KIERAN Richardson has told Steve Bruce: “Just play me where you need me,” ahead of tomorrow’s visit from Premier League champions Chelsea.
The club’s Mr Versatility was the star of the show in Sunderland’s last game, when he played just behind main striker Asamoah Gyan at Blackpool, scoring two classy goals in the sparkling 2-1 win over the Tangerines
And the natural inclination would be not to tinker with a winning team and field the same side again when Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues come to town.
But Richardson is also aware that the manager’s masterstroke in Sunderland’s best performance of the season – the 3-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in November – was in playing him on the right wing and asking him to contain the attacking threat of England right back Ashley Cole.
And he told the Echo: “I’ve said to the manager before that I don’t mind where he plays me – if it’s the best thing to do for the team then that’s okay by me.
“And the same applies to the game coming up against Chelsea.
“We put in a great performance at their place and I was asked to do what seemed to be a strange role for me at the time – playing on the right wing and up against Ashley Cole.
“The manager put me there because he knew I would be able to keep up with his runs down the wing and it worked out well for us.
“I don’t know what he’ll have in mind for Tuesday, because playing Asamoah at Blackpool also worked out well for us.
“Like everybody else, I’m just going to have to see which way the manager goes when it comes to his team selection.
“But from a personal point of view, it’s an exciting game and I’m just looking forward to playing in it.
“It helps that we are doing so well this season. It makes it much more of an interesting match for everyone that we meet up in February and we’re only a couple of places behind them in the table.
“That’s great for our supporters and it should be a great occasion too because I think fans enjoy a night match – there’s always a bit of a special atmosphere when you have a night time match under floodlights.”
Steve Bruce admits he will have to think long and hard about where to deploy Richardson tomorrow.
He said: “Kieran was absolutely terrific in that game down at Chelsea because Cole was probably my biggest concern going into that game.
“He had absolutely tortured us down that flank when Chelsea beat us 7-2 at Stamford Bridge the previous season, so I asked Kieran to play on the right wing to try to close Cole down.
“With Nedum Onuoha behind Kieran, Cole wasn’t able to have the same impact on the game and we were able to benefit from that.
“But having said that, Kieran was superb against Blackpool and those two goals he scored were not only excellently taken, but they gave us a win which was so important in the context of the season.
“It’s an interesting selection decision, but that’s what I’m paid to do and I’ve got to say I’m grateful that we’ve got so many players – of which Kieran is possibly the best example – who can play equally well in a variety of positions.
“It means you can make the most of your squad, even if it does occasionally throw up difficult decisions like what to do with Kieran for the Chelsea game.”