Sam Allardyce described Ravel Morrison as a "genius" after his jaw-dropping solo goal set the seal on West Ham United's 3-0 win at Tottenham. The midfielder burst through from the halfway line, with his team already 2-0 up, to beat two defenders, draw the goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and dink the ball beyond him. Spurs had previously conceded only two goals in 11 matches this season.
It was a derby day that had been framed by the determination of both clubs and the authorities to avoid any repeat of the antisemitic abuse from the visiting fans that had marred the fixture last season. There had been the pre-match warning from the Metropolitan police that any use of the term "Yid" could see its officers make arrests.
The Tottenham support, who regularly refer to themselves and their players as such, ignored the warning and used the term on several occasions. West Ham fans, tongues in their cheeks, called them "racists". The visiting support trod a fine line when a small number of them chanted, "We won't say his name, he's coming for you." Some of them had caused outrage last season by chanting that Adolf Hilter was coming for the Spurs fans. They then sang, "Same old West Ham, taking the piss."
The Met made one arrest, that of a Spurs fan for allegedly using "Yid" in a chant. He was held on suspicion of committing a section 5 public order offence at half-time in the East stand. But it was Morrison, a former Manchester United player, who demanded the headlines.
"It's the genius of Ravel Morrison, that is a genius goal for me and you will struggle to see a better goal this season," said Allardyce, the West Ham manager. "He picks the ball up in his own half and heads directly to [Jan] Vertonghen and [Michael] Dawson and slips them two like they weren't there and waits for the goalkeeper to go down. It's a great day for us because in the second half we played extremely well."
Allardyce described how Sir Alex Ferguson, the former United manager, had told him that he would have a superstar player if he could iron out Morrison's indiscipline. The 20-year-old, who joined West Ham from United in January 2012, spent last season on loan at Birmingham. Allardyce said that Ferguson had felt Morrison had "to get away from Manchester", although he did not enlarge on the reasons for that.
Allardyce added: "Ferguson said, 'I hope you can sort him out because, if you can, he'll be a genius. He's a brilliant footballer, he has top-class ability. He needs to get away from Manchester and start a new life.'
"It looks like it's paid off for us. He [Ferguson] has let Ravel go for Ravel's benefit because he couldn't see it happening at Man United. It was: 'Get him down there and see if you can get the best out of himbecause you'll have a great player on your hands.'"
"As we say in the football fraternity, the penny has dropped with him. It has dropped in lifestyle and attitude and his time-keeping, and all of a sudden, there is a belief that he doesn't want to do anything other than break into our first-team. I think that 12-month spell at Birmingham gave him time to reflect on what it takes to be a player on a week-in-and-out basis."
The West Ham captain Kevin Nolan said: "Ravel Morrison has been fantastic. Last year we had a lot of problems with him ... his lifestyle off the pitch, but he went to Birmingham and worked hard. You are now starting to see the player that Manchester United saw when he was younger."
Allardyce used a novel formation without strikers. "The first thing you do is listen to the complaints [from the players] ... 'What's he trying to do again? Who has dreamed this one up?' It was a big risk but we practised it for three good days. I said to them it would give us the licence to play counter-attacking football. The fans at Tottenham thought it was going to be a nice, easy-breeze today but the Premier League will tell you that if you think like that, you are going to get your backside kicked. They got their backside kicked today."
André Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, said: "It's a wake-up call. We have to react but we can't let it undermine what we have been doing up to now."