Micah Richards says punditry "saved" him after painful end to playing career

Micah Richards has revealed how football ­punditry “saved” him from depression after the ­painful end to his playing career.

But now the former ­England defender is ­concerned the Black Lives Matter movement has ­“tarnished all the hard work I’ve done” in earning his high-profile role.

After signing for ­ Manchester City aged 14, Richards won the Premier League title and played in the Olympics in 2012 before a chronic knee injury forced his retirement.

His last game for Villa was in the Championship in ­October 2016 at 28.

He ­officially retired in July last year before starting his media career with Sky Sports and the BBC. “I didn’t want to do punditry at the start,” Richards admitted. “The way my time finished at Aston Villa, I was borderline depressed.

“I had played for England at 18 and won a Premier League and I couldn’t get in the side. I had had four or five ­operations on my knee but it was embarrassing for me.

“It was difficult because people didn’t know what was going on and the ­extent of my injury.

“The doctor was ­drawing out 100ml of fluid from my knee ­probably twice a week. I was putting my body on the line for Aston Villa while getting abuse.

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“Now people ask me why I am always smiling and it is because I am a doing something I love. From where I was, it is brilliant.” When Soccer Saturday culled three long-standing presenters, there was a social media storm over speculation Richards and Alex Scott were lined up for the jobs. They weren’t.

“We all know racism and prejudice exists – we would be lying if we said it didn’t,” said Richards. “I just didn’t like the way I became the victim when I’ve not appeared on the show.

"But this whole Black Lives movement thing has sort of tarnished all the hard work I’ve done because people are just associating me with: ‘He’s only getting a job now ­because he’s black.’

“And I’m like: ‘Hold on, I’ve been doing this since the start of the season and I’ve been doing Man City TV for 10 years’. I ­believe in my ability no matter what people say.”

■Sky Sports is the home of the Premier League with more live matches than any other broadcaster.

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