Why Micah Richards has gone more than two years without an Aston Villa appearance
Aston Villa defender Micah Richards has gone more than two years without playing a competitive game for the Midlands outfit. He hasn’t made the matchday squad in any competition for Villa since September 19, 2017, and is nailed on to leave at the end of his contract next summer.
New boss Dean Smith talked up the prospect of Richards returning, but that remains to be seen. There’s been a lot of mystery surrounding his exile from the senior squad, and it appears that a combination of injury problems and fallouts with his former manager may be the reason why he’s been frozen out.
Did a recurring knee problem lead to his demise in 2016?
An investigative piece from Laurie Whitwell of the Daily Mail revealed Richards has a ‘meniscus issue in his right knee’ that has rendered him unable to play more than one game a week for Villa – a similar situation to what Ledley King had at Tottenham. It’s worth noting, however, that Richards made 24 Premier League appearances in 2015/16 as the Midlands club suffered relegation to the Championship so his fitness was in check at that point.
The following campaign is a different matter, however. Richards was mostly ever-present in the squad, but he hardly featured in 2016/17. He made just three appearances in all competitions, spending a large portion of the season as an unused substitute, in addition to being sidelined with an injury. He made the Villa matchday squad in 10 of their opening 12 Championship games before a knee problem led to him being out of action for three months. Richards travelled with the squad in seven of their last 20 league outings of the 2016/17 season, however, but his knee problems likely contributed to the lack of playing time.
At the start of the 2017/18 campaign, a report from the defender’s own official website stated he was ‘working his way back to full fitness’ and was ‘hoping to put his recent injury troubles behind him’. He didn’t make an appearance for Villa all season and made the matchday squad only once for his troubles. His knee reportedly becomes swollen through exercise, meaning he’ll struggle in training and certainly can’t play any games. In order for him to play, he needs his training sessions tailored accordingly.
Fallout with Steve Bruce over lack of playing time
Despite the assumption that Richards has given up on playing for Villa, Whitwell’s article paints the picture of a man desperate to feature. That wasn’t evident from his performances in 2015/16 but is reportedly the truth on the training ground. He’s allegedly even come to blows with former manager Steve Bruce over a lack of playing time.
Richards has to manage his knee problem delicately to prolong his career, but it’s believed he wasn’t trusted enough to do so without suffering an injury setback if he was utilised in games. Bruce left him out of games that saw a number of fringe players selection, to the frustration of Richards, and he was forced to scrap behind-closed-door friendlies for the ex-Manchester City man as he wasn’t playing Richards regardless of his performances in the games.
What is Richards doing currently?
In addition to playing in a charity game in September, Dean Smith revealed the right-back has been training with Villa in October and could be a left-field option to solve the club’s lack of depth at centre-back. That suggests Richards is currently fit. He didn’t look out of snap when recently snapped with Michelle Keegan by paparazzi either.
It seems Richards needed to show more willingness to play despite his injury woes, but an inability to do so led to managers losing trust in him. The defender is believed to be a bubbly and positive character at training and often gives advice to the academy players, but it’s unknown how much effort he’s putting in to overcome his problems.