Tottenham's second costliest signing at the time had a hard trail to reach White Hart Lane and when Dean Richards scored on his Spurs debut and with Tottenham leading 3-0 against Manchester United at half-time it all looked rosy. However, by the end of the match, Spurs had lost 3-5 and this was a sign of things to come for Richards.
A noted local footballer, who attended Rhodesway School, Dean was taken under the wing of his boyhood team, Bradford City, signing as a trainee in 1990 and he went on to make his debut as a 17 year old in 1991. Richards signed as a professional with his local club in July 1992 and played 102 times for the Bantams in his time at Valley Parade, scoring six goals.
Richards left Bradford City in May 1995 becoming Wolverhampton Wanderers' record signing in the process, after an initial loan spell with the club had seen him assist in their reaching the play-offs. It was £1.85million that took him to Molineux after a two month spell on loan at the First Division club. While in the old gold, Richards plays a total of 145 games for the club getting eight goals in those games, but he had suffered injuries, from a fractured cheekbone during a game to a smashed up knee in a car crash when his car skidded on black ice on the M62 on his way home from an FA Cup tie against Spurs in January 1996. A further knock on that knee caused him to miss almost the whole of 1997's games.
However, his presence in the heart of the Wolves defence had won him admiration with selection for the PFA Team of the Year two years running and he was part of the Molineux's side that went through to the 1998 FA Cup semi-final.
The central defender was getting a fair bit of recognition, including Alan Hansen (the former Scotland and Liverpool defender and TV pundit) describing him in 1996 as the most promising young defender in England and Deano went on to play four times for England Under-21s (including captaining the side in the Toulon summer tournament in 1995), as his strong physique was allied to a confidence in bringing the ball out of defence and a good range of passing. After four years at Wolves, his contract was up and he wanted to try his luck at a higher level, so after 122 league appearances he joined Southampton on a free transfer.
While at the Dell, he linked up with Norwegian Claus Lundekvam in the centre of the Saints' defence, giving them good finishes in his two seasons there, compared to previous seasons. Under Glenn Hoddle, he flourished as a ball-playing centre-half and he started to enjoy his game more. At Southampton, he played 68 times with a record of two goals in that time.
In August 2001, Spurs make a £4 million bid for Dean, but his club rejected it. This lead to Tottenham being reported to the League for improper approaches to the player and the club withdrawing their interest as they were given no encouragement to come back with a better bid. But that was just what Spurs did and in late September, amid rancour and childish behaviour from the Saints' chairman, the player was signed on a four year deal (with an optional two years at the end of it) for £8.1 million - half to be paid on signing and the other 50% in 12 months time. The move caused resentment with the Saints fans, who saw the player leaving for the money and to follow Glenn Hoddle to White Hart Lane and they rages at Spurs for under-mining his position at Southampton.
Deano's strengths are his strength and his aerial ability. In a recent game for his former club against Spurs he won everything in the air that Spurs put his way. With some youngsters in the heart of the defence, it was hoped his experience will add to their youth to blend a solid mixture into a formidable unit and he partnered Ledley King in the early stages of his career to give him an experienced defensive partner.
Spurs needed someone to bring in in this position who could dominate in the air and as Hoddle had worked extensively with Richards on the South Coast, he went for what he knew and signed Dean instead of taking a risk on a foreign signing. Richards showed some good qualities, but sometimes failed to live up to the reputation Hod had given him. Started the 2002-03 season well alongside Anthony Gardner and they made a good central defensive pairing, when they were able to play together without injury. It was hoped that the experience Richards has could be passed down to Gardner and there were signs of that happening until Christmas 2002, when the team's fortunes took a downturn.
Into 2003-04, things looked shaky at the start, until David Pleat took over and they looked a more solid pairing once the switch to the 4-4-2 formation was implemented. Richards was always be plagued with a chronic back problem picked up in a car crash during his Wolves days, but when he did play (especially against an old fashioned English centre forward) he showed he can dominate the game. his leadership qualities were also noted, with him leading the side out at Manchester City in a 2002 Premier League match.
Dean played only a few games in 2004-05 because of an injury and an ear problem, that left him with pain, difficulty with his balance and debilitating tiredness. At one stage it was thought to be a brain tumour. However, despite carrying on to play in a few reserve matches, Richards had to retire from the game, as he was told that any further aggravation of his ear condition could have affected him for life.
Richards returned to his native Yorkshire and took on a youth coaching role with Bradford City in 2007, but then on 26th February 2011 he passed away in a hospice in Leeds following a long illness at the age of 36. Dean left a wife Samantha and two children - Rio and Kaden.