Jamie Morrison interview

Last updated : 05 December 2008 By Chris Evans

James Morrison developed through the much heralded Middlesbrough youth academy and was part of the successful brood that clinched the FA Youth Cup in 2004. He played a starring role in the cup run, and scored one of the goals in the two-legged final victory against Aston Villa.

"I believe that Middlesbrough is the best youth set-up at the moment": says the 22 year-old midfielder. "Just because of the fact that more young players have come through recently. Other teams are catching up on them though by building bigger academies."

He was given his club debut by then Boro manager Steve McClaren in January 2004 - coming on as a substitute in an F.A. Cup tie against Notts County - and made his Premier League debut on the final day of the same season. Morrison sees both McClaren's and current boss Gareth Southgate's refusal to be afraid to give youth a chance as a key reason behind the academy's recent success.

"It is very difficult because there is so much pressure on staying in the Premier League. It's a big gamble to use young players, and it's easy to buy instead. Middlesbrough have a lot of good coaches, and a manager who is not scared to blood the youngsters."

Why is he no longer at Boro?

Following his breakthrough, Morrison was an active member of the Middlesbrough first team squad, and played a part in the club's historic run to the UEFA Cup Final in 2005. However, despite making 97 appearances for the club, he struggled to hold down a regular starting berth in the side and moved to West Brom for an initial £1.5 million in August 2007.

Born and grown up in nearby Darlington, the move to Birmingham was a potentially difficult decision for Morrison: "It was very hard to leave Middlesbrough because it was home, and I was with my family and friends.

"But it was for the best and now I think I'm a better player for having moved and playing regular football."

I thought you said he was born in Darlington, yet isn't he a Scotland international?

Ironically Morrison represented England at every level apart from the senior side, yet made the switch to Scotland in 2007 after being identified along with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Steve Howard as one of three Premiership players eligible to play for the Tartan Army.

"I always knew I could play for Scotland as my Grandad was Scottish. I was very close to him, so I'm glad I made the decision to play for them and make him a happy man."

He was selected in the squad for the friendly against South Africa in the summer of 2007, but was unable to make his debut because of injury. His maiden appearance finally came in May this year, when he lined up to face Czech Republic in Prague, but Morrison has no qualms about his decision.

"I have no regrets as I think it would have taken me a long time to play for England, and at a young age to play international football is very good."

Where does he see his career going from here?

Short term Morrison's targets remain solely focussed on West Brom, but in the future he has set his sights a lot higher. "Staying up is the main aim and I hope we can do that.

"But I think we can get a mid-table finish. My long term goal though is to play for a top four club."