Once considered as a future England captain, Micah Richards career has gone stuttered to a stop in recent years. After falling down the pecking order at Manchester City, Richards jumped at a loan move last season to Serie A side Fiorentina with the view to impressing and securing a long term move. But his switch to Italy didn’t go to plan with playing time limited to just a few substitute appearances. Now Richards is searching for his next club after Manchester City decided against offering him a new contract and instead chose to release him this month.
The move by City was revealed after the club along with the other 19 teams in the Premiership submitted their retain and release lists to the Premier League. Implemented as a way of tracking player movements and club intentions, this annual event that happens only a few weeks after the season ends details those players deemed as no longer required by the clubs. A majority of the players formally released are youth players who have failed to make the required grade to be awarded a contract. Whilst most will look towards the lower leagues for their next adventure, there are some youngsters who could be picked up by Championship or even Premiership clubs as the have shown enough flashes of the talent they have to convince a club to take a punt on them. Two such players are midfielders George Green and John Lundstram who were both released by Everton this week. Green, who arrived at Everton four years ago from Bradford City as a raw yet talented 15 year old touted as the next Paul Gascoigne but has failed to convince Roberto Martinez that he can fulfill his potential at the club. At 19, Green still has time to become the player many believed he would be and being released by Everton could be the catalyst he needs to do so.
Whilst the list is primarily fairly unknown youngsters, there are some more familiar names on the list including several experienced pros like Richards. Former England players Darren Bent, Wes Brown, Matthew Upson and Glen Johnson are all looking for their next club after being released by their respective clubs. They are joined by the likes of Dutch defender Ron Vlaar, towering Norweigan centre back Brede Hangeland and Swedish striker John Guidetti ho had a successful loan spell at Scottish champions Celtic this past season. Out of all of the clubs in the Premiership, its hardly surprising that two of the three sides relegated this year, Hull and QPR were the sides who released the most players (13 and 11 respectively). Among them were seasoned pros like Joey Barton, Karl Henry, Paul McShane and Steve Harper as the pair tried to trim down their wage bills ahead of a season in the Championship next year. Fellow strugglers Newcastle and Sunderland who narrowly avoided relegation after a nail biting finish to the season also released a handful of players including Athony Reveillere, Wes Brown, Ryan Taylor and Jonas Guiterrez. The story around the two Newcastle players release (Taylor and Gutierrez) summed up perfectly how badly managed the club was at the end of the season. It was up to stand in manager John Carver to break the news by telephone to Taylor about the clubs decision not to renew his contract but what followed was a complete lack of class from the North East club. After breaking the news to Taylor, Carver asked if he could simply hand the phone over to cancer survivor Gutierrez who was with Taylor on a coaching course in Northern Ireland. Taylor obliged only for Carver to relay the same termination decision to Gutierrez. Both players are iconic figures at the club and fan favourites so the way that their departure was handled was nothing less than awful.
This summer will be filled with anxiety, long tiresome training sessions and the occasional trials for all those players released by the clubs. In total 154 players were release, some of whom will retire all together from the game (Rio Ferdinand, Brad Freidel) and others will move on to pre-arranged destinations (Frank Lampard, Steve Gerrard). For the rest the next five weeks will be a nervous time as they look for their next job in football. For many the new season will be about new opportunities at a new club but for others the new season will mark the moment when some serious decisions need to be made – stay in the game they love or look beyond its borders for their next career move.