If you remember Michael Ricketts at all it will probably be for his forgettable 45 minute appearance for England in a 2002 freindly against Holland . It can safely be said that the striker has never been anywhere near the England shirt since and he forms part of the illustrious one cap group which contains other luminaries such as Francis Jeffers, Seth Johnson, Lee Hendrie and Gavin McCann. However as fan of Walsall FC I have always followed Ricketts career and there is much more to his story then simply being a one cap wonder.
The Ricketts story is one of both highs and lows (but mainly lows) which has seen him turn out for eleven different clubs in three diffrent leagues. Starting his career at Walsall (a high or a low depending on your point view) Ricketts got his big break in 2000 when he joined Bolton Wanderers for a hefty £500,000. He made an immediate impact at the Reebok scoring 24 goals as the trotters achieved promotion to the Premier League via the play offs. The transition to the top flight had no affect on Rickett’s scoring form as he had hit the net 12 times by February including the winner at Old Trafford in Bolton’s 2-1 triumph over Manchester United. Quite rightly this drew the attention of Sven Goran Eriksson and along with Darius Vasell Ricketts made his England debut. However unlike Vasell who would go on to earn 22 caps this was to prove the peak of Ricketts achievements.
A dip in form and a falling out with Sam Allardyce saw Ricketts sold to Middelsborugh for a cool £3 Million in January 2003. Borough hoped they were signing an England star of the future, they weren’t. Managing a measly return of 4 goals in 39 appearances Ricketts was moved on to recently relegated Leeds. Things got even worse here as the striker failed to score in 25 league appearances. Unwanted at Elland Road Ricketts would go on to unsuccsefully represent Stoke, Cardiff, Burnley, Southend Preston and Oldham all in the space of two years. This grand tour of the football league did little to improve his fortunes as the striker suffered from injuries, weight issues and an apparent loss of desire for the game. A sad state of affairs for a former England international.
So in November 2007 he found himself back where it had all started at the Bescot Stadium home of the mighty Walsall FC. This second bite at the Walsall cherry yielded a decent return of 12 goals in 40 games but was still dogged by both physical and mental problems. A tendency to pick up niggling injuries and three red cards (all of which could have been avoided) convinced the Walsall management that Ricketts just wasn’t worth the trouble and consequently he was released in June 2009. In this second stint with the saddlers Ricketts demonstrated clear examples of a footballing ability suited to a higher level but these moments proved fleeting and were severely undermined by mental problems which appear to have destroyed the striker’s once promising career. The start of this season saw yet another new club as he joined up with John Barnes at Tranmere but once again he has failed to live up to expectations and was released in Janaury.
Michael Ricketts is now 31, without a club and facing a bleak future unless he can overcome the problems which have persistently undermined his undoubted talent. The story of Ricketts’ fall from England international to unemployed journey man is certainly a sad one, however I can not help but conclude that many of the striker’s problems are of his own making.