Kieran Richardson is suddenly one of SAFC's longest-serving players, and can be described as two things, depending on who you ask... a misfit, or a useful utility player. Having played in numerous positions throughout his time at the club, the former Manchester United man has yet to hold down any of them permanently. As a player who still harbours hope of returning to the England squad, he's going to have to knuckle down and make one his own, but where does he fit in best? I try my best to find out...
From what we've read, this is his favourite position, and where he has played most recently for us so he's got to be pretty happy about that. He made his name playing the position whilst on loan at West Brom many moons ago, and broke into the England squad on the back of those performances. For myself, and many other fans, its mystery as to why he thinks he can play the role on a regular basis. Whilst Kieran has a rocket of a shot on him (I don't think anyone needs reminding of his finest moment), he lacks the creativity to unlock defences, and lacks the ability to get forward akin to say Don Hutchi$on. This makes him merely a passenger in the central role. It's a position I don't wish to see him in much longer for SAFC. Especially not if it will hinder the emergence of Jordan Henderson or David Meyler, or even continues to deny Riveros of playing time. This one's not for him.
When he played this position, I despaired. Especially away at Chelsea, but it turned out to be a masterstroke. However I'm not so quick to pin this one on Kieran, as more of a moment of genius from Bruce. Between Richardson covering Ashley Cole's cutting in, and Onouha covering when Cole went outside, the left hand side for Chelsea was completely ineffectual. We all know this was a stop-gap manoeuvre, and while it worked, we'd all rather see Henderson/Welbeck or A.N.Other there.
Clearly a very left footed player, and in all honesty, doesn't have a bad cross on him. Ok, he's no Alan 'Magic' Johnston, but that's not his game, and isn't many people's game. Putting him out wide is much better than having him in the middle, as he has the pace to beat a man, and track back, and that can be useful, especially with his lack of creativity. Also he can be much more of a threat cutting in to join the strikers when the ball comes in from the other side. I'd say this is his second best position.
Given the number 3 shirt at the start of the season, and effectively being told by Bruce to play there or bugger off, Kieran took the bull by the horns and actually did pretty damn well there prior to an injury. He'd be playing there right now if it hadn't been for Phil Bardsleys shock emergence as a genuinely decent fullback and footballer. For me, this is easily his best position. He looks a natural there, and while he'll recall his best football was played at WBA in central midfield, he should be reminded he'd have never broke into Man Utd's team until Gabriel Heinze got an injury. The modern fullback needs someone to get forward and play almost as a second winger - check. Someone with pace - check. Someone with decent tackling ability - hmmmm, the jury is still out. I think that can be worked on though.
So, how do we solve this, the answer is we kinda need an injury to solve it or else Richardson becomes a perennial substitute. Bardsley & Onouha are playing out of their skin, so they won't be dropped any time soon. Perhaps the best he can hope for is at the end of the season Onouha returns to Man City? Bardsley goes to his more familiar right back role and Richardson slots in at left back. Happy Days. However, Angeleri could emerge as first choice right back (no seriously!) or more likely, Onouha stays and we carry on as is.
I think the solution, which best suits all parties, is that this season is Kieran's last on Wearside. The man with no particular home in the first XI, will soon be finding an entirely new home away from the North East. A useful player, and one who has given his all and given us some great memories, but will ultimately never be anything more than he is now. A useful fill-in with ambitions above his station. Time for SAFC to cut their losses in the summer. Can we live without him? Yes, comfortably.