Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTime for Richards to prove himself - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Time for Richards to prove himself - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Time for Richards to prove himself

One man who can empathise with David Beckham’s surprising omission from the Team GB Olympic football squad which came in a display of sensible footballing logic by coach Stuart Pearce, is Micah Richards, who has seen his name inconspicuous by its absence from national selection too many times to count. He is however, included in the void vacated by the Beckham fanfare for this August’s unique jolly in London, partnered with a chance to finally remove the everlasting stigma that has annulled his natural progression into regular international footballer.

Richards’ seven year-long professional career has so far been somewhat synonymous with Stuart Pearce having made his Manchester City breakthrough when the former England left-back coached, and then later managed, at the club, and also having been made the England under-21 captain by the now Team GB coach.

It is an on-going relationship that has defied the distinct marginalisation of Richards by other managers involved in the national team. Despite establishing himself as a full international under Steve McClaren in making eleven appearances, successor Fabio Capello played him only once in four years, as a substitute against France in November 2010, despite continuous clamour for his inclusion. Roy Hodgson was the latest to sign up to the fictional Richards disapproval movement by overlooking his selection for his fast-tracked Euro 2012 squad, sandwiched between the two eras that saw no place for Richards, came just his 13th cap, the 2-3 February defeat to Netherlands at Wembley, played under the caretaking eye of, you guessed it, Stuart Pearce.

But here was a highly physical, dynamic defender who could power down the flank with force, see his performance against Russia at Wembley in the McClaren era for proof of that claim, and furthermore, he is a transient part of the Manchester City squad that has undergone the utmost of successful transitions from also-rans to Premier League winners, so why is he not treated with the same approval when elevated to the national set-up? Roy Hodgson had all of two weeks to piece together his squad to travel to Poland and Ukraine back in June, but Richards, despite coming off the back of two seasons that have garnered him FA Cup and Premier League winner medals, wasn’t amongst the 23.

He was offered a place amongst the stand-in contingent by Hodgson but subsequently dismissed it in the admittedly incorrect self-entitled belief that he should be selected ahead of the likes of the previously uncapped Martin Kelly or Liverpool’s Glen Johnson who had struggled for form at Liverpool, but now Richards has the chance to render all conjecture to the point of irrelevance and finally prove that he is international class after all. The Olympics for Richards, past all point of enthusiastic diplomacy, can be used as a platform to make himself the vital part of the set-up that he threatened to blossom into as one of the few shining lights of the McClaren years.

One of the accusations that Capello held against Richards was a penchant for rash positioning that came as a result of his constant desire to burst forward as an attacking full-back. His inept showing against Franck Ribery in Manchester City’s Champions League exposal last season was the embodiment of the high risk approach that entails Richards’ naivety and brashness. It was a feeling that club manager Roberto Mancini, in his true pragmatic roots, flirted with towards the end of last season as he preferred the more disciplined Pablo Zabaleta to the high pressure situation of the title race. Richards could be the victim of his own youthful ambition, to burst forward as the flying physical full-back despite the necessity to rigidly stay in position highlighted by Roy Hodgson’s heavily disciplined approach to this summer’s European Championships.


In the notable absence of Beckham, Richards can look to one of the other over-23 players named by Pearce in the squad, the captain, the evergreen Ryan Giggs, for inspiration of how to develop as both a player and a character after the Manchester United man underwent numerous transitions, most significantly that of roaming, free-flying left winger to clever, nimble central midfielder during his ultra-long career, together with the impressive self-discipline that has defined his longevity. It must have registered in Richards’ that continuous rejection has been the product of his refusal to acknowledge that a high-risk approach is of detriment to the team, so now is the time to change his game, something that a constantly rejuvenating Giggs knows even better than most of his exclusive group of peers.

There is a degree of familiarity for the 24 year old Richards here; taking part in an international tournament, again under the guidance of his father-like figure Stuart Pearce, but that was only relevant to the under-21 European Championships of 2009 in which Richards was entrusted to the armband. Here he will play the role of a mere squad player under the sage-like wisdom of elder-statesman Giggs, but more importantly, a senior squad player in a tournament that is primarily aimed at under 23s. It is time then, for Richards to grow up and realise the potential he was showing when he could qualify for this tournament legitimately and more importantly, for him to show the Richards disapproval movement, current leader Roy Hodgson, that they were wrong all along.