no reason why he couldn’t take advantage of this opportunity.
The money. The prestige. It will come. Islamovic, formerly of Fulham, is no mug. Aiesh has great potential also. But even by their own admission, OFK players have recognised Morrison is a cut above.
Tom Pettersson, OFK’s experienced centre-half, says of his English teammate: “When he has the ball he is a superstar. With the ball at his feet he is a level above us others.
“I’ve seen enough. His play with the feet and intelligence is clear.”
So it’s still all there. His teammates. The coaching staff. To a man. They all say he still has it in his locker. But there’s the qualifier. And it’s one Morrison must heed. He needs to put games together. He needs to find that rhythm and consistency. And just as important, he needs to show any watching manager he wants to settle down. Put down roots.
As a personality. A character. There’s never been a complaint from any manager he’s worked with. As Burchnall says: “He has come here and been humble, gone straight into the group, trained hard and I think that the way we play football combined with that there are Englishmen here makes it easy to settle.”
But Morrison knows. As done his management team. There’s also the perception. The past history. Those past claims by Harry Redknapp. But all that can be shut down by a year of good, consistent football in Sweden.
For now, if his minders are talking to clubs back home, Morrison is having to sell himself. On potential. On promise. On what could be. It’s a scramble. But it doesn’t have to be. The contrast between his situation now and what it could be after 18 months as an OFK player is like night and day. In a year’s time, they’ll be chasing him. He’ll have his pick. And that wish to repay his family. To change their lineage. It’ll no longer be a lost pipedream.
If the deal is offered, he has to sign it. OFK and Burchnall are Morrison’s best chance of proving us fans were right all along.