Sunday 19th February 2006
It’s the dying minutes of the FA Cup Fifth Round. Manchester City have dominated the game at Villa Park, but have nothing to show for it. Milan Baros’ 72nd minute strike looks like enough to send the Villains through to the Sixth Round. City have one last throw of the dice; Joey Barton standing over the corner kick with the Villa box packed. Even goalkeeper David James is forward. Barton fires the ball into the box. Everyone goes up but one player rises higher than anyone else. The ball hits the back of the net. There is pandemonium in the away end. 17 year old Micah Richards has scored the dramatic equaliser.
And it didn’t stop there for Micah Richards. He wrote his name into Manchester City folklore with that goal and would go onto win the club’s Young Player of the Year. In an era where City were producing many promising young players for the first team, such as Shaun Wright Phillips, Joey Barton, Stephen Ireland and Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards was considered a hugely talented player.
His following season would prove to be even better. He’d go onto be part of a strong back four with Richard Dunne and Sylvain Distin, a back four that’s solidity would save a disappointing City side from relegation, due to the strikers serious misfiring. Richards would even claim another dramatic last minute equaliser at Goodison Park.
Furthermore, the most significant part of his second senior season was his managing to break into the England first team. At 18 years old, Richards was selected at right back up against Arjen Robben and put in a strong display as England managed a credible draw with the Netherlands.
His following season got off to an amazing start. Under new boss Sven Goran Eriksson, Richards moved to centre back alongside Richard Dunne and would win the Premier League Player of the Month for August 2007. A particular display which caught they eye was his bullying Carlos Tevez out of a Manchester Derby which United dominated, but City won 1-0.
Following the takeover of the Abu Dhabi United Group in September 2008 and the recent signing of Argentine right back Pablo Zabaleta, there was concern for home grown players, such as Richards, that the big money signings would make them surplus to requirements. However, he remained an integral part of Roberto Mancini’s title winning season and was named Man of the Match in an imperious display at Old Trafford that saw City win 6-1.
However, it would start to go downhill for Richards at City. As Zabaleta went on to become one of the top right backs in Europe and was seen as one of the first names on the team sheet, particularly following Mancini’s replacement with Manuel Pellegrini, Richards was starting to become the back up in his position. This wasn’t helped by persistent injury problems, with Richards only managing two league appearances in the 2013-14 season.
Despite this, Richards was given a chance to reignite his career. A transfer to Aston Villa, the club against whom he made his mark, offered him the chance to play regularly in the Premier League and potentially even force his way back into the England set up.
29 January 2019
Almost 13 years since Richards made his mark in English football. Aston Villa were relegated in Richards’ first season at the club. They’ve been playing in the Championship for three seasons now. Richards has not made a single league appearance for Villa in the past two seasons. It has been reported that the injury problems have forced Richards to retire at the age of 30 at the end of the season, following the expiration of his contract. A career that showed so much promise and did manage to feature a Premier League winners medal, an FA Cup winners medal and 13 England caps, has finished much earlier than expected. And not where it should have done. Touted as a future England captain. Leaving at age 30 having not played for two years.