Thursday, 11 April 2013

Caleb Folan

2011 : Colorado Rapids (United States)
2013 : T-Team (Malaysia)

Caleb Folan is an English-born Irish footballer, who plays as a striker. Born in Leeds in 1982, he started life on the books of Leeds United but failed to make an appearance for the club. Loan spells Rushden & Diamonds and Hull when he was just 19 helped Folan gain a limited amount of experience before Leeds released him 2003. He played for four years with lower league outfit Chesterfield before signing for Premier League strugglers Wigan Athletic. However, his time with the Latics was unsuccessful and he was sold to Hull after less than a season.

Folan's grandfather was born in County Galway, and through this connection, he was called up by Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton in March 2007, however he wouldn't make an appearance until the appointment of Giovanni Trapattoni in 2008. Although he never scored for Ireland, he helped set up a number of crucial goals in the World Cup 2010 qualification campaign.

His club career in England was stagnating, and after a brief loan spell with Middlesbrough, he left Hull in March 2011 and took up the challenge of playing in the United States with the Colorado Rapids franchise.

Formed in 1996, the Rapids were one of the founding members of the new Major League Soccer franchise in America. Their hometown is the city of Denver and since 2007 they have played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, a new 18,000 capacity soccer-specific ground.
DSG Park

Folan's new coach in Denver was the former Wycombe midfielder Gary Smith, and new team-mates included US international Conor Casey, former Celtic winger Jamie Smith, and a young Irish defender Danny Earls, who had been drafted in from USL side Rochester Rhinos.

Folan was considered a high-profile signing when he was unveiled at DSG Park, being that he was a European international with Premier League experience.

Colorado were then-MLS Cup holders, and thus qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League for 2011.

The season began with Colorado playing in the Western Conference alongside the likes of Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders. Folan made his domestic debut on March 26th 2011 in a 1-0 win over Chivas USA. He scored his first MLS goals on April 4th in a 4-1 home victory over DC United. Folan was awarded Man of the Match following this performance.

What should have been a continuation of the previous year's success faltered as the Rapids finished in a poor 5th place, however they did qualify for the MLS Cup play-off round. They beat Columbus Crew to reach the MLS Cup semi-finals but were ultimately undone by Sporting Kansas City, 2-0 on aggregate.

In their continental season, Rapids were drawn in Group B of the Champions League with Mexico's Santos Laguna, Honduras' Real Espana and Isidro Metapan from El Salvador. After a 3-2 home win over Isidro in August, and a 1-1 away draw with Real Espana, the Rapids fell to a heavy 1-4 home defeat to Laguna in September. This was followed by another home loss to Real before an impressive 3-1 win over Isidro in El Salvador. 

Folan didn't feature in any of these matches, however, he made his continental debut in the final game of the group stage. Unfortunately, he couldn't help the Rapids from losing 0-2 to Laguna in Mexico and elimination from the competition. 

Domestically, Folan played 26 games for the Rapids in MLS, contributing 6 goals. This less than great return saw the Irishman get cut from the roster before the 2012 season began.
Following a series of trials back in Britain, Folan was snapped up on a free transfer by Championship contenders Birmingham City, then managed by Irishman Chris Hughton. His contract, which he signed in February would take him to the end of the 2011-12 season, however in five months with City, Folan failed to make the matchday 16 for a single game and was released that summer.

After a few more months in the footballing wilderness, Folan's next move surprised many. In a testament to how far a career can plunge and how far off the standard he once was, Folan signed for a team in the Malaysia Super League, a team called Persatuan Bolasepak Daerah Kuala Terengganu, or T-Team for short.

A new(ish) club, T-Team were founded in 2007 and gained promotion to the Super League in 2009. With no real history or pedigree to their name, Folan's decision to sign for them surprised many. However, also on the books of the club was Dutch international and former Aston Villa midfielder George Boateng, who was T-Team's other marquee signing that season.

The signing of Boateng and Folan was intended to gear up the side for a push at the Super League title that year, as the club hierarchy invested new money in players and facilities. T-Team play at the 15,000 capacity Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Stadium and the man who signed Folan was English journeyman coach Peter Butler.

Folan, wearing the no.10 shirt, with T-Team
The season didn't go well for T-Team from the start with the club failing to score goals. This led them to sign former Croatian international Bosko Balaban to compete with Folan up front. However, as another mark of the farcical season in store, Balaban would terminate his deal with T-Team before kicking a ball.

By March 2013, T-Team were lying second bottom of the table, collecting just 9 points from 10 matches. One of the reasons for this was the team's inability to score goals, netting a paltry 3 all season. The fall-guy for this failure would undoubtedly be Folan. Their marquee striker had failed to score a single goal in 10 games.

Folan failed to score a single goal in Malaysia

So it came as little surprise that on March 27th, the Irishman had his contract mutually terminated by the club, despite having a year left to run on it.

As of April 2013, Folan remains a free agent. Its hard to know where he can go from here to rebuild a shattered career. After roughly three years of bench warming and a worrying lack of goals, its difficult to see any club willing to gamble on him again. Failing to make an impact in Malaysian football will damage his CV irreparably, and Folan will likely have to settle for very low key football teams and small wages if he hopes to continue as a professional. Its difficult to believe that only 4 years ago, he was an international footballer.

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