Warning: Story contains coarse language
Marvin Morgan is a nice guy, but he made a mistake. The then-Aldershot striker was booed by his own fans when he was substituted during a home defeat to Hereford in early 2011, and took to Twitter after the League Two fixture to express his frustration. He reportedly wrote: “Like to thank the fans who booed me off the pitch. Where’s that going to get you! I hope you all die.”
His days at Aldershot were numbered, he was hounded on social media, and, in what was perhaps the hardest part for Morgan to cope with, his nan called to ask what he’d done. It still rankles Morgan that his brash comments from the past still resurface to this day, rather than his achievements in the game. He admits to being “young and dumb,” but noted that it’s not rare to encounter a player in trouble.
“There’s always a footballer out there that’s done something wrong, and it’s just because they’re mentally bored,” Morgan told theScore. “They’re looking for excitement.
“You can see some footballers are alcoholics, gamblers; there are so many footballers that get up to absolute nonsense, and that’s not because they’re bad people. It’s because they’re mentally bored. They don’t know what to do with their time.”
By then, Morgan was already finding a distraction to whittle away his spare hours, and that was to build his own clothing line. Many teammates laughed when he announced his ambition on the coach heading to a match at Accrington Stanley, but now Morgan can boast Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli, and WBA and IBF heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua as wearers of his Fresh Ego Kid products.
‘He only cares about Fresh Ego Kid’
Morgan’s initial motivation was boredom: he was “sick of buying clothes” and found the footballing lifestyle quickly fell below expectations. While toiling in non-league football with Wealdstone, Yeading, and Woking, his image of the professional game was the glitzy Premier League, but in reality the fourth tier was very different.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
“It’s not that kind of lifestyle in League Two, it’s a rude awakening,” Morgan said. “You’re basically done (training) between 1 and 2 p.m., so then you’ve got the whole day to figure out what you’re going to do.”
He was 25 when he earned his first professional contract, and it wasn’t long until he delved into the world of fashion. It was in his blood through his nan being one of the leading dressmakers in Jamaica before she moved to Manchester, and through his father, who made what Morgan describes as “reggae industry clothing” under the handle of Uzi. He also held a raft of jobs during his non-league days – from being a youth worker to tending bars and labouring – so wasn’t scared of the hard work.
Unfortunately for Morgan, having a business interest outside sport proved detrimental to his day job.
“The minute I started Fresh Ego Kid, my career went downhill, that is the honest truth,” he explained.
“It was kind of ‘what are you doing?’ It wasn’t in peoples’ heads that you could have a business and play football. Also, on top of that, fans would be very, very annoyed if I didn’t play well on the weekend.
“If I didn’t have a good game, missed an easy chance, or it generally wasn’t going well for me – ‘ah, he doesn’t care about football no more. He only cares about Fresh Ego Kid.'”
Getting stabbed in the back
Morgan joined Shrewsbury Town a few months after the Twitter controversy at Aldershot, and is thankful for the support he received from the club in his business endeavours. Veteran manager Graham Turner was respectful about an interest that could help support him after a career in the lower leagues, midfielder Nicky Wroe was the first to submit an order with Fresh Ego Kid (for a baseball cap), and the local paper ran an interview on the clothing line accompanied by a photoshoot with Shrewsbury colleagues.
(Photo courtesy: Shropshire Star)
In Morgan’s first season, Shrewsbury booked a return to the third tier after a 15-year absence, and was a bustling presence and vital focal point in the team’s attack. The following season, he attracted attention from Sheffield United after giving future English international Harry Maguire the toughest test of his young career at Bramall Lane. This, along with the growing stature of Fresh Ego Kid – it was being worn by X Factor runners-up JLS after they spotted one of their dancers wearing Morgan’s brand – made for what Morgan believes is the finest period in football.
But then the football-versus-business conundrum reared its head. Morgan was suspicious when weeks passed after he verbally agreed to a “great contract” with Sheffield United in the summer of 2013. Morgan eventually called the club’s head of football operations, John Stephenson, to find the reasons behind the delay.
“‘Basically, someone stuck the knife in and told me not to sign you,'” Morgan recalled Stephenson telling him. “I was like ‘what?’
“‘Basically, look, the words were you don’t care about football and you only focus on your business.'”
Morgan never found out who ruined what would’ve been his biggest move.
‘Time to focus on Fresh Ego Kid’
Licking his wounds after the failed transfer, Morgan switched Shrewsbury for Plymouth Argyle. He struggled for goalscoring form in Devon, but when he collapsed in training in April 2014 it gave him a new outlook on life. Unbeknownst to Morgan, he had suffered a seizure overnight and woke exhausted. He reported for training, and after a check-over took to the field. The next thing he knew, he was in an ambulance hurtling to Derriford Hospital, and was later thanking the club’s physio Paul Atkinson and others for “saving my life.”
“I didn’t want to push my body to its limit, and then I could have a seizure if I fell asleep or something like that,” he told theScore. “It made me realise it’s time to focus on Fresh Ego Kid.”
You suspect the way things are heading, Morgan’s uncharacteristic tweet from over seven years ago will soon be consigned to Google’s later pages, making room for stories on his business. He speaks with an openness and great enthusiasm, especially when stating that without the help of partners Jon Reuben and Joel Mannix, his girlfriend, and close friends, Fresh Ego Kid wouldn’t be developing at such a swift rate. His football career – he has bounced around non-league clubs since leaving Plymouth – has taken a backseat.
A commercial partnership with headwear giant New Era promises to extend the company’s outreach to North America, after being donned by grime artists, Cruz Beckham, and many sporting names in the UK. Morgan attributes some of his success to simply being the kind of personality people want to back.
“Nobody really wants to support a wanker, and that’s the thing about it,” he said. “If you’re arrogant, no one wants a part of that. If you come across as a nice person – especially as a footballer, some footballers are just idiots – it goes a long way.”