"I've always said given a chance, with me being 100 per cent and none of the niggling injuries I always seem to pick up now and then, that I can compete with anyone in the league who is challenging in my position," he reasons.He will be up against Gareth Bale tomorrow, part of a Spurs team who arrive bristling with a motive to defeat City after August's 5-1 defeat. It was clear, this week, that time has dimmed neither the memory of that tragedy, nor entirely the sadness.The Manchester City defender recalls the song "Make it Alright" by the R&B singer Carl Thomas, which he will always associate with his friend."I liked the song and I was singing it and humming it but I didn't know the artist," he says.The past is never far away for Micah Richards – not even now, at the richest football club in the world, where, as of yesterday, he was the last remnant of the fabled youth ranks assembled in the days before the money arrived.The first time we talked, five years ago, it was Richards making the call, from a train, aware that I was investigating the death of his boyhood friend, Daniel Nelson – who at the age of 18 took his own life in a Young Offenders' Institution – and wanting to offer his own words.It's just that different managers like different players and I suppose the quicker you learn that, the better."He has needed to learn more than most.
Space Invaders It's the retro computer games for me.
"I know it didn't always go so well under Mark Hughes but it wasn't as if he didn't give me a chance or anything. Mancini's love of defensive rigour threatened to make things materially worse and yet here Richards is now, quite possibly City's captain for the visit of Tottenham tomorrow, and quite certainly a better defender than he was before the Italian arrived. I wouldn't say they are scared to make mistakes, but they wouldn't make the silly mistakes they normally make because they know [the consequences]."This certainly bears out all the anecdotal evidence about Mancini – that if you are "in" with him, then you are "in", but it you are "out" you are nothing.
"Yeah, definitely he's made me a better defender," he says. "Well certain managers will see you make mistakes and they'll tell you about it and then they've told you once and if you do it again, then it's up to you. "You need to get under his wing," as Richards put it just before Christmas.
"Every individual has to take consequence for themselves but if he had had someone to support him a bit more, that would not have happened." Another of Richards' charitable links is with the Black Health Initiative. "That's the most important thing to me."It's not the only thing.
No discussion with Richards is quite complete without discussion of Fabio Capello's robust disinclination to select him for the England team, though that is one topic where he is prepared to let his game talk him through. "I've said before I've been upset with England but it's not about that.
"Danny told me the artist." Richards carried it on his i Pod for months and still keeps it. "You can either go down that path he took or do what I've done.