Exclusive: Kieran Richardson on Ferguson, Jol and his beloved Arsenal
The heavens opened just after 10 in the morning in Kuala Lumpur when Richardson walked in to a hotel cafe 10,539km away from his home in London. The 33-year-old had just finished an entire weekend of studio shooting for Astro Supersport's live broadcast of the English Premier League but still looked like he was trying to adapt to the 8 hours time difference.
A player formerly contracted to Manchester United, Sunderland, Fulham and Aston Villa; Richardson's last playing contract was in 2016 with Cardiff City in the English Championship. What would be evident right from the start was his honesty and his willingness to speak his mind on his career and football in general.
As someone who spent 14 years of his life in professional football, Richardson does not quite want to close that chapter of his book yet despite being two years out of a playing contract. Still looking very lean and fit, he looks like he could walk into any team and not require massive time working up his fitness once again.
"I'm happy right now in family mode. Based in London at the moment but if a right opportunity comes in for me and my family then I'll consider," Richardson told Goal. "Until then I'll carry on enjoying my life, coming here, travelling the world, doing things and meeting people.
"It has to be right for me and obviously has to concur with my family. It has to be the right project, not just go somewhere just for the money."
Over two decades in football and various clubs, Richardson had been guided and managed by different managers. Five seasons were spent under the tutelage of one of football's greatest ever in Sir Alex Ferguson but also spells working with Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Martin O'Neill, Martin Jol, Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood.
From a teenager to a man now, those managers are the ones on top of his own family who have imparted their knowledge and guidance on him. Some are just a fleeting impression but at the other end of the scale, some would have shaped the person that Richardoson is today. Unsurprisingly, Ferguson falls into one of those categories for him.
"Impact as a player, definitely Sir Alex Ferguson. He's definitely the best man manager who gets the best out of his players. He's firm and high desire to win. He didn't want me to leave. He gave me the option to stay and fight for my position.
"As a man, Martin Jol at Fulham. He was a great guy and good friend. Really helped me. I just have so much respect for him on the other level."
Sunderland is the club that Richardson spent the longest amount of time at, together with his initial breakthrough at United. It was there that he grew into a man and a club that he still spoke about with plenty of fondness.
But being Manchester United, his time there was undoubtedly one to remember. Just two days after turning 18, he made his first bow for the club that he went on to make 40 more appearances. Just a month later from his debut, Richardson had found his first goal for the club against Leicester City in the League Cup and one which he treasures till this day.
"My fondest memory as a player was my Man United debut and scoring on that day. I remember scoring and I couldn't believe it. It was what I dreamt of. I had (David) Beckham and (Juan Sebastian) Veron holding me during the celebrations.
"But at the time I was 23 and was going through a hard patch. It was the best thing for me to leave. I'm so happy that I left because I went to Sunderland and it was the best time of my life.
"I don't really have no regrets because everything have been great for me. There's been mistakes of course, but I just learn from them. But if I had to say one thing that I want changed was maybe leaving Sunderland for Fulham. I didn't leave on football reason, it was personal.
"I would've liked to have stayed in Sunderland longer. But at the time I just wanted to stay in London and be with my family."
Despite being away from the professional game at the current time, the Premier League is still a big part of his life. His old club United are 10th after four matches played and already a sizeable six points behind the trio of league leaders in Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford.
Jose Mourinho's third season at United is looking slightly similar to the ones he had at Chelsea in his prior managerial appointment. It will not be easier for The Red Devils this weekend when they travel to Vicarage Road to face high-flying Watford who will not be short in confidence having disposed of Tottenham Hotspur before the international break.
Richardson believes that the enigmatic Portuguese is still the one for the top job at Old Trafford but perhaps showed that he is siding slightly with the recent inclination that the board and Ed Woodward in particular have not shown Mourinho the backing he needed.
"I think Man United requires a strong personality manager and he fits the bill. It requires time for Manchester United to get back because they fell so far so quickly. When Moyes and Van Gaal came in, they didn't do a good job. When Alex Ferguson left, it changed completely.
"I played against Manchester United when they didn't have Alex Ferguson and to be honest, it was much easier. The fear factor had gone. People would go into Old Trafford thinking they could win. When you go back years before, people were scared to go to Old Trafford and if they could get a draw, it would be the best thing in their lives. I don't think Manchester United have that fear factor now.
"To get that back requires winning titles and getting big big players. I still think Mourinho can do that but he needs time and backing from the board to go out and get who he wants. He needs world world stars to get that fear factor back. I'm talking about the likes of Neymar, Gareth Bale or (Douglas) Costa from Juventus. To get people off their seats and get people really really scared. Yes, he has spent a lot of money but it's not good enough."
As a Londoner, Richardson was inevitably drawn to one of the clubs there. A self professed Arsenal fan, he is looking the London divide to another Premier League club in envy at what they have done this season thus far.
Both Chelsea and Arsenal hired new managers this season having seen the departures of Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger respectively. Maurizio Sarri has a perfect record after four matches played with Unai Emery not quite hitting the same height and Richardson thinks that Chelsea fans have got themselves quite a catch.
"Sarri has impressed me right now for sure. When I watched both teams, I like Sarri's way. He's even got (N'Kolo) Kante playing further forward. I'm an Arsenal fan and I want Arsenal to be the best and win the league. But for Arsenal, I don't think we're strong enough to win the league. Chelsea are just much stronger.
"I think Emery is just trying to put his own style in the new club that he has come into. Which is great because he has to do something different because what Arsenal was doing before wasn't working. So he has to do something different to be better. And as a fan, I want him to do that. I want him to be up there challenging because right now, we're not even close.
"I think it's a sixth place squad. You have to go out there and buy. Arsenal doesn't do that, and that's a fact. Yes, there's Lacazette and Aubaymeyang but we can't compete with the likes of (Manchester) City and the way they improve the squad.
"As a fan, it's frustrating because upstairs all they care about is making the money, making the champions and I don't think they care about the trophies, if I'm being honest," explained an frustrated Richardson.