‘How can I grumble?’ This is the situation with Micah Richards and Aston Villa
Micah Richards, the player who never plays.
Richards last made a competitive appearance for Aston Villa in October 2016 and is contracted to the club until the summer of 2019.
The 30-year-old defender is believed to earn around £35,000 per week at Villa Park.
Injuries have wrecked his chances of making a go of his claret and blue career.
Here’s a look at his time at Villa so far and what he future holds:
WHAT HE’S SAID
Richards took to Twitter to re-iterate that he gives “100% in everything I do”.
“Thanks for the nice words but I’m fully satisfied with how my career worked out,” Richards tweeted , in response to a Manchester City supporter.
“Injuries stopped me hitting more heights but how can I grumble at winning the Prem, playing in a different league and a tough mental challenge at Villa! I give 100% in everything I do! That’s enough.
“I appreciate the support! Sure has been a rollercoaster.”
WHAT THE BOSS SAYS
Dean Smith was asked about Richards when he succeeded Steve Bruce in the Villa hotseat in October 2018.
“Micah has trained with us but he’s not played for a long time so his fitness is not near to be in contention at all at the moment.
“We’ll see how his fitness builds over the next month or two.”
Asked whether there was a plan for Richards, Smith said: “He’s been on a special programme.
“The training minutes he hasn’t had so far.
“We’ll see how his body adapts to those training minutes as we go.”
Nearly two-and-half years have passed since Richards last played competitively for Villa.
Despite continuing to train with the first team, Richards only ever played once under Steve Bruce – and that was the former manager’s first game in charge, the 1-1 draw against Wolves in October 2016.
Richards is one of the club’s highest earners after arriving to captain the side in the disastrous 2015/16 Premier League campaign.
THE EARLY DAYS
Richards arrived to a great deal of excitement in the summer of 2015 due to his Premier League pedigree, but he hasn’t lived up to his billing.
The defender was touted for great things as a youngster and broke into Manchester City’s team before going on to earn 13 senior caps with England.
FA Cup success followed, as did Premier league glory (twice) before an exciting opportunity arose out in Italy with Fiorentina.
Richards was by no means a regular in Serie A for Fiorentina, but he was in the Europa League and cup competitions.
A return home followed upon the expiry of his loan deal and a move to Aston Villa and the city of his birth beckoned.
Former boss Tim Sherwood was overruled by the club’s former director of scouting and player recruitment Paddy Riley on a number of occasions – but Richards was a player he wanted.
Richards was out of sorts at centre-back and looked a shadow of the powerful full-back who had impressed so much as City won the title in 2012.
Stuart Brennan, who covers Manchester City for the Manchester Evening News, told us: “He was better at right-back in my book, as his focus sometimes lapsed and playing wide allowed his pace to get him out of trouble on such occasions.
“Having said that, if he had played centre-back more often he would certainly have improved.
“It has surprised me that Micah hasn’t made a big success out of his Villa move, for whatever reason.
“He was such a bubbly, irrepressible character as well as a forceful and athletic footballer that it seemed at the time that a move would do him good.”
It has emerged that Villa rejected an enquiry from West Ham United to take Richards on a season-long loan in the summer of 2016.
Bruce’s predecessor Roberto Di Matteo was the Villa boss back then and decided to rebuff interest from the Hammers.
Despite retaining him, Di Matteo was only able to play Richards twice because injuries intervened – in the League Cup defeat at Luton Town and as a substitute in a Championship draw at Ipswich Town.
There were also reports that Orlando City wanted to take Richards to Major League Soccer in January 2017 but a move failed to materialise and there have been no genuine suitors since.
It’s the bubbliness that Brennan alludes to which is why Bruce was happy to have him around his squad despite the fact that he hasn’t played for so long.
Youngsters Andre Green, Corey Blackett-Taylor and Callum O’Hare have all made their first team breakthroughs over the course of Richards’ time at the club and the experienced defender is understood to have been instrumental in their transition from the under-23 to first team dressing room.
Richards’ words of advice haven’t gone unnoticed, and he remains a popular figure with the senior pros too.
He is often at the centre of dressing room banter. Social media accounts have shown him keeping fit with boxing training, and he has taken part in team-bonding sessions away from the training ground.
Injuries have been his downfall at Villa.
It is believed that Bruce had reservations about the player’s body creaking because of the demands of second tier football – and Smith seems to share those concerns.
Brennan added: “Micah had a bit of a reputation for injuries when at City, but not that bad.
“It was made worse by (Roberto) Mancini, who once described him as being ‘like Swarovski’ in a press conference.
“He still played in 29 out of 38 league games in the 11-12 title season.”
It’s the injuries which have all but killed Richards’ claret and blue career.
Despite Richards’ genuine desire to play, Villa fans might have seen the last of him in claret and blue.
Richards was included in Villa’s squad for the 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Middlesbrough in September 2017 and that remains supporters’ only sighting of him for some time. He didn’t make it off the substitutes’ bench on that evening.
Club officials expect Richards to see out his contract which runs until June 2019, unless some sort of arrangement can be reached.
The reality is that he is unlikely to ever feature under Smith and Bruce’s first game was probably Richards’ final game for Aston Villa.