The signing of Portuguese striker Eder from Braga has grabbed the Swansea City transfer headlines this week, but Garry Monk’s summer clearout continued yesterday (Thursday) as full back Ashley ‘Jazz’ Richards joined Fulham for an undisclosed fee.
The 24-year-old follows Alan Tate, David Cornell, Rory Donnelly, and Gerhard Tremmel out of the Liberty Stadium exit door, with Michu amongst the names also expected to leave before the opening Premier League game at Chelsea on August 8th.
The move signals the end of an eight year association between Richards and the Swans, but was an inevitable one given the former Welsh international’s failure to ever land a regular first team place at the club.
Indeed, after signing professional forms for the Swans in 2009, following two years with the club’s youth side, Richards only went on to make 39 league appearances in the six preceding seasons.
There will be some amongst the Liberty faithful who feel Richards was hard done by. Michael Laudrup saw enough in him to offer him a new contract in March 2013, but the longevity of Angel Rangel, plus the emergence of Neil Taylor and later Ben Davies, meant that the opportunity to impress on a long term basis never came.
Monk handed him 13 appearances during the 2014/2015 campaign, but a costly late error at home to Tottenham Hotspur in December, and a difficult 90 minutes against Man City in May, suggested his Premiership career was running on borrowed time.
Many cited a frailty and lack of confidence, perhaps understandable after playing a bit part role at the club for so long, as factors that made him unreliable.
But there were plenty of competent displays in a Swansea shirt as well, and successful loan spells at Crystal Palace, who he helped win promotion from the Championship, Huddersfield Town, and his now new club Fulham, signified plenty of potential.
And such potential was seemingly fulfilled when Wales defeated Belgium 1-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium last month, as Richards produced a superb performance at right back, shackling one of the world’s best in Edin Hazard.
The display sparked rumours of interest from other Premiership clubs, but ultimately, was not enough to secure him a stay in the top flight.
But it is possible the best may be yet to come from Richards. He is a rare commodity in that he can play on either flank, perhaps something that worked against him at the Liberty as he was branded a ‘utility’ defender all too often.
His move to Fulham represents a good signing from the Cottagers, and given a long run of first team action in the Championship, he may yet become the high class performer than Swansea fans long hoped he would.