It may come as a surprise to many that Jason Koumas is back playing football regularly, now plying his trade in League Two with Tranmere Rovers.
Tranmere is also the club where it all started for Koumas back in the late 1990s before going onto make over 90 appearances in the Premier League with Wigan and West Brom.
Koumas came out of a stint away from football after leaving Wigan in 2011 and signed terms with Tranmere ahead of the 2013/14 season.
Speaking to Tranmere’s official website at the time it was clear the void football had left was something that Koumas wanted to fill again.
“One thing I always wanted to do was return here and play but I didn’t want to do it at a stage where I was past it. I wanted to come back when I knew I could still do it and hopefully people will see over the coming weeks that it’s still there.
“The first 12 months [out of the game] it was something I wanted to do. When I finished at Wigan I’d had enough. I was tired of it, I had a few injuries and I just wanted to get away from it and have some time out.
“It was longer than I planned but over the last 12 months I’ve been itching to get back. I’ve been watching football every week and I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the everyday routine and the banter with the lads, you can’t replace it.
“This has been on my mind for a while and Tranmere was, and is, the only place I would have come back to. I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. It’s not about the money, I’m here for one reason, to play for Tranmere again and to do a job for the club. Hopefully the fans will enjoy what’s to come.”
It’s clear that Tranmere has a special place is Koumas’ heart when hearing these words but it is still a surprise that the Wrexham-born man has come out of retirement following a long lay-off, at least in footballing terms.
Having started out with Tranmere, Koumas was signed-up by West Brom in 2002. This is where he really carved out a name for himself in the Premier League and Championship.
During this period Koumas also earned the majority of his 34 international caps, scoring ten goals for Wales along the way. He announced his retirement from international football in September 2009.
During his time playing internationally he also had a spell in his native Wales, joining up with Cardiff City on-loan for the 2005/06 season. While at Cardiff, Koumas earned a Player of the Year award and was selected on the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
In the summer of 2006, Cardiff unsuccessfully attempted to sign Koumas permanently while he boycotted the pre-season period with West Brom. However, the Welsh international eventually decided to sign for the Baggies on a three-year deal. It was to be a good decision as he capped-off a fantastic season by being named Championship Player of the Year.
This attracted the attentions of Wigan who signed him up for £5.3 million in July 2007 on a four-year deal. He stayed with Wigan until 2011 with his final season spent at Cardiff on-loan once again.
This was set to be his final club before taking time out from the game, playing his last game for Cardiff in May 2011.
Ronnie Moore signed-back the Wrexham man and stated at the time that previous to his return, Koumas had ‘fell out of love with the game’ when quoted on Sky Sports.
That love now appears to have returned to Koumas as he made 31 League appearances last season and eleven so far this term. After such a long absence away from the game, it is commendable how strongly the 35-year-old has come back to football, albeit at a lower standard.
Rovers are currently struggling near the bottom of League Two however. They will need all of the ex-Wales international’s experience to drag them up from 23rd place, just three points ahead of Hartlepool at the bottom
It is unlikely we will see Koumas play at a higher level than League Two again but it is fantastic to see a player come back with such a thirst to just play football and not consider financial gain as a reason for returning to his beloved game.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Dan Farrimond [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons