Kieran Richardson left Manchester United in 2007 to join his former teammate Roy Keane at the Stadium of Light. The then Sunderland manager paid £5.5m for Greenwich-born midfielder’s services.
After a series of injuries the English international (with eight caps and two goals) started to make some progress under Keane, and scored some important Premier League goals for the Black Cats; becoming the main attacking threat in the Sunderland midfield.
What has happened to Richardson?
Two things really, firstly Andy Reid forced himself into the team with an amazing game against Norwich City in the League Cup and continued his fine form until his recent injury. With the left side of midfield role filled, Richardson has been shuffled around the team to fill in for injuries.
The second problem is that the incumbent manager Steve Bruce seems to think the Englishman is better suited to a left-back role.
"Kieran is a very talented footballer and it is to his detriment that I have used him in four or five positions because of the problems we've had," Bruce told The Sun last week.
"I think he prefers the centre of midfield but he played very well at left-back,” he continued. "For me that's his best position but he would never say that."
I just don’t see it, Richardson has enough about him that he is able to do a half-decent job on the left side of defence, but it’s nothing more than a stop gap solution. Trying to convince Richardson that he can be a full back under a manager who values defensive attributes is hollow.
It feels like the former Red Devil has taken a step backwards this season. He has gone from a first choice attacking midfielder to the team’s square peg. Richardson is a lot of things, but he isn’t a John O’Shea.
"I'd love to play in the hole, that would be ideal for me, but English clubs don’t play that system," Richardson told the Journal. "It’s only really foreign clubs who do that.
"If you’re in that position it gives you licence to roam which would be good for me, but in England we play a different style and it’s no good having someone wondering about in a free role.
"You play where you are told," he added.
Come the summer it might be best for all concerned if Richardson is allowed to move on. At 25, he still has time to establish himself as a starter for a decent Premier League side—or perhaps even further afield.
"Would I like to play abroad at some point? I’m open to any suggestion as a footballer but the Premier League is the best league in the world, it’s the place to be," he said.
"I wouldn’t say never, though, it would be foolish to rule it out because I don’t know what is going to happen in the future."
Whatever happens in the future, stifling him as a utility man at this moment isn’t fair, and with Reid’s injury he should have been given a run in midfield to state his case—he hasn’t been given a fair crack throughout the season.