As I write this, Swansea City are relishing the return of young Steven Caulker from injury. The England U-21 star suffered a knee problem back in September after colliding with a post during the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates. The Swans back-line had have been lacking the quality the 20-year-old brings to the defence for the best part of three-months following the injury.
However, it is no coincidence that the Premier League new-boys have only conceded just two goals in the last four games that Caulker has played in following his re-instalment to the starting XI of the South Wales outfit and subsequent recovery from his knee cartilage damage. And it isn’t the first time his input has been missed. During his spell with Bristol City last season, he suffered an ankle problem and after being diagnosed with a similar knee cartilage problem and, after leaving the Robins, they went on to win only two of their remaining eight Championship encounters.
Back to today, however, and Caulker has managed to propel himself into the hearts of Swansea fans as he looks to establish himself as a Premier League regular. A number of mature displays in the Jacks back-four beyond the years of a player who only recently celebrated his twentieth birthday has seen expectations for his future rise meteorically.
Man of the hour Harry Redknapp recently praised the youngster to high heaven in his article for The Sun, labelling him one of his six players to watch out for in 2012. Perhaps, more excitingly for Caulker, is the fact that the Spurs manager admitted he ‘has big plans’ for him upon his return from the Liberty stadium, with Redknapp keen for the defender to add to his one senior appearance for Spurs which he gained during the 4-1 North London derby Carling Cup defeat last year.
However, one stipulation of his loan deal is, like our own Emmanuel Adebayor, he cannot play against his parent club, perhaps fortuitously. Without him in the back-four, the Swansea defence look a shadow of themselves when he does play and with Spurs currently running rampant across the country; many are fully expecting a comfortable three points for the travelling side when the two teams meet on New Year’s eve.
With Redknapp eager for him to return in the summer, many of the fans are now hopeful he can replicate his Premier League performances that he has been churning out in south Wales. Of the one senior appearance he has made, Caulker was awarded the Spurs man of the match accolade, not bad considering he was part of a defence that shipped four goals on the night.
Club captain, and stalwart, Ledley King becoming more and more affected by a lack of training, Caulker may well be thrust to the first team sooner rather than later, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His leadership qualities can’t be put into question either, having captained the under-18’s side before being loaned to Yeovil Town two-years ago.
Many of the fans are excited by his return in six months time, buoyed by the experience he has gained since the season. His physical attributes, reading of the game and captain-esc ability has lead to a section of the Spurs faithful believe he is the defender to take over from King when the England man inevitably calls it a day.
So while it will be a monumental shame when the King retires, the replacement has already cut it with the big boys and having suffered two knee injuries already in his short career, it is fate that has seen Caulker compared with the Spurs hero. 2012 could well be a very big year for the 6ft 3in colossus and I am just delighted that a player of his quality has broken through the ranks and at such a young-age, has enough experience to be reliable enough to succeed when called-upon by Redknapp.