Steven Gerrard is pulling up trees in management. He has taken to the dugout in the same way he took to playing, with passion, belief and ability.
You’d associate Gerrard with other big name players, the Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes’ of this world.
But over 20 years ago, when it all began back at Liverpool’s academy the man at his side was one Jason Koumas.
To say their careers went in different directions is an understatement, but in my research for this article, I’ve discovered that ability wise the pair weren’t far apart.
In fact, it was the Welshman Koumas who many thought possessed more raw talent than the future Mr Liverpool.
I wanted to look into this subject because Koumas fascinates me. Not only is he one of my all time favourite players, he has done things on a football field that I’ve hardly seen others do, at any level.
And yet he was a Championship player for large parts of his career with 34 Welsh caps to his name.
Some will laugh at the mere fact that I am putting him in the same bracket as arguably one of England’s greatest ever players.
The pair played together in the centre of midfield in the Liverpool academy and they won everything.
The duo possessed such talent, but according to one youth player who spoke about Koumas in an article for the Guardian in 2016: “Jason had more ability than Steven Gerrard. The problem was ability was all he had.”
Now that will be new to some people, who, until reading this will have never heard of Koumas, the player who left the Reds academy and landed across Merseyside at Tranmere Rovers.
Go to Prenton Park these days and they will reminisice about Jason Koumas, the man with magical ability who scored unbelievable goals.
Equally go to The Hawthorns and Koumas is still talked about as arguably Albion’s best player of the modern era.
He played 123 times for the Baggies, but alleged run ins with managers meant Koumas never really got to show what he was about on the big stage.
But in the Championship, he terrorised midfields and defences and scored magical goals for the Baggies.
I’ve seen a lot of players in my time, but never have I seen someone so technically gifted with both feet.
Top players have a weaker foot and even though they can strike well, you can usually tell which foot is stronger.
To the untrained neutral, you wouldn’t have been able to tell what foot Koumas was.
Two loan spells at Cardiff City followed Albion along with 54 games for Wigan Athletic in the Premier League before Koumas disappeared off the footballing spectrum.
Vanished, into thin air, not to be seen again for two years until he re-signed with Tranmere.
Another 50 games followed but Koumas’ solid Football League career ended with Rovers being relegated to non-league.
During his career he represented Wales in an era where they had the likes of Hartson, Bellamy, Giggs and co.
Ask a die hard Welsh fan and they will say he underachieved on the international stage, but they will no doubt rave about his raw ability.
In 2021 Steven Gerrard is still in the public eye in a high profile role in football.
Koumas, again, has done a vanishing act. A Welsh journalist tried to track him down a few years ago to speak with the man so many fans remember so fondly.
He did find him but couldn’t tie him down for an interview and that is the last anyone heard of Koumas publicly.
And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In articles about the midfielder, people say he didn’t possess the attitude to go and use is ability like Gerrard did.
Others say he was nothing of the sort, and just liked to keep himself to himself.
I myself tried to track Koumas down after he accepted a request from me on Instagram a few years ago.
I found it strange someone so private would follow back an unknown such as myself, but he did and I sent him a message asking him to chat to me for an interview about old West Brom tales.
My message, as I thought, wasn’t responded to.
This is clearly a man who possessed bags of ability, ability that would easily place him in the Premier League these days.
I look at Jack Grealish and think Koumas was as silky and skillful as that 15 odd years ago.
If Koumas was a Premier League player these days, with social media and the way people rave about players, he’d be playing for a top side.
I have absolutely no doubt about that. Yes he played for West Brom so I got to see him more than most.
But he could have been playing for anyone and I couldn’t have denied how good he was.
However it is funny how these things work out. Koumas’ son is in the Liverpool academy these days so we may see another famous Koumas at one stage in the future.
Koumas senior was a man who caught so many eyes during his time, but is a name very few will remember.
We will probably never hear his side and response to people’s opinions on why he never ended up doing what Gerrard did.
To be honest, judging by stories from old team mates, he probably doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
Everyone knows everything about Gerrard and his public presence will make sure of that for years to come.
Koumas is an enigma who we will probably never hear from again. But the fans who remember him will always have the memories.