When human powderkeg Joey Barton can get a club and Qantas Socceroo Harry Kewell can’t, something has gone very, very wrong in the football world.
Admittedly the reviled but talented Barton is four years Kewell’s junior and still close to at his peak, while Kewell, at 33 and with a history of injuries, is past his, that doesn’t mean Australia’s greatest ever footballer doesn’t deserve an opportunity to once again shine in England.
I can hear the Kewell critics now; he’s too slow, he’s too old, he’s injury prone, he’s got the wrong agent – regardless, Kewell still has the quality to compete at a high level.
Kewell himself seems to believe his “sicknote” label is driving clubs away but truth be told injuries have not been a problem since the highs and lows of his stint at Anfield.
"No one, especially in England, has seen me for four years because I've been away,” Kewell told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph recently.
"And obviously when I left England I had a bad name because of all my injuries, but in the last four years that I have played in Galatasaray and Melbourne, I've played all the games."
Yes, Kewell has aged and lost a yard of pace but he can perform - but at what level?
Like Barton, the top clubs won’t want a piece of him; even mid-table clubs like Everton wouldn’t gamble on an older player, as evidenced by Tim Cahill’s move to the MLS, but there are English clubs that would surely benefit from having a player like Harry on the roster.
Kewell’s options appear to be determined by whether he would be willing to take a pay cut and accept less game-time over a starting role at a smaller club, still with one eye on the 2014 World Cup.
Further limiting his options is his desire to stay in England’s north-west to be close to his family, which would likely mean a travel time of 90 minutes or less to and from training.
If Kewell is serious about getting enough football under his belt in the lead up to Brazil 2014, his options appear to be as a bench player for a lower-ranked EPL side or a starter in the lower tier of English football, taking a pay cut while he’s at it.
And with the English season only weeks away, time would appear to be running out.
Make no mistake, Harry can be the hero again and he can do it while playing a role off the bench in the EPL, being that impact player that comes on and gives a cameo, or he can help pull the strings for a team with Premiership aspirations in the Championship.
But he certainly deserves an opportunity; if an individual like Barton can get chance after chance, why can’t Kewell get another go after simply tearing his hammy a few times too many for Liverpool’s liking?
Clubs Kewell could go to.
Wigan Athletic: Forever fighting relegation, the Latics have a youthful midfield and could benefit from the experience of Kewell out wide or up front.
Stoke: Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington are their starting wide players and Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones have a mortgage on the striker spots, but Kewell is the type of bench player they could use, especially given that they are known to be one-dimensional in attack.
Bolton Wanderers: Recently relegated Wanderers will be looking to move straight back up into the EPL and with a good mix of youth and experience they could do it. They also have a record on punting on experience, with Martin Petrov already in the side.
Middlesbrough: Earlier talks reportedly died off, but Boro have long had good relationships with Aussies and with Rhys Williams still at the club a move for fellow Aussie Kewell could be helped along.
Blackburn Rovers: Also recently relegated, Brett Emerton’s former club could certainly use the attacking talents of Kewell. Like Boro talks appear to have stalled, but still an option.
Burnley: A small club without a huge budget, Burnley have been trying hard to rebuild since they were relegated from the EPL, a player like Kewell signing with them would be a huge boost for the club who continue to punch above their weight. But would the money be enough to tempt him?
Blackpool: Proving that old is new young... or something like that, the Tangerines still have 39-year-old Kevin Phillips on the books, so why not Harry? Kewell would complement the club’s lofty aims of returning to the top flight.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA.