A bright prospect

AP

Micah Richards' performances earned him high praise and when England crashed out of the recent World Cup at the quarter-final stage, he was widely tipped to come into the squad sooner rather than later. That came true in November, writes Andy Hampson.

Micah Richards is a highly-rated teenage prospect, who recently broke into the full England side, becoming the country's youngest-ever defender, and has been linked with a big-money move to Barclays English Premier League champions Chelsea.

The teenager has predominantly played as a right-back but is regarded versatile, as well as being both strong and quick. Richards hails from the tough Leeds district of Chapeltown, although he was actually born in Birmingham as his parents were visiting the area at the time. He learnt his football at one of the Brazilian football schools set up by sports scientist and visionary Simon Clifford. Clifford created his schools in an attempt to emulate the way Brazil consistently produces world-class players. Richards is the first graduate of his system to reach international level.

Richards was playing in his primary school team at the age of seven and by 12 had been signed on schoolboy forms by Oldham Athletic. He moved on to neighbours Manchester City in 2001 but only after Oldham, recognising the player's potential, negotiated a significant sell-on clause.

Richards broke into City manager Stuart Pearce's first team in October 2005 when he featured as a substitute against Arsenal, the club he had supported as a boy. His full debut came the following February in a Premier League match against Charlton but it was in an FA Cup tie that he first really caught the eye with a late goal.

Despite his presence in the first-team squad, Richards remained a part of the club's youth side during the 2005-06 season. That team reached the final of the FA Youth Cup but were beaten 3-2 by Liverpool on aggregate despite a 2-0 second leg win. Richards, however, only featured in the second leg due to first-team duties.

Richards' performances towards the end of the season earned him high praise and when England crashed out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage, he was widely tipped to come into the squad sooner rather than later.

That came true in November as, despite just 28 first-team appearances, he was named in new coach Steve McClaren's side for a friendly against Holland in Amsterdam. In the absence of the regular right-back, Gary Neville, Richards featured from the start and acquitted himself well.

His future would seem to be a bright one and City are already having to fend off interest in him. In the summer they snubbed a GBP5 million offer from Tottenham and Chelsea are now reported to be ready to make a move in a deal that would see the player quadruple his wages. Richards, however, insists he is happy at City, where he signed a four-year contract only in the summer.

Richards has generally appeared a level-headed individual but there have been times when his excitement or his temper has got the better of him. One such occasion was in September when he was substituted by Pearce during a defeat at Reading. Richards ripped his shirt off and threw it away, impetuously shrugging off his manager's handshake in the process. He had to be calmed down by team-mate Paul Dickov.

Richards is regarded as one of the best prospects in English football but does not yet seem a fully signed-up member of the WAGs club. In a lifestyle interview last year he said the pop singer, Christina Milian, would be his dream girl.

He says the greatest influence in his life has been his father Lincoln, who himself is involved in the Chapeltown Brazilian football school.

Richards had plans to buy an Audi A3 last year but then failed his driving test. The A3 is a popular "compact" luxury car. The second generation of A3s was introduced in 2003 and do 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds.

Factfile Name: Micah Richards Position: Defender Club: Manchester City DOB: 24/06/88 England Caps: 1 England Goals: 0 England debut: v Holland, November 2006 Moment to remember

The player came to national prominence when he scored a dramatic late equaliser in a televised FA Cup fifth round tie against Aston Villa in February. Richards, then only 17, headed home in the fourth minute of injury time to secure a replay. He again showed his goal-scoring prowess with a late equaliser against Everton in the Premier League in October.

Moment to forget

Scoring late against Villa was undoubtedly one of the highlights of his career, but Richards did make an embarrassing faux pas after the match when he was interviewed on TV. He swore live on air and had to be warned to mind his language by the interviewer. The BBC also apologised.

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