Micah Richards: “There was such a buzz around the Euro. I loved every minute ‘| Euro 2020
Birmingham-born Micah Richards, 33, raised in Leeds, signed for Manchester City at the age of 14, made his first-team debut at 17 and captained the team at 19. He won the Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and was the youngest defender ever called up to the England squad, with 13 international caps. He also played for Aston Villa and Fiorentina. After early retirement at the age of 31 due to knee injuries, he became a football expert. He covered this summer’s euros for the BBC, where his warm exuberance in the studio and on social media made Richards the top expert.
Did the Euros make 2021 a vintage for you?
Absoutely. It was my first international tournament as an expert. We send you this big booklet to evaluate all the teams. I thought, “Okay, I’ve been with the BBC for a while, I’m sure Meet of the day, I’m one of the big guys now. But for my first matches, I had teams like Russia and Slovakia. It’s a privilege to work on the Euro, but I don’t watch Russian football. I don’t know these players. There is a Swiss striker called Breel Embolo and I must have used the wrong name every time! But I don’t go on TV thinking I know everything. I represent the fans on screen. You can’t laugh and joke all the time, but soccer is supposed to be fun. I loved every minute of it.
Has he found the spirit of Euro 96?
Exactly that. There was such a buzz around and it always helps when England is doing well. By the time we got to the round of 16 everyone was like, “Wait, this might actually come home.” It was great to see how it united the country. Losing on penalties was devastating, but look how far they got.
How tense were you during the penalty shootout?
I couldn’t even look. On the way to Wembley, a fan asked me for my prediction. I said, “1-1 and it will go on penalties. He said, “Who is going to win? I just looked at him and raised my eyebrows. Because I know Roberto Mancini so well [Italy’s boss managed Richards at Man City], I knew he would close shop after he equalized. And when it comes to penalties, I just liked Italy. It was so cruel. I have never dared to take a penalty in my playing career. I did this once in a preseason friendly and it was bad enough on the nerves. Imagine taking one in a Euros final.
Have you marked it?
Buddy, I think he’s still from outer space.
What was your favorite game of the tournament?
England against Germany from afar. It had the best atmosphere of any international game I have ever attended. I have never heard Wembley so loud.
What do you think of England manager Gareth Southgate?
Brilliant. He understands exactly what we need. Society today is very divided and okay, Gareth may not yet be a master tactician like Mancini, but he has fostered such a sense of cohesion and unity.
Which players particularly impressed you?
Jordan Pickford gets a lot of sticking, but he was superb. Kyle Walker has been exceptional in a few different positions. Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in midfield were absolute drivers. And up front, Raheem Sterling stepped in in the big moments and responded to his critics. They were the backbone of the team. And honorable mention goes to Luke Shaw for scoring in a Euro final, just a few years after severely breaking his leg.
What did you think of the behavior of the fans on the day of the final?
I had to make it to Wembley three hours before kickoff and trying to get into the stadium was a nightmare. I must have made my way through about 30,000 people. In fact, I caught Covid that day. When I saw the footage later, I was like, “This is supposed to be a celebration. Why are you messing it up? The women and children were pushed to the ground. Some scenes were disgusting.
What about the fallout from racism that followed England’s exit?
I don’t know if it’s because I’m black, but I could see it coming. When the guys missed those penalties, I was scared to look at Twitter. The team is from different backgrounds, they gave absolutely everything and led us to the final, but when they missed a penalty, she was no longer English? It was so disheartening. I just felt weak. We are not talking about a few, we are talking about thousands of abusive posts. It was hard to take. But it will make them stronger and when they win something it will be even more enjoyable.
What is the answer to racism in sport?
Education – not just in sport but in all of society. Accept what you said is wrong, apologize, learn and move on. It takes 30 seconds for Google to find out why some terms are offensive. Some of these people are smart, they just use it selectively. Honest and difficult conversations are the key.
You broke a bit of Nice & Slow by Usher in the BBC studio at halftime during Sweden v Slovakia. Why?
Joleon lescott [former City teammate] texted me saying, “Why the hell are you on the euros singing Usher?” I replied, “It was just the right time to do it.” I’m still waiting for concert offers. I like to bring positive energy to the party. Even if I criticize someone, I do it with a smile.
Who are the best and least dressed experts?
Gary Neville is by far the worst. He looks horrible in everything. Jamie Redknapp is best dressed by a country mile. Ian Wright also has a little flair.
You have a hilarious relationship with Roy Keane. How did it develop?
People are often afraid of Roy because he is an absolute legend and doesn’t take any prisoners. So I decided to disagree with everything he said. I pushed him, pushed him and I didn’t back down. I think he liked the way I was doing. Since then, it’s been great. We are lucky to have him at a time when Manchester United are not doing so well because he is so passionate about the club. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve met in broadcasting.
So it’s a kitty underneath?
I am not quoted calling him a kitty. But it’s a diamond, it really is.
Your colleague BBC Sport Dan Walker does Come dance strictly. Do you fancy this?
Dan does a decent job. I couldn’t do Latin and ballroom. I’m more R&B. Popping and locking. A little more street.
What kept you sane during confinement?
Work and look at cabinets. I binged every season of Suit and Prison break, both for the second time. I liked the mental challenge of it. My Muslim friend said in April that he didn’t think I could stand the Ramadan fast, so I did it for a whole month, just to prove him wrong. And look at my height. I am determined like this.
Will you do something New years resolutions?
I want to give something back and try to make a difference. Use my profile to help people in difficulty. I donate money to charity, but I also want to devote more time to it.
What are your hopes for the 2022 World Cup?
In the last three years, England have reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and the final of the Euro, so we have to support each other. With a good draw and a little luck, who knows? We have a good chance. I can say it with my heart now, rather than just with hope.
Micah Richards is an expert for BBC Sport, Sky Sports and CBS