As we reflect on what is our worst start to a season since 2005, let me take you away from chomping your nails at the inevitable goal(s) Stephane Sessegnon will score against us for West Brom this weekend. Signed as part of Roy Keane’s raid of the former Manchester United players dustbin, Baggies saviour Kieran Richardson cost us a hefty £5.5 million price tag in 2007 and god knows how much in wages. Did he ever repay that? Well, maybe just about…ish.
Richardson’s early days at Manchester United turned a few heads wondering whether or not this kid was good enough to play for England. Evidently, he was, turning out eight times and scoring a brace on his debut against that tiny country Jozy was born in. Those caps all came on the back of a glittering dozen of games in the West Midlands where, almost single-handedly, Richardson dragged West Brom from certain doom to Premier League survival.
Let’s just grab a bit of perspective though, Sir Alex Ferguson sold him – how many brilliant, young English players did Fergie sell? None. Anyway, we signed a right prat. Rico’s early career on field antics did not endear him anywhere. He was definitely one of those players that really annoyed you even if you just looked at him. That was probably the most impressive thing about his time on Wearside – allow me to explain.
I’d be lying if I said Richardson ever looked like the player he may have once had the potential to be – or anywhere near the player he believed himself to be. Especially for the first two or three seasons, he was so error-prone it became beyond frustrating. There were those really irritating moments where as soon as he received the ball, regardless of whether he could play someone through for a one v one or was 40 yards out – he would just put his laces through the ball and catch someone sitting in row Z’s face. He was never especially gifted technically, however enough so to cause big problems playing just behind the striker. An all too rare occasion, particularly after Steve Bruce wrecked any hope he had of ever reaching his early promise.
Yup, Brucey loved the old square peg round hole malarkey. Ah! We’ve got no left back, quick let’s take an attacking midfielder and stick him there! It was, at first, a rather painful transition to watch – but it really was then on you saw Rico transform into (sorry for the cliché) a man.
Suddenly, a defensive side to his brain clicked and you found wingers just pile into his pockets. It was never flashy and certainly not flawless but I for one found a lot of comfort in seeing his name on the team sheet. This development was not just as a footballer, but as a bloke too as he declared himself a born again Christian – donning an ‘I belong to Jesus’ shirt after scoring against Wolves in 2011.
I also still smile at that incredible free kick against Fulham which hit the post three times. Of course, the outstanding footballing legacy Richardson left us with was that free-kick. That bullet. That rocket. That stick of dynamite shoved up a Geordie’s rear end – scenes! His free-kicks earned him an amusing piece claiming he could replace Cristiano Ronaldo as the best free-kick taker in the league. Hmm.
For me though, and call me a soft sentimental fart who sits and watches Love Actually on a loop (I don’t, I hate that film), the lasting memory is that transformation from a blundering, Man Utd reject prat who joined us to composed and humble Christian which left us. You don’t get to see that kind of thing as a football fan, not in this day and age anyways. Kieran, I tip my metaphorical hat to you.
Anyone else liked this guy?