News broke earlier this week that a second bid for Manchester United starlet Ravel Morrison had been snubbed, leaving us to wonder whether or not Toon officials would put together yet another improved offer for the wantaway midfielder.
Most of us hadn’t heard of Morrison before rumours of our supposed interest surfaced, though from an earlier article posted by Toonsy, he looks like a prospect in the middle of the park, one who is going to find first team playing time with the current Champions severely limited.
I am not going to attempt to measure Morrison’s ability or potential – that is a job for Graham Carr. What did get me thinking though was the consistent use of the term ‘problem player’ that seemed to be tacked on to the end of every article regarding Morrison’s potential transfer. Rightfully so, it would seem. A past that includes a 12-month referral order for being found guilty of witness intimidation, as well as numerous fines for repeatedly refusing to train would be more than enough to put most clubs off. But Newcastle United is not most clubs.
Much has been made of the pros and cons of Mike Ashley’s transfer policy recently, but is the active pursuit of so called problem players really a part of that policy? If so, which category does it fall under – pro or con?
Cast your mind back to July of 2010 when reports of Newcastle’s interest in French whiz kid Hatem Ben Arfa first began to drift over from across the channel. Granted, Benny had already started to make a name for himself with his Ligue 1 and brief Champions League exploits, but the circumstances surrounding his surprising move to Tyneside were not too dissimilar to the situation we find ourselves in with Ravel Morrison – an unhappy player with clear talent, but a questionable attitude.
Even the signing of Davide Santon was considered a risk in some footballing circles. While Santon had been dubbed ‘the next Maldini’ by one Jose Mourinho, the same manager reportedly tore the full back’s early confidence to shreds with an unforgiving critique of a poor performance during his time at Inter. The young Italian was said to have fled the San Siro in tears.
What some would call a ‘fall from grace’ was to follow for Davide, and many questioned whether or not he had the stomach for life at the top level of the sport. If his start to life at Newcastle is anything to go by, clearly he does. Sitting out the opening weeks of the season with a troublesome knee injury didn’t stop the lad from forcing his way into a new team, in a new league and country.
We singled these players out for their talent, and talented players they undoubtedly are. That said, there are players of a similar ability out there. What truly set Ben Arfa, Santon, and now Morrison apart was their price tags.
For whatever reason, the attitudes of these players have been questioned by their respective managers. As a result, they’ve become unhappy with their clubs and fallen out of favour, with their asking prices soon falling with them. With our new stringent approach to spending, this works out quite nicely for us – we bring the player in for a reasonable fee and allow them to realise their potential with the backing of the Toon Army.
It’s certainly a gamble, one that will not always pay off (as one Nile Ranger seems intent on proving) but if it does work out and we bring out the best in a player others had given up one, it puts us in a great position. Or, it puts Mike Ashley in a great position.
I have to say, I like this approach to transfers. Low cost risks that could end in us having a real player on our hands are risks worth taking in my book. The question is; are we finding a new home for these kids, or are we simply fostering them?
The pro of this apparent strategy is obvious – we get class for peanuts. The con however (as far as us fans are concerned) is the very real possibility that the players will be sold once their full potential is reached and we are forced to watch them spend their best years elsewhere.
Are we building the Newcastle United of the future, or merely laying foundations for others?