You can’t blame Russell for leaving of course. Playing second fiddle to a player nearly ten years younger than you is hardly an attractive prospect, and he was clearly disappointed when he lost his place for the run-in.
It was a decision which had to be made though. Saunders clearly wanted to give Russell every chance to establish himself. In the first four games of the season he looked impressive, but in his absence Chris Maxwell showed his quality and the decision to replace him when Russell regained his fitness was a mistake.
When Russell came back from injury he struggled to regain his earlier form, a fact which looked even worse when the inevitable comparison to the wronged Maxwell was made.
Too many times a goal could, to some extent, be attributed to him, the final straw being the last goal he conceded for us; Cambridge’s injury time equaliser from outside the box.
Also, he’d been caught out too often with the ball at his feet; his much-vaunted ability when the ball was on the ground had ironically rebounded on him. Suddenly every kick that soared out for a throw-in made him look to have feet of clay. Maxwell’s return to the team was inevitable, not to say overdue.
That’s not to say Russell’s a bad keeper; far from it. He would have been better off if he hadn’t been rushed back into the side though; I’d been told his form for the reserves wasn’t too great; perhaps he needed more time to regain his match fitness. A change will probably do him good.
Still, this is a situation which Saunders might be able to use to his advantage. The factor which has changed in the goalkeeping situation since Russell’s arrival is the emergence of Maxwell as a first choice player. While that has marginalised Russell, it also gives Saunders room for manoeuvre.
Russell, a player signed from the Football League as our first choice, would surely have been on a decent wage. If Saunders goes shopping for a back-up goalie this Summer, or maybe a young keeper on a season’s loan (but not Dean Bouzanis please!) then he can keep back a bit of money to spend on other areas of the pitch.