The Scotsman is reporting that Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is ready to come to the aid of troubled Queens Park Rangers central defender Steven Caulker.
The 25-year-old has seen a promising career stall and stagnate since bursting onto the scene in 2011 and has recently revealed that he has been driven to the brink of suicide by severe alcohol and gambling addictions.
He joined Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 2014 for £8 million, but has struggled to retain a consistent place in the first team, despite the club dropping into the Championship.
Caulker remains a final lingering reminder of the club’s recent failures and has issued a ‘cry for help’.
Rodgers has revealed that he has spoken with Caulker, although he insists that discussions have been firmly focused on the player’s well-being and recovery, which opens up the opportunity for the former England international to move to Celtic Park.
A promising start to a career
Steven Caulker was once widely perceived as being one of the brightest, most promising young defenders in England.
Rising through the academy ranks at Tottenham Hotspur, the centre half possessed the technical and psychological qualities that perfectly complimented his imposing six foot three inch frame.
By 16 years of age, he was a regular feature in the under-18’s team and within eighteen months he was captaining the side on a regular basis, although a route into the first team remained out of reach. The club opted to send him out on loan order to gain first team experience with spells at Yeovil Town and and Bristol City providing Caulker with his first taste of the professional game.
However, it was not until 2011 that another spell out on loan provided Caulker with an opportunity to gain national recognition. Swansea City, then under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, were preparing for their first season on the Premier League and opted to take the central defender on a season long loan.
The deal would be mutually beneficial and hugely successful for all concerned. Caulker became the mainstay of Swansea’s defensive unit, helping the club to an 11th place finish and receiving call-ups to Stuart Pearce’s Great Britain Olympic team and the senior England international side during 2012.
In November 2012 the central defender was handed his England debut in a friendly fixture against Sweden and got on the score sheet when he converted a Steven Gerrard free-kick. However, this would be the pinnacle of his career – he would not represent England again.
Drink, gambling and mental health
Steven Caulker was unable to force his way into the Tottenham Hotspur first team following his successful loan spell at Swansea City. The next four years saw him make big-money transfers to Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers, with both moves ultimately ending in relegation and failure.
Short terms loan deals to Southampton and Liverpool during the 2015/16 season, an attempt by then relegated Rangers to remove the 25-year-old from the wage bill, were equally as unsuccessful. The one-time England international had suddenly become the unwanted man of English football.
In an honest, open interview with The Guardian, in June 2017, Caulker revealed that he had been battling mental health issues that had stemmed from severe drink and gambling addictions. He spoke of waking up in a prison cell after a heavy night of drinking, of frittering away thousands of pounds in casinos, and of anxiety, depression and self-loathing. He candidly admitted that he had been driven to the drink of suicide by his off field issues.
Football is still coming to terms with mental illness and Caulker’s story is a timely reminder of the struggles that many players undoubtedly have to face off the pitch away from the television cameras.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Steven Caulker’s current contract still has one year remaining, but Queens Park Rangers have made it clear that he no longer has a future with the club.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has refused to rule out a possible move for the central defender and a deal could suit all involved. It was under the Northern Irishman’s management at Swansea City that Caulker produced some of the best football of his career six years ago and the admission by The Hoops boss that he has already spoken to the 25-year-old indicates that a positive relationship still exists. R
odgers has a reputation for being excellent at man-management and his guidance could be hugely beneficial as the player looks to resolve his off-field issues.
A move could also be prompted by Celtic’s lack of defensive cover. The Hoops have already started their season as they face a Champions League qualifying tie against Linfield and Rodgers is keen to add further quality to his squad despite last season’s unbeaten domestic campaign. An injury to Dedryck Boyata, who has suffered knee ligament damage, leaves the current squad short of central defenders and Caulker, who has played 123 games in the Premier League, could fill the void.
Steven Caulker undoubtedly possesses an abundance of talent and experience of competing at the highest level, but personal issues have resulted in his career stalling. A move to Celtic, under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers, could provide him with the perfect opportunity to resurrect his footballing life.
Featured image all rights reserved Dan Westwell.