Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
It just didn’t feel right. But, that is always a statement that you hear in hindsight.
When Aston Villa agreed with Micah Richards on a free transfer, signing him to a 4 year deal in 2015, the reaction of the Villa faithful was split right down the middle. Although a panoply of reasons to be anxious about the deal, Richards’ past performances were nothing to shake a stick at. With 13 England caps, a monumental performance in a Premier League Champion Manchester City side in 2011-2012, and sticking with the club since he was 14 years old, it seemed like the Birmingham-born defender was going to help Villa in a massive way.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. And the smoke should have been coming from a small town in Italy. There, Micah Richards was dispatched on loan to Fiorentina in 2014. Being forced to swap his Manchester blue for Fiorentina royal purple on a loan spell left a lot of Manchester City fans knowing Richards’ time with the club was over. Richards would go on to make only ten appearances for Fiorentina, and had definite trouble getting into a team who was accustomed to playing three defenders on a regular basis. His work-rate and desire left a lot to be considered on his loan move, and nothing noteworthy ever materialized. Looking back at his time on loan with Fiorentina, you have to wonder what in the world Aston Villa were thinking. And let’s not get started on the over payment…
Reportedly on a fifty thousand pounds a week salary, Richards had some proving to do with the Villa faithful. At the time of his signing, it would seem as though he would have no problem getting full-on first team action. With such defenders at the club as Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker and Ron Vlarr it seemed out of the gate that Richards was going to slot in nicely. With all of the wonderment around his signing, Richards would go on to play 31 total games for Villa in 2015. The year would not go on without a little drama, however. The infamous Wycombe Wanderers FA Cup 3rd round loss in January 2015 would send up flares to Richards personality and overall care for Villa and their supporters. Literally getting into a shouting match with Villa supporters after the loss should have been all we needed to see. Sure, athletes take abuse every now and then. But, they had better have a thick skin and tight lips, especially in such a passionate and middle-class fan base.
Fast forward two years later, and Richards is now the scapegoat. With his unusually high wage, and years remaining on his contract and being quite injury prone as of late, there is only one question: “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Michah Richards?”
For starters, Villa fans need to rid of the idea that selling Richards is going to be an easy task. If anything, if Villa does try to sell him, no club worth it’s weight would go through with the deal unless Villa picks up a percentage of his wage. At the moment, that doesn’t seem like a deal that would benefit Villa. And don’t think for a second Micah would be okay with taking a reduced contract. If anything, his move would be to a much less reputable league and he would most likely attempt to get a raise on his wage.
To be frank, money is tight at the moment at Aston Villa. With Financial Fair Play having a vice grip on that the club, any and all transfers would be beneficial to the short-term and long-term finance management of Villa. But, Aston Villa owner Dr. Tony Xia simply cannot afford to be paying a player to perform for another club. No matter where that club may be, and no matter how much the supporters want him gone. That is something that wouldn’t have been a surprise under the Randy Lerner ownership. But, this is a new era for Aston Villa. With a promotion push on the horizon if things fall into place under manager Steve Bruce, would Richards actually get any playing time? That remains to be seen. With the selling of Nathan Baker and his magical hat this past week, you have to wonder exactly where Richards slots in on the depth chart at Villa. With the acquisitions of Chris Samba and John Terry, added with James Chester and Tommy Elphick, are we seeing Richards becoming the ‘next man up’ in the event of injury or late season fatigue? Time will most definitely tell. All of the Aston Villa supporters have one thing in common these days. And it’s that we do not want nor need another player like Charles N’Zogbia at the club wincing about, collecting a wage, and playing rarely.
I fear that is exactly what we have here. A washed up defender who can’t hack it anymore, even in the Championship. He’s on a high wage, has no backing from the supporters, and invokes a cringe every time his name is muttered. It would be a huge task for him to come back into the first team and perform well, and I cannot see him putting on the boots for Villa on any sort of regular basis moving forward. With a wage too high to sell, the mathematics are enough to make your head spin as much as a Dr. Tony tweet in July.
How do you solve this problem, Villans?