Virtual FAH: Lionel Morgan

Most of us have wasted endless hours pressing the ‘continue’ button on Football Manager and previously Championship Manager, but what happened to your Tonton Zola Moukokos and your Cherno Sambas? This series looks at the virtual heroes of yesteryear, starting with Wimbledon’s wing wizard Lionel Morgan…

Who can play on the left side of midfield? That was the predicament surrounding the England national team in the noughties, as the so-called ‘golden generation’ passed without worrying the world’s quality sides too much.

Just about every option was tried – from right footed square pegs like Nick Barmby and Trevor Sinclair to naturally left sided players like Alan Thompson and Kieran Richardson who just weren’t cut out for international football. Joe Cole filled the role most effectively, but had one Championship Manager personality fulfilled his virtual potential, perhaps things could have been a lot different.

In Championship Manager 03/04, Wimbledon were on their last legs. Though still in the second tier of the English game, financial problems were beginning to engulf the Crazy Gang institution. With administration around the corner, managers were able to pick up the Dons’ star players for a pittance. Nigel Reo-Coker and Jobi McAnuff would happily leave the club’s new home in Milton Keynes for pastures new – but Lionel Morgan was the big attraction.

With a plethora of pace and natural athleticism, Morgan, in the game, was a tricky winger who developed into a world class one – and a snip at around £250,000 in the first season.

But while his in-game progress was almost guaranteed, Morgan’s footballing career, in reality, did not soar so highly. Signing on professional terms for the club in 2000, he made only 33 appearances in an injury-crammed four year career. Indeed after just four games for the Dons first team, Morgan broke his ankle – a sign of things to come.

Despite his fitness troubles, Premier League clubs were still sniffing around the England under-20 international. Tottenham offered £750,000 for Morgan but Wimbledon turned it down, believing Morgan was worth much more to them. Indeed he proved to be one of few shining lights in the twilight of the club, helping them to the brink of the play-offs in the 2001/02 season – before damaging his cruciate ligament two months before the end of the campaign.

Morgan returned seven months later, but was ruled out again through knee cartilage troubles soon after. The 2002/03 season was almost a write off for Morgan but, with the Dons going into administration that summer, Spurs took advantage by attempting to pick up Morgan for a reduced fee of £400,000. Personal terms were agreed but with Morgan set to sign, he failed the medical at White Hart Lane.

Boss Glenn Hoddle said as soon as the winger could prove his fitness though, the deal would go through. However Morgan could never do that. At the end of the 2003/04 season, he was released and has not played since. He now runs ‘Infinite Sports Management’ with the previously mentioned McAnuff, and seemingly runs the show at a lower level.

Sports Interactive’s games are often a useful indicator of talent in real life, with David Moyes at Everton among those finding its database useful. However sometimes the database doesn’t accurately mirror some traits – if it did then virtual Morgan would not have been helping England to World Cup and European Championship wins in the mid-noughties. He’d have been on the operating table instead.

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