Each season a handful of top flight players fall down the pecking order at their clubs and seemingly slip off the football map.
We look at this year’s crop of forgotten men and ponder what their futures hold.
In February, as Bentley recuperated from a knee operation that had stalled a career already in freefall, he must have opened up the newspaper, seen the rumours linking him to MK Dons and wondered what the hell happened. Here was a player capable of the outrageous who only four years ago was brought back south from a headline-grabbing two year stint at Blackburn for £15m. He was supposed to be the touch of flash and class that would light up the Lane but instead, only months after his arrival, in came his bête noire Harry Redknapp. That ‘Arry should take such a dislike to ‘Bents’ was surprising considering that superficially at least the two share similar characteristics. Whatever the reason however – and it is assumed it goes beyond mere football matters and touches upon a clash of personalities – the s***ter version of Beckham soon cut an unhappy unwanted figure at Spurs.
His season-long loan spell at West Ham ticked all the boxes and was a perfect opportunity to turn a once so promising career around so it was a cruel slice of misfortune that his knee injury should occur just three months in.
Best option – To get fit and get himself way from a manager who clearly doesn’t rate him and who would equally be as pleased to see the back of him.
A player who is so one-footed Paul McCartney reportedly enquired about whether he was single. But of course this limited pug-ugly sorry excuse for a footballer isn’t available – he’s enjoying his ninety grand a week wages in the company of one of the most gorgeous pop stars around. Life can sometimes have a perverse sense of humour.
Worse still for a considerable spell Bridge looked like becoming another Winston Bogarde, using his astronomical pay cheque as a convenient excuse to not do what he was getting an astronomical pay cheque for. Frozen out by Mancini the declining of what was a perfectly reasonable offer from Celtic proved to be the final straw for many who grew exasperated at his refusal to take a pay-cut.
Now at Sunderland on loan the player is in the process of building his name-sakes and reclaiming a reputation that barely worth saving.
Best option – Whether Martin O’Neill takes the plunge this summer and makes the deal permanent is anyone’s guess but no doubt there will be interest from somewhere. Bridge has made a career capitalising on the dearth of quality left-backs in the game so why stop now? But he will have to take a hit on those sky-high wages.
Reading through Kirkland’s injury-plagued career it’s hard not to get a bit ‘Glenn Hoddle’ and imagine that the keepers’ previous incarnation was a bad, bad man. An agile and elegant stopper in his prime it is worth noting that, despite the litany of setbacks, he has amassed over 120 appearances for the Latics, winning the player of the year in 2008. It is also worth pointing out however that he did not lose his place between the Wigan sticks to Al-Habsi through misfortune but rather a nightmare start to the following season where he shipped in a hatful.
After that though a succession of back problems have curtailed any chances of getting his career back on track with a loan spell to Doncaster in October ending after less than a week due to muscle spasms.
Best option – With his contract up this summer the 31 year old has been training with Hull City with a view to a permanent switch.
Evertonians remain aggrieved at the manner of Gosling’s exit from the club but they must be somewhat appeased at seeing his struggles to establish himself in a rejuvenated Newcastle side.
Once again it seems the youngster’s versatility has counted against him and Gosling is in great danger of becoming the poor man’s Phil Neville, which is a tag you wouldn’t wish on anyone. The boy from Devon is a jack of all trades but master of none and until he breaks through into the first team and makes a position truly his own he will continue to inhabit the periphery of any top flight squad.
Best option – With just 13 starts in two seasons (although granted the 22 year old has been blighted by injury) it must be tempting to seek out better opportunities elsewhere. However, with the Toon heading for Europe – and particularly if its Europa rather than Champions League – Alan Pardew will be looking to utilise the full extent of his squad to cope with the challenging fixture pile-ups. Gosling’s handicap of versatility might yet prove to be beneficial to his career for the short term at least.
The Welshman’s disappearance from the Fulham starting XI is a straightforward case of injury and then being unable to force his way back into a midfield that has excelled in his absence. With Martin Jol determined to lower the average age of his engine room (captain Danny Murphy has yet to be offered a new contract and at 35 it’s hard to envisage anything beyond a one-year extension) this doesn’t bode well for a player who turns 33 in October and hasn’t produced his best form for some time.
Best option – Facing the probability of further falling down the pecking order at the Cottage perhaps it would be wise for Davies to seek pastures new. Whether it will be in the Premier League however remains to be seen.
Rodwell a forgotten man of 2011-12? The same Jack Rodwell who made his full England debut in November, putting in a competent display against the Spanish?
Yup, the very same, because the question needs to be asked about this highly promising midfielder who persistently is linked to a £20m move to Old Trafford and is capable of putting in polished performances beyond his years…..will David Moyes ever entrust him with a regular pivotal role at Goodison Park?
Now 21 and with his breakthrough season vanishing in the rear-view mirror this was supposed to be his year. Unfortunately an injury-plagued campaign prevented this along with poor form and a manager who evidently favours others. This stop-start arrested development of one of England’s finest young talents has to be addressed. Rodwell may not be anywhere near a forgotten man as yet but he’s taking the first steps towards the streets with no name.
Best option – Moyes is one of the shrewdest gaffers going but his overly cautious approach to bringing through Rodwell is frustrating to put it mildly. The kid needs games and be afforded a spell of poor form without being reacquainted with the dug-out. At present though he is far best served with staying on Merseyside and seeing where next season takes him.
After a hugely disappointing spell in the Potteries where his artful brand of hold-up play and Stoke’s heavy artillery proved to be a hopeless mismatch the 80-cap Turkish international was moved on to Wolfsburg where he was nominally intended as Dzeko’s short-term replacement. Short-term it certainly was as he was then punted back to Bolton for a season-long loan this term. With Kevin Davies knocking on and N’Gog knocking it high and wide it was hoped we’d see a return to prominence for one of the most guileful targetmen in the top flight. Sadly he has instead continued his prolonged decline into a shadow of the player he once was.
Best option – A return to Turkey seems possible to relive former glories. Either that or face being farmed out to any number of clubs for the duration of his Wolfsburg contract.