Readers of a certain age may remember the 1990s cartoon Hey Arnold. A central character in that was Helga, who was constantly torn between declaring her love for Arnold and doing all in her power to hide it. For us, there are similar feelings when it comes to Kieran Richardson (the post title also refers to the hit Irish drama Love/Hate, with the current season finishing tomorrow night).
When Richardson signed for Sunderland in 2007, he asked for, and was given, the number 10 shirt (Roy Keane mentions the request in passing in his new book, but overall he is fairly complimentary of Richardson). He wore 10 for his first three seasons there but – as had happened during his time at Manchester United – he played more than a few games at left-back.
The number 10 at left-back is incredibly incongruous, of course, and eventually Richardson himself realised this, as he switched to number 3 for the 2010-11 season. Clearly, he was aware of what was right and what was wrong.
Alas, his penchant for playing in the wrong positions remained and he flitted between left-back and left-midfield during 2010-11, playing in the more advanced role so often that he took 11 for 11-12, despite having the odd shift at left-back still.
So, throwing it open to the floor – does he deserve credit for wanting the wear the right numbers, or is he worthy of disdain for ending up looking out of place? At both Fulham and Aston Villa, he has sought to cover himself by wearing numbers in the teens, which is probably the best compromise.