11/12 Review: 5. Steve Morison
There can be few, if any, Norwich City players who have divided opinion amongst supporters quite as much as Steve Morison.
Whilst most, like me, regard his contribution to the club’s Premier League survival as crucial there are others, like the bloke who sits two rows behind me in the City Stand, who seem convinced that he is, to use the striker’s own words, ‘the worst player ever to wear the shirt’. Quite what has caused this huge discrepancy is difficult to fathom.
On the face of it his record of 9 Premier League goals in 34 appearances (12 as a substitute) looks pretty respectable for a player experiencing his first taste of the top flight at the age of twenty-seven, having risen from the non-league ranks in just a few short years. Why, then, was he subjected to considerable criticism, bordering on abuse in some cases, not only from sections of the Carrow Road crowd but also week in, week out on BBC Radio Norfolk’s post match ‘Canary Call’ phone-ins?
There might be several factors to consider here. In the early stages of the season his selection often resulted in the exclusion of fans’ favourite, Grant Holt. Even when Morison was enjoying arguably his best run of form in the first half of the campaign, then, there was a perhaps sub-conscious resentment amongst some supporters that his presence was depriving Holt of opportunity. They may not have recognised, as Paul Lambert obviously did, that in the early weeks Holt himself was far from his best – as often happens. Secondly I think Morison was, to some extent, a victim of his own success. 8 league goals between the last week of September and the middle of January, plus one in the FA Cup, established him as fairly prolific amongst those netting for all but the top few clubs. In many games, he led the line superbly, including a performance against Swansea at home that was so good it had Lambert waxing lyrical to the press. It was highly unlikely that he would maintain such form and indeed, for whatever reasons, his level of performance definitely dipped in the latter half of the season. There was apparently a persistent ankle injury which he carried for several weeks and whether or not rumours of off-field unhappiness were true he did not look himself, or that happy. More pertinent, surely, is the fact that having played the lone striker role with all its required running for several months, he was simply tired.
As Morison faded slightly, Holt was thriving and some supporters were quick to point out the differences between the two. Their talisman is a demonstrably dynamic footballer, a chaser of lost causes, a harrier and a warrior. The altogether different Morison is quieter, less obviously energetic and does not waste his effort when, in his judgement, a run is not worth making. However, intelligent observers are well aware that no two players are the same, that form comes and goes, that the long, hard season makes demands on a squad which, if they are to be met successfully, require exactly the sort of rotation of selection which Paul Lambert employed with his strikers; pick the man in form.
Morison’s goals in his fruitful spell went a long way towards securing Norwich City’s survival in the league, and that seems to be the fact most readily forgotten by the knockers. Perhaps also some don’t recognise just how difficult it is to play the lone front role. I think, too, the shy Londoner is unfairly judged by some simply because he does not seek the limelight. He does not use Twitter to engage with the world as some players do, he rarely gives interviews and when he does they are measured and thoughtful but perhaps lacking a brashness which some observers value. Which is why it was somewhat surprising when, following his stunning late equaliser at The Emirates, he chose to speak out about the abuse he had received in the previous few weeks. That interview, and an apparent outburst at a critic who had inappropriately harangued him post-match in The Gunn Club some weeks previously, told us everything we need to know about Steve Morison’s character. He had been hurting. He clearly does care. He does feel it when he is on the wrong end of negative criticism. And how can anybody who recognises that and yet insists on giving abuse call himself a supporter of their club?
Steve Morison is still an inexperienced footballer. What he has achieved in recent years is remarkable. I hope that as he gains further experience, both for City and on the international stage, the scars inflicted by a minority of City fans this season will quickly heal and that he will go on to become a player whom we can all appreciate.
One of my favourite games of the season at Carrow Road was when, in early December, our two big men proved that they can play together and combined most effectively to put Newcastle well and truly to the sword. Next season I would love to witness more of the same, though that, of course, might depend upon all sorts of things……
well said. Late match winning goals at QPR and WBA…brilliant strike against Blackburn, two great goals against Arsenal, so glad he finished the season on a memorable high.
Steve Morison played his part in the season.
Good write-up. Funny, isn’t it, how Norwich fans always seem to have to identify a villain in the squad towards whom wrath is aimed. Morison, as the nominative second striker, scored 9 goals in the Premier League. This is more than the top-scorers netted at most of the teams below us in the league, and more than the second highest scorers at Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, West Brom and Swansea, who all finished above us.
Comparing him directly with the other big name Championship strikers signed in the summer:
Danny Graham cost a reported £3.5 million and scored 12 goals in 32 starts (£0.29 million per goal, 0.375 goals per start; he also made 2 assists)
Shane Long cost a reported £4.5 million and scored 8 goals in 24 (£0.56 million per goal, 0.333 goals per start; and made 1 assist)
Morison cost a reported £2 million and scored 9 goals in 22 (£0.22 million per goal, 0.409 per start; and made 4 assists)
Both Graham and Long were on many city fans’ shopping lists before the start of the season. But going by these stats, we got a much better player for our money. Yes, stats aren’t everything; Morison sometimes looked lackadaisical on the pitch and went through a poor run of form at one stage. But for goodness’ sake.