Michael Ricketts – January 2003
Never buy a player who is named after a vitamin deficiency.
Boro broke that rule in January 2003 when a late transfer window triple swoop saw Michael Ricketts come in from Bolton for £3.5 million together with Chris Riggott and Malcolm Christie from Derby. It was one of those late night fax-tastic deals that Sky Sports News loves but is usually born out of panic and is regretted before February is out.
It is typical of Boro’s record of buying strikers that, of the three players, the centre-back Riggott scored more goals than the two forwards managed between them during their time at the club.
Malcolm Christie was in fairness a hard working player whose attitude could not be questioned. He came from a humble background stacking shelves in a supermarket. Malcolm could have been the subject of a great headline “stacks shelves to stacks of goals” if only he had scored stacks of goals. He is now apparently a salesman at a prestige car dealership where , wouldn’t you know, he sells overpriced goods with a good engine. However, next to the £3.5 million paid for Michael Ricketts the Christie deal was a stroke of genius
Afonso Alves was more expensive than Ricketts but at least it took a while for people to realise that he was useless. He had showed some promise in his first season and at least looked the part. Ricketts was a nailed on duck egg from day one.
Rumours had already started before his debut that the club had to approach kit manufacturers Errea to supply an extra-large pair of shorts to fit his huge, lardy thighs. Fans were therefore not expecting a svelte, greyhound of a centre-forward when he made his first appearance but the sight that met them was a tragi-comic moment , like your first glimpse of the gone to seed Brian Wilson in the mid seventies.
He was absolutely huge resembling Bobby Murdoch’s Jamaican cousin with sadly only a smidgen of the great man’s talent.
Ricketts sported one of those beards that are so de-rigueur. I think he was going for the cool Blaxploitation look, perhaps a bit Marvin Gaye circa “What’s Going On?”. He looked more like Whisper from Live and Let Die.
In fairness, Ricketts was good at one thing (apart from eating) and that was taking penalties. His technique was superb and he also benefited from the fact that it didn’t involve him having to run. He just waddled up and stroked it in the corner.
Ricketts’ only goal in open play I can recall was a crucial late equalizer against Tottenham during our Carling Cup run and therefore he actually is an important part of Boro history. His gigantic shorts are also exhibited at the Boro Museum at the Riverside although currently they being loaned out to Darlington where they use them to protect their pitch from wintry weather.
As well as being a useless goal scorer and clinically obese Ricketts was virtually immobile. I can’t recall him moving at all on the pitch, indeed the club had to employ a company to remove moss and algae from him every few months. Shortly after the Carling Cup win I went to the Riverside and was amazed to find that Ricketts’ minor contribution to our victory had been formally recognised.
“Look they have put up a statue of Michael Ricketts!”
“No” said my mate, “that is Michael Ricketts”
After leaving Boro his Michael’s career went downhill as fast as if he had been pushed down Ormesby Bank on a go-kart. His overall career amounted to nothing apart from the distinction of being surely the worst centre forward every to get an England cap.
Ricketts didn’t fare much better in his personal life. In January 2011 he pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault for punching and head-butting his girlfriend outside a restaurant( where else!)and received a twelve months community order. The sentence would have been longer because he had also tried to kick her but he missed.
Michael Barrington Ricketts – yer great puddin’.