Journeyman: A worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding
Greetings to you. We’re over half way towards filling our team sheet for Journeyman FC, and today we’ll add our 7th player. We’ve scoured the Premier League’s past to find you the most average players we can, but now we’ve gone a step further to bring you one of the Premier League’s current crop.
Our latest hero has played for 7 Premier League clubs in a top flight career spanning over 13 years. He’s even played a dozen times for England Under 21s, but these facts combined with the grand total of zero full England caps combine to justify his Journeyman status. Step forward Wayne Routledge.
Routledge is a speedy winger who has also been utilised as a forward in his time, in a career bookended by clubs where he made over 100 appearances, but littered with clubs in between where little to no game time as afforded. His first club was Crystal Palace, graduating from their academy and making his first team debut in 2002. He became a first team regular and played a pivotal part in getting Palace promoted to the Premier League in the 2003/04 season. Our journey starts in the 2004/05 season, as Palace battle bravely against relegation.
Where Eagles Dare
After a late charge to promotion under the guidance of Iain Dowie, Crystal Palace were always likely to be in a relegation battle in their first season in the top flight for six seasons. Our man Wayne did his bit, laying on 10 assists for team mates, though he failed to find the net himself. It had looked like Palace would escape relegation, but a 90th minute equaliser from fellow strugglers Southampton at Selhurst Park in the second last game of the season sent Sky into a meltdown over a final day where any three of four teams could be relegated. Here it is, neatly summed up:
The bottom line is that Palace were relegated and Routledge had reached the end of his contract and after refusing to sign a new one in January, his exit from the club seemed inevitable. With a tribunal later setting the fee at £2m, Routledge was off to Tottenham – the graveyard of many young midfielders in this era.
White Hart Loan
For those who believe in fate and signs and all that sort of thing, Routledge broke his foot on his league debut for Tottenham. After recovering to make a return in December, Routledge was loaned to Portsmouth as Harry Redknapp wheeled and dealt his way through another transfer window. He again failed to score for relegation threatened Portsmouth, though did provide a vital assist in a draw with Bolton. Youtube has let me down on that one though. Routledge made 13 appearances for Portsmouth to go with his three for Tottenham.
In 2006/07, it was another loan deal as this time our man was used as a makeweight in a deal that took Steed Malbranque from Fulham to Tottenham, with Routledge going the other way for a year. Routledge’s only goal for the club was a great solo effort winner in a much underrated cup tie against Leicester City, which you can enjoy here:
It was back to Tottenham to fight for a first team spot for the 2007/08 season, but with Aaron Lennon now a first team regular and a key part of the England squad, Routledge was on a hiding to nothing. In January 2008, it was time for a permanent switch.
Martin O’Neill was building a team at Aston Villa that was exciting and filled with young talent. A formation heavily reliant on wide men Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor either side of big John Carew seemed like the perfect setup for Routledge to make his mark on the Premier League. However, he didn’t bank on Martin O’Neill not believing in rotation and despite paying £1.5m for Routledge’s services, the Villa manager saw fit to give him two Premier League appearances in two seasons. In November 2008, it was back to the Championship on loan, as Cardiff came calling. After rejecting a permanent switch to the Bluebirds in January 2009, he instead joined QPR, another Championship side. Following a year of impressing in an average QPR side, Routledge was to be on the move again…
With Newcastle top of the Championship, manager Chris Hughton was keen to improve his squad to ensure they stayed there for the remainder of the season. Routledge signed for an undisclosed fee (yawn) and slotted into the side for the remainder of the season, playing 17 times and scoring three goals. Newcastle won the league, passing 100 points, and Routledge would get another crack at the Premier League.
6 years after his Premier League debut, Wayne would go looking for his first Premier League goal with his 6th top flight club. Despite starting the season in the team, a re-shuffle caused him to lose his place as Joey Barton was moved to the right wing, and Routledge was back to bench duty. Hughton was sacked in December 2010, with Alan Pardew taking over. Routledge was subsequently loaned to QPR in the January transfer window, a move that many Newcastle fans found hasty. Routledge helped QPR to promotion, but did not make the move permanent. Routledge’s 7th Premier League home was to be a bit further afield.
Another year, another undisclosed transfer fee. Swansea City celebrated their first season in the top flight by signing Routledge, and indeed he finally got his first Premier League goal in January 2012. It came with a huge slice of irony as it was scored at Villa Park, one of Routledge’s former clubs. He has now gone on to enjoy 6 consecutive seasons of Premier league football, with the highlight being the 2012/13 season where a 9th place finish was accompanied by a League Cup win. Routledge played the whole final, which not only meant silverware for the club but also European football the following season.
Although Swansea are currently battling relegation, Routledge has undoubtedly realised his potential whilst at the Liberty Stadium. Unlike many of the posts in this series, Routledge has definitely come into his own as his career has progressed, and as he is aged just 32, there’s still plenty more to come. Wayne, welcome to our team. We’ll try not to loan you out.