Journeyman: A worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding
Welcome back to the series which lauds some great Premier League servants who perhaps fell a little bit short of the Ballon d’or shortlist. So far we have 8 players in a rather weird looking 2-3-2 formation, but that does mean we need to get back on the recruitment horse and pick out a new Journeyman. This week, I’ve signed up an England International who is also an Olympian. Surely this must be some sort of mistake?
Step forward Steven Caulker, the man who burst onto the Premier League scene as a promising defender but ended it as an emergency striker under Jurgen Klopp. How did it come to this?
Down the Lane
Caulker joined Tottenham’s academy as a 15-year-old, and like many young players he had to go out on loan to make his way in the game. Loan spells at Yeovil in 2009/10 and Bristol City in 2010/11. Impressing in both spells and earning some accolades along the way, there was also time for Caulker to make his Spurs debut in a home defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup in September 2010. However, it would be 2012 before he would turn out for Spurs again.
Caulker’s first taste of Premier League action would arrive in the 2011/12 season, where a season-long loan to newly promoted Swansea would offer him valuable game time at the top level. Despite an 8 week injury disrupting the early part of the campaign, Caulker was a regular in an impressive Swansea side that finished 11th in their first season in the top flight, making 26 appearances. A number of teams expressed a desire to take Caulker on loan for the following season, but Caulker had other business to attend to first.
The summer of 2012 was a time of great excitement in Britain. The Olympic Games were here, and Britain was going to put on a show. Unfortunately, having done the hard work of reaching an agreement that allowed Great Britain to enter a football team despite competing as individual nations with UEFA, Stuart Pearce was given the managerial job and, let’s face it, he was a far better player than a manager. Caulker made Pearce’s squad but David Beckham was overlooked for Ryan Giggs. Now, I don’t want to go off topic here, but for all the work Beckham did around Britain’s Olympic bid how could you not pick him Stuart? Do you not think the players would have been inspired by playing with an International icon? Pah. A wasted opportunity. Although Team GB made it out of the groups, a defeat on penalties to South Korea was overshadowed by the events in another stadium that night. For Caulker though, it was back to Tottenham.
The Spurs Way
Spurs appointed Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the 2012/13 season, and AVB took a shine to our man Caulker and kept him around for the season. With a Europa League campaign to come, there would be ample opportunity for game time, and so it proved with a Premier League debut in September 2012 as a substitute against QPR. This was a golden age for Caulker, as the following week he played in Spurs 3-2 win at Old Trafford before scoring his first goal a week later against Aston Villa. Here it is…from the stands, for some reason.
Caulker went on to play 18 league games for Tottenham plus another 10 in various cup competitions, but it clearly wasn’t enough to impress AVB.
£8m was the price for one Steven Caulker in July 2013, with another newly promoted side taking a punt on a defender who was now an England International. More on that soon. This time it was Cardiff City signing him up, hoping to help preserve their stay in the top-flight much like he had for Swansea previously. Caulker played every minute of the league season, and even headed in the winner against former club Swansea, which you can see below
Caulker actually scored five goals this season but it wasn’t enough to keep Cardiff up, but at least he can say he played for a potential bond villain in Vincent Tan. Why oh why did he wear his Cardiff shirt over the top of a suit…anyway, relegation meant Caulker was on the move again.
Another season, another newly promoted club for Caulker. Harry Redknapp, who had given Caulker his debut for Spurs, snapped up the chance to manage our man again and took him to Loftus Road for an undisclosed fee. With Rio Ferdinand also signed, this should have been the perfect blend of youth and experience. Instead, it was a disastrous season. Caulker was at the very least a regular, playing 35 league games, but QPR finished bottom of the table and Redknapp departed in February, presumably because he saw the writing on the wall. Chris Ramsey, not the comedian, couldn’t save the R’s and it was back to the Championship.
Loan Again, Naturally
For the 2015-16 season, Caulker was loaned to Southampton with the Europa League campaign in mind. Unfortunately for Southampton and ultimately Caulker, an exit before the group stage meant he was limited to 8 Southampton appearances, only 3 of which were in the Premier League. Then, something incredible happened. Jurgen Klopp was just two months into his time as Liverpool manager and he decided he must have Steven Caulker. The loan spell at St. Mary’s was cut short, and Caulker was off to Anfield. Although (hopefully) originally signed as defensive cover brought about by an injury crisis as Liverpool’s players wilted under the strain of Klopp’s training methods, Caulker found himself being thrown on as an emergency striker. Good old fashioned “get it in the mixer” type football. He even played a part in a late winner at Carrow Road in that ridiculous 5-4 game. You know what, you’ve made it this far. Here it is for your viewing pleasure:
Liverpool didn’t make the deal for Caulker permanent and our man has found himself struggling for regular games in the Championship.
One Cap, One Goal
Lest we forget, Caulker belongs to that exclusive club where he has a 100% strike rate in International football. Yes, that mad game where Zlatan scored that overhead kick is also where you’ll find Caulker’s international debut and subsequent goal. Getting on the end of a Gerrard free kick, Caulker powered in a shot at the far post to give England a 2-1 lead, a lead they held until he was withdrawn. All I’m saying is, Ryan Shawcross came on and we lost 4-2. Those two statements may or may not be related. Here’s his goal, because, well why not
Still only 25, it is perhaps a little ridiculous to dismiss Caulker’s career as that of a journeyman already. But having been at 6 Premier League clubs already, he’s well on the way to it and who knows, maybe his career has peaked? I hope it hasn’t but if it has, we’ll have you in our Journeyman XI, Steven – we might even play you at the back.