Frustrated Kieran raises his sights
AFTER a promising start to his third season as a Sunderland player, Kieran Richardson was planning for Europe. Instead he's been left saddened by the team's precarious position. But Richardson, suggesting disappointment would not be a true reflection of his frustration on Wearside, has predicted that Steve Bruce will oversee a revival. Rather than focus on a relegation battle until May, the 26- year-old wants to think about finishing higher up the table, even claiming a return to the top half is still within reach. I never imagined it would be the same again. It never entered my head considering the squad we've now got, said Richardson, referring to Sunderland's narrow escapes from relegation in his first two seasons on Wearside. But there are still 11 games left and who knows If we put a really good run together, we can still finish in the top ten. We are more than capable of doing that. It's all about getting that first win, hopefully on Sunday. I really believe our season will turn around once we get that. What's happened this season is a bit upsetting. I do feel upset about it because with the great start we had we think we should be in the top ten now. I've had so much faith in this team, the players, the coaches and the manager that when I look at the table, it really hurts because we should not be down there. But I can say all I want. The fact is the table does not lie and we are down there. Richardson's season has been stop-start, with injuries preventing him from holding down a first team place. He is likely to figure against Fulham tomorrow, when he hopes every member of the squad will show the fans just how much the players are behind Bruce. I certainly wouldn't swap this squad with any other in the bottom half of the table. Definitely not, said Richardson. But football is not about what it looks like on paper, it is all about going out there and delivering. We have quality players here but for the last three months or so, it's not been good for any of us. We made a great start, we were flying and all of us thought hey, it's going to be a great season.' Then we hit a rough patch that none of us really saw coming. That's the thing about football. It can just change like that. Hopefully, it can change around just as suddenly, starting on Sunday against Fulham. Everyone still believes in each other and the players still have faith in the manager and coaching staff here. We feel there is still time to get this season back on track. In a few weeks, hopefully everyone will be wondering what all the fuss was about. That would be great great for us and great for the manager. Especially him, he loves the club so much. With Sunderland sitting just three points above the relegation zone ahead of the weekend's fixtures, now is not the time to be talking about playing for England again. But Richardson admits that, provided he can return to his best form at Sunderland, he harbours hopes of an international recall, despite knowing he will miss out on this summer's World Cup. It's very disappointing I have not kicked on and established myself in the squad, he said. Your form has to be right for your club first and foremost to get any recognition at international level. This season has not particularly gone how I would have wanted. But I definitely want to play for my country again. There is no doubt about that. I'm gutted I've lost my place but inside I know I have the ability to do that again I have never doubted my ability, never. I will never give up on playing for England again. It's all about staying injury free, playing every week and trying to attract Fabio Capello's eye. I will keep going. However, Steve Bruce offered a different take on things. He would like to offer Richardson an opportunity to stake a claim to become England's left-back, but says the player is far from keen. "Kieran doesn't enjoy it there. I would argue it was his best position. He is an excellent defender, very quick. There could be a late call-up, who knows" said Bruce. "The World Cup is possibly there to dangle in front of him. If I said to him that he had a chance of going to the World Cup as a left-back he might take it. I haven't asked that question. But Kieran doesn't want to play there. His pet lip comes out and he's good at that. There's Stephen Warnock, Leighton Baines, Joleon Lescott, possibly James Milner. There's not too many options."
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