Today’s 0-0 draw between Aston Villa and Manchester City was an important one for a number of reasons. It stopped a run of 7 losses in a row for Villa and saw them chalk up their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season.
It was also new manager Remi Garde’s first game in charge for the club. However, there was a sub-plot to this already multi-faceted story. It was Villa captain Micah Richards’ first time facing the club at which he built his career.
Football often has a sense of drama and occasion and it didn’t disappoint. Richards put in an impressive performance in keeping out his boyhood club, saving the Villains time and time again and earning a deserved man of the match in the process.
In the post-match interviews, Richards was his usual calm and pragmatic self when discussing his former club:
“It was mixed emotions (sic), you know you always want City to do well but I’m at Villa now, and we need the points. Being there since I was 14, they were special to play with.”
His attitude and commitment to the cause has always endeared him to the City fans.
Richards’ boyhood club clearly still mean a lot to him and in the run up to the game he was quoted as being ‘gutted’ about leaving the Citizens.
“They put me on the map, gave me my chance at a very young age and I also broke into the England squad while I was there.”
“I’m gutted about the way my time there came to an end because I had injuries and was only able to make five appearances when they won the Barclays Premier League in 2013-14.”
Micah Richards has had an unusual career. Lauded as a prospect with huge potential, as English footballers often are, he saw the hype surrounding his career wane as he watched on from the side-lines. Injury and a transfer policy which recruited football’s elite into his position saw the Birmingham native spend considerable time out of the game.
Despite that, it’s unlikely that Richards came into today’s game with City feeling like he had to prove himself. However, an unsuccessful spell at Fiorentina may just have given him the impetus to push on and find consistency in his game.
Many believe the defender’s talent was allowed to stagnate at a club which has been recruiting English players to meet UEFA’s requirements. Man City fell short of the required 8 home-grown players in their 25-man Champions League squad last season and were forced to compete with a 21-man squad as punishment.
Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell can attest to the fact that City are guilty of stockpiling English players to meet UEFA’s standards with the former also lining out for Aston Villa today.
To say Richards was retained purely for his administrative benefits would be unfair as he clearly is a player with immense talent. However, Manchester is in his past and he will be hoping to finally establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League. Perhaps with this important result and performance behind him, he can push on and realise the potential that so many have seen in him.