GREECE IS THE WORD: WHAT COLIN KAZIM-RICHARDS DID NEXT

Yes, whatever happened there...

As a young child in Leyton, north-east London, future Turkish  international forward Colin Kazim-Richards hated football, seeing it as a chore, but as he became the ‘best kid in the playground’ in later years his natural flair and endeavour would take him on an extraordinary journey.

His current port of call is Olympiakos as he bids to help outmuscle Panathinaikos in the race for the Superleague Greece title while on loan from Galatasaray, and this type of challenge is an appropriate indicator of the 25-year-old’s chase for success in his colourful if unbalanced young career to date.

Strongly guided every step of the way by his Highbury-born Antiguan father Rodney, his power was a standout trait as he excelled for Interwood Boys before Queens Park Rangers signed him at ten years old, along with best friend and current Norwich City midfielder Bradley Johnson.

After a year, his beloved Arsenal stepped in and he would later join up with West Ham United, although considerable growing pains had set in and what seemed a certain success story was in grave danger of disintegrating.

A string of trials failed to yield the desired offer from the clubs but he would be integral to the Essex county team’s cup success and after reluctance from Wimbledon the teenager penned a three-year scholarship with Bury in 2001.

As an 18-year-old in 2004 he made his professional debut for the League Two Shakers at Stockport County’s Edgeley Park in the LDV Vans Trophy in a season that would end in unforgettable fashion.

He earned the moniker of ‘The Coca-Cola Kid’ in June 2005 after the soft drink giant’s ‘Win A Player’ competition was won by Brighton & Hove Albion supporter Aaron Berry, the £250,000 prize money going toward the signing of Bury’s Young Player of the Year.

His contribution of six goals was not enough to save the Seagulls from relegation to League One and after submitting a transfer request at the start of the 2006/07 campaign Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock took a gamble on him for his top flight Blades side.

Though last day relegation occurred in May 2007, his Premier League experience had alerted the Turkish national team coach Fatih Terim to his eligibility via his mother’s Turkish-Cypriot heritage and a move to Fenerbahce ensued.

There was considerable focus on him after his Champions League quarter-final first-leg winner in April 2008 against eventual runners-up Chelsea and he seemed at ease in the company of teammates like Roberto Carlos with another Brazilian legend Zico his boss at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium.

Despite that fleeting glimpse at a fairytale, there was a new culture on and off the pitch (even with Kazim-Richards’ family background factored in) to acclimatise to and Fenerbahce could not manage to win the title in his three full seasons at the club.

His international progress accelerated however in his opening year and took him to Euro 2008 where he impressed at times as Turkey beat Switzerland, Czech Republic and Croatia (on penalties) en route to a semi-final date with Germany in Basel.

He crashed a superb effort against the bar in the game but Philipp Lahm’s last-gasp German winner for 3-2 would be a difficult ending to an impressive run for the team who had failed to even qualify for the two previous major tournaments.

Great goalscoring form was shown at the start of 2009/10 but there were indiscretions in his time at Fenerbahce under ex-Spain boss Luis Aragonés, and Christoph Daum in his second spell at the helm, including a ban for swearing at the referee and a broken wrist sustained in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt.

The final few months of the 2009/10 season were spent on loan with Toulouse as a 14th-place finish in France’s Ligue 1 was earnt, Kazim-Richards netting his solitary goal for the club on his debut before returning to Istanbul for the following campaign.

Aykut Kocaman was by now in charge at Fenerbahce and the ex-Bury starlet would be released in January 2011, making headlines by joining bitter rivals Galatasaray and going on to score against his previous employers in the subsequent meeting.

Gala lead the way by six points (with a game in hand) from 2nd-placed Fenerbahce under the stewardship of Kazim-Richards’ former international mentor Terim, back at the club for the third time as manager having also had a long and distinguished stay as a player.

Despite becoming a frequent fixture in his twelve months with the club, ‘Kazim Kazim’ joined Olympiakos a few weeks ago on loan for the remainder of the current campaign with the Piraeus outfit having the option of making the deal permanent if they so wish.

As a player full of self-belief some perceive it as arrogance, but he is a good-humoured character, once remarking that after he crashed his car he put his hand to his face to check he still had his looks!

There have been numerous setbacks and points in his story where trouble has looked abound but he never appears afraid to try his hand in a testing environment, leaving home as a teenager and of course playing in Turkey, France and Greece.

Save the likes of Kevin Keegan, Steve McManaman, David Beckham et al, venturing abroad professionally has historically seemed something of a rarity in English-born players, though more frequent examples are appearing, with Joe Cole, Scott Carson and Michael Mancienne this season alone.

To watch in action he is an exciting player when in full flight, possessing that unpredictability that can be a gift or a curse and he is joined at the league champions by former Manchester United goalkeeper Roy Carroll, ex-Aston Villa captain Olof Mellberg and brief Villa midfielder Jean Il Makoun.

He made his debut last month as a substitute in a 2-0 win at PAOK, also starting in a victory over AEK Athens and playing the full game as Panionios were defeated.

This weekend he scored his first goal for the club as OFI were put to the sword by two goals to nil in an away win that has taken Olympiakos to the top of the league, although Panathinaikos can reclaim it with victory from their game in hand.

There is a Greek Cup two-legged semi-final to look forward to in addition to their continental escapades which will see them travel to Ukraine to take on Metalist Kharkiv in the last sixteen of the Europa League this Thursday.

Kazim-Richards’ path so far has been intriguing and he is a player whose progress always interests me since I first heard about him at Bury and even more so after I saw him plant an injury-time header past my team Sheffield Wednesday to equalise for Brighton in 2005.

As with any new signing he must be integrated into the system correctly and additionally he requires extreme focus and application, something he has recently spoke about as an area that is of paramount importance for him at this current time.

He has also roundly dismissed previous suggestions that his work ethic is not as high as it should be by pointing to the significant ascent his career has taken so far as evidence to the contrary.

Joined by his fiancée Mariana and young son Caio he has enjoyed the start to life with Olympiakos and has stated that the increased game pace to that he had initially expected is definitely to his liking.

Whether his stay in Greece is a long and fruitful one or whether he returns for another shot at success in Galatasaray there are sure to be a few more twists in the tale for ‘The Coca-Cola Kid’.

You can read more from Chris at the really rather good Beats and Rhymes FC.

IBWM is open to everyone to share their stories. If you'd like to submit an article on any topic, please contact us.