England recall a priority for City's Richards

Micah Richards suggested yesterday that Manchester City's decision to play him all over the pitch had contributed to the drop in form which has seen him fail to muster a single minute of play for England since Fabio Capello's appointment as manager.

Richards has not featured for England since November 2007 but after his most promising display for 12 months in City's win against Sunderland on Sunday he rejected suggestions that his game had started to lack focus and insisted that the more regular right-back berth he has recently secured has made the difference. "A lot of things been said about me not being focused on my game this season, but I have been," Richards said. "But I have been chopped and changed in my position, playing left-back, right-back, centre-back and even in the centre of midfield. I'm not going to make excuses but I'm happy playing right-back and that's where I'm playing consistently now."

Richards had the world at his feet when he became the youngest defender to represent England, against the Netherlands in November 2006. He became a regular fixture for the next 12 months but a combination of injury and his indifferent displays at City – Richards' positional play is a recurrent weakness and was excruciatingly bad in the defeat at West Bromwich in December – have seen Glen Johnson and Wes Brown step above him, with Richards stranded on 11 caps.

There is a recurrent theme about attitude where Richards is concerned, despite the bright, engaging demeanour of his. The word from City at the turn of the year was that Richards was spending too much time in the gym, building muscle bulk which was not helping with match readiness. Mark Hughes was said to have been distinctly unimpressed. But the City manager now says physiological factors of a different kind should be taken into consideration. "He probably still hasn't stopped growing and his body needs time to catch up," he said. "He is built like a sprinter and sometimes when he bursts forward he finds it difficult to get back in position quickly sometimes. We have recognised that and are working on it."

The central defensive partnership Richards has formed with Richard Dunne has not enhanced his form, either. Dunne's season has been one he would care to forget and his own palpable lack of self-confidence seemed to contribute to uncertainties in Richards. Hughes seems to have recognised this, introducing both Vincent Kompany and Nedum Onuoha alongside Dunne and freeing Richards for the right-back role in which he has been able to push forward. The contribution of Shaun Wright-Phillips has also helped, the midfielder always willing to push inside to create space for Richards and cover for him.

"I would be lying if I said that it didn't hurt me when I was dropped from the England side," said Richards, left behind in Manchester again as the England squad gathers this week. "I played 11 games on the bounce for England and I thought I played well in all those games and if I knuckle down, I think I can get back in there."

Hughes believes the football world has forgotten how the 20-year-old Richards actually is. "You always know with young players that you are going to have to take them out of the firing line and then regroup to go again. He has not had that chance this season because he has been asked to play week in week out and in a variety of positions. At some point there was going to be a time when his form dipped." Hughes did not entirely disagree with Richards' own assessment. "He has been asked to play week in week out and in a variety of positions," the City manager said.

City's convincing win at home to Aalborg in the Uefa Cup provided evidence that Richards was being encouraged to push on more and his display against Sunderland – scoring City's winner and securing a penalty which Robinho missed – called to mind some of the performances which made him such an exciting prospect in an England jersey. Wright-Phillips' own return to the England ranks will provide more self-belief that a 12th cap might not be too far out of reach.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory