A worried Ravel Morrison once stood in the dock at Salford magistrates' court facing the real prospect of being sent to Strangeways prison.
After falling out with his girlfriend, he had thrown her phone out of the window, leading to the above scene. Already on a referral order for witness intimidation, the Manchester United starlet—seen as the most exciting product of the club's famed academy in many years—risked substituting fame and fortune for an altogether bleaker future.
He walked free, as a fine for criminal damage was imposed and a charge of assault dropped. Now, via Birmingham on loan, Morrison is preparing for life in the Premier League with West Ham. It has been a long time coming, but he could be worth the wait if he continues to knuckle down.
Fleet of foot and intelligent in his movement, he possesses characteristics that seem the antithesis of those heralded in most young English players today—that infuriating knack of valuing brawn over brains.
You could also argue that his easy-on-the-eye approach to the game is at odds with the directness of most of West Ham's play. However, Morrison is generating excitement at the club and could have a part to play this season.
He scored two goals in their preseason victory over Sporting Lisbon on Monday night, continuing his fine preparation for the coming campaign.
His goal for this season is to mature as a footballer. The early signs are good, and perhaps fleeing Manchester and the hangers-on that seemed to drag him down will allow him to flourish. Playing at Old Trafford, with the celebrity it entails, may have simply come too soon for Morrison.
He certainly struggled to stay out of the headlines while he was there, asking Rio Ferdinand on Twitter to confirm he hadn't pick-pocketed from the dressing room and calling an end-of-season awards ceremony “s***." Affording Morrison the medium of social networking is akin to prodding an angry bear with a stick and expecting it to behave—as his FA charge for using homophobic language in February 2012 testifies—but he is settling down. The headlines are now all about his football ability.
He started slowly upon joining Birmingham on loan in 2012, but his performance in their draw against Leicester that October hinted at what we can expect: intelligent passing—often too clever for his own team-mates—and a willingness to stay true to aesthetics in the hurly-burly combat of the Championship.
It seems strange to think that he is only 20. GIFs of him displaying his precocious talent in Manchester United's reserve matches have circulated on the Internet for years now, and everyone has an opinion on him, even Barcelona.
Camp Nou officials were well aware of Morrison's quality when his time at United was hurtling towards a premature conclusion back in 2011. Nothing materialised from their interest—but he has the ability, if given the chance, to be noticed again.