Michael Ricketts Hits Bottom

Last Thursday, in a little-noticed announcement, San Jose Head Coach Frank Yallop, a man desperate for a striker, said he was terminating the trial of former US hearthrob Michael Ricketts.

AS DANNY NOTED A FEW WEEKS AGO Ricketts, who at one time was the subject of so much slobbering BigSoccer manlove that the servers almost caught fire, was in the US making the rounds of MLS teams who were scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for someone who could find the net once in a while.

His departure from the Earthquakes camp may finally put "finis" to the long, strange saga of a guy who once had the whole world at his feet.

Back in early 2002, England played Holland in a World Cup tuneup and Ricketts, playing for Sam Allardyce at Bolten, had already racked up 15 goals on the season, had just signed a £15,000 a week contract and Sven-Goran Ericksson inserted him into a starting lineup which looked like this:

Martyn, G Neville, Ferdinand, Campbell, Bridge; Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes; Heskey, Ricketts, Vassell.

Every other player made the roster for the World Cup. Ricketts lasted 45 minutes and never wore the England shirt again. He bounced from Bolten to Middlesbrough (who spent £3 million for him) to Leeds to Stoke City to Cardiff City to Burnley to Southend United to Preston North End to Oldham Athletic, who loaned him to Walsall last November and then canceled his contract.


And he won't turn 30 until later this year.

So what happened? How did this brilliant rising star reach the point where he'd be lucky to get a shot with the Charleston Battery?

The Brits have a polite term for it: "fitness".

Over here, we call it "Eating your way out of a career"

Those of who were born with, shall we say, "modest" talent, can't comprehend what it is to have all the talent in the world and let it go to waste because you'd rather pound down pastries and watch TV than do the work necessary to reach a potential which has almost no limits.

THIS ARTICLE FROM 2006 sums it up well:

"He is doing nothing," said a friend. "The management there thought they could draw something out, but Michael had a weight problem and there was also a doubt about his desire. It's not the first time that's been questioned...

Ricketts, who once quit altogether when released by Aston Villa, was uncontactable yesterday, but lack of hunger for the game seems a familiar tale.

"He's a good lad, but there is something missing," said one former coach.

Ray Graydon, his manager at Walsall, confirmed that "football was not a major importance to him" and that there was "a lack of real drive".

Kevin Blackwell, his Leeds boss, said: "I think Michael needs to ask himself if he loves football enough."

There are a lot of lessons we can take from the Ricketts saga, but perhaps the most important one to remember is also the one we've known all along:

Talent is never enough.