Even when it is a person that we don’t know the death of anybody at too young an age inevitably strikes us as a tragedy. When a young footballer dies the effect seems to be heightened.
We have seen them at the peak of their athletic prime and, due to the immediacy of television, we can’t help but feel that in some way we did indeed know them.
Dean Richards died on the morning of February 26th 2011, aged thirty-six. He began his career at his home town club of Bradford City, before moving to Wolves, Southampton and finally Tottenham where he was eventually forced to retire in 2005, at the age of 31, due to recurring injury.
Richards was a powerful central defender who was more comfortable on the ball than most Englishmen in his position, and it is perhaps a shame that he became best known as the most expensive player to never win an England cap.
Of course were he in his prime today, and given the paucity of quality English defenders, he would almost certainly have put an end to that millstone, but sadly it was not to be.
Following his retirement he had a short spell back at Bradford City taking some part-time coaching sessions but never progressed to a full-time role within the game.
With hindsight it is easy to see why that happened, and we can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for Richards to have the body that brought him his success seemingly turn against him to the extent that meant that he was no longer able to do the thing that he loved the most.
Mostly when we speak of tragedy with regard to professional athletes we are referring to the regrets and “what ifs” that come from a career cut short through injury. With Dean Richards the tragedy and the “what ifs” come from a young life brought to an end far too quickly.
You can find more of Russell’s writings on soccer at The Vancouver Sun.
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