One question facing Ross County F.C. as the season started was what kind of a contribution was defender Steven Saunders going to make in 2014-2015?
The answer, unfortunately for both the player and the club is, none.
Saunders has been ruled out for the rest of the 2014-2015 season due to ligament damage in his ankle that will require surgery and a lengthy recuperation period. This is the second major ankle injury (and third major injury overall) for the one-time (literally) Scotland international who, at the age of 23, might have played his last professional match. In August of 2011 he tore his achilles tendon which kept him out of action until April of 2012, and then suffered another injury that limited him to only one match in all of 2012-2013, at which point Motherwell- for whom he had once been a regular in the starting line-up despite his youth- released him.
Saunders signed for County in the summer of 2013, but fitness issues and further injuries limited him to only 12 league matches during the 2013-2014 season. Despite his limited time on the field the club saw enough in his play and his potential to sign him to a year long contract extension keeping him with the club until the end of the 2014-2015. Having not made it past the substitute’s bench in the three matches thus far this season, when this contract expires he will have only managed 12 league appearances and one Scottish Cup appearance for the club over two seasons.
Saunders may well recover and return to action for Ross County or another club, but as it stands now when his Ross County contract expires he will have played in only 16 matches in all competitions in the previous four seasons. With that a his history one would have to assume that he will probably have to drop down a league or two and prove that he can be a durable player for a club- something he hasn’t done since 2010-2011 with Motherwell, when he was only 18 years old.
I wish him the best, but right now it’s hard to ignore that football can be a cruel, cruel game sometimes.