Paul Rutherford poses a problem for me.
After every game I record a podcast, analyzing the match and discussing the players’ performances. The issue comes when I get to Rutherford. Frankly, I’ve been repeating myself for three and a half years!
The team’s fortunes can fluctuate, but Rutherford remains a constant, relentlessly bringing the same tireless qualities to the side. He makes his 500th career appearance today, so I guess he’s made commentators and journalists repeat themselves a lot over the years!
Only Mark Carrington has been at the club longer than Rutherford, and they share many values. Their professionalism, adaptability and commitment to the cause have been recognized by a succession of managers, meaning they’ve survived a series of transfer window culls.
There’s no questioning the work rate and intensity Rutherford brings to the team. It’s no coincidence that Dean Keates has immediately leaned on him.
Inheriting a dysfunctional side, Keates naturally decided to turn to the players whose character he knew he could rely on. Discounting the Scottish Challenge Cup, in which we fielded second string sides, Rutherford has started every game since Keates returned. He’d only started two league matches under Bryan Hughes, in both cases because Bobby Grant was suspended.
Rutherford is more than wholehearted endeavour though. His intelligent movement and ability to link in both directions with overlapping full backs and midfielders is crucial. You could see, in his first season, that his ability to sniff out space and hit it swiftly and unexpectedly wasn’t being exploited by the players around him. He persisted though – Rutherford always persists – and the following campaign, once Keates had improved the calibre of the squad, these qualities were more fully exploited.
He has an eye for the spectacular too, as Yeovil found last weekend. Admittedly, that doesn’t happen very often, although he already has two goals this season, which matches the total he’s achieved in each of his seasons with Wrexham.
Rutherford’s versatility is valuable too. Comfortable on either flank, and able to fit into a wingback role if we’re committing ourselves to all-out attack, he can also play as a box-to-box midfielder and I’d like to see more of him in that position. Those scoring stats are Rutherford’s one Achilles heel: you want more goals from a player deployed in the front three. In midfield there’s less pressure on him to hit the net, his tireless energy is a real plus and he can spot space around him, adding an extra level of movement to complement the forwards
Still, you can’t help coming back to that remarkable willingness to sacrifice himself for the team. Rutherford exudes a humility which embodies his style on the pitch. He works for others: in each of the last two seasons he had the most assists in the club, and in his first season he was second, one behind John Rooney.
Whatever happens, we can rely on Rutherford. Things change, players and crises come and go, but the dude abides.