In 2014, Jordon Mutch looked like a young player with the world at his feet.
Cardiff City may have failed to secure their Premier League survival, finishing bottom of the ladder in their debut campaign, but the 22 year old was a rare shining light in the Bluebirds’ 2013/14 campaign.
“Jordon is a top player with great potential for a big career in the game, which we hope to see him fulfil with us here at Cardiff City,” said Malky Mackay when the England Under-21 international arrived at Cardiff ahead of the 2012/13 season. The manager knew the midfielder well, having previously worked with him during a loan spell at Watford, but few could have expected the impact Mutch would go on to have the following year.
Given the time to bed in at Cardiff, as the South Wales side won promotion from the Championship, Mutch exploded on to the scene in the Bluebirds’ first ever Premier League campaign.
Playing in a more advanced midfield role, the former Birmingham City starlet scored seven goals and set up a further five in 35 Premier League appearances, and Mutch ended the season as the club’s leading scorer, with Cardiff facing a return to the second tier.
And they would do so without their star man.
After enjoying a breakout season, there were plenty of admirers looking to secure his services, but it was big-spending QPR that won the race for his signature, paying a reported £6 million to beat off the competition.
“Jordon’s a fine young player, with a big, big future,” said his new gaffer Harry Redknapp, “He’s already shown what he can do at this level with Cardiff last season with a decent goals return – and this move will provide him with a great platform to take his game on to the next level.”
But it was not to be.
Despite high expectations around his future and an assumption that he would kick on at Loftus Road, Mutch failed to nail down a place in a struggling Hoops side and departed after six months, with just 11 appearances to his name.
The midfielder was offered a lifeline by Crystal Palace who, after failing to secure the former Cardiff man on loan, paid QPR £4.5 million for his signature. Having agreed a four and a half year deal to move to Selhurst Park, it looked like Mutch would be a stalwart for years to come for the recently promoted outfit, but rather than securing his top flight future, the lengthy deal proved to be the beginning of the end for his career at the upper echelons of the English game.
Instead of re-invigorating his burgeoning career, Mutch stagnated at the Eagles.
Failing to impress a succession of managers including Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson, the midfielder found himself shipped out on loan to Championship side Reading and MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps before being unceremoniously released from his contract in January 2019, with little more than 30 appearances to his name across his four year spell.
Despite things not working out at Palace, you’d expect there to be plenty of interest in a free agent in his mid-twenties with over 160 Premier League and Championship appearances to his name.
But in what was meant to be the prime of his career, Mutch managed to accumulate a combined nine appearances in two seasons, taking in ill-fated spells with K-League side Gyeongnam FC and the Norwegian Eliteserien’s Aalesunds FK.
Mutch failed to make an impact in Norway, making just one appearance in five months before being released, so eyebrows were raised when Western Sydney Wanderers announced his arrival on a six-month deal back in January.
Despite concerns, the opportunity to reunite with Carl Robinson, under whom he enjoyed his most successful spell since that breakout season at Cardiff, proved too good an opportunity to turn down for both parties.
“Coming to the Western Sydney Wanderers is an opportunity to work again with, in my opinion, the best manager I’ve worked under and to play for the biggest club in Australia is exciting,” said Mutch when the club announced his signing.
“I had the opportunity to work with Robbo (head coach Carl Robinson) at Vancouver Whitecaps. He brings out the best in people as a player and a person, I am delighted to get the opportunity to play under him again.”
Few could have predicted just how much Robinson would bring out of his new signing…
Having played no more than 20 games in a single season since leaving the Bluebirds in 2014, having been without a club for three months since departing Aalesunds, and facing a mandatory two week quarantine upon arriving in Sydney, one could be forgiven for not expecting a lot from the journeyman’s arrival in New South Wales, especially with the depth of talent already available at Robinson’s disposal.
But Jordan Mutch looks to rolling back the years since arriving in Wanderland.
Handed his starting debut against Western United in MW11, Mutch rewarded the Wanderers for their faith in him by scoring the only goal of the game to secure an important three points and putting an end to the club’s three-match winless streak.
His performance earned him a second consecutive start, and he played a pivotal role in his side’s eventual victory in Monday’s seven-goal thriller against the Wellington Phoenix, grabbing his second goal in as many weeks before delivering a superb diagonal long ball pass for Mitch Duke’s vicious volley in a 4 – 3 win.
“It’s easy for people – managers, coaches and supporters – to write players off. I never do that,” Robinson said after Mutch’s performance against Western United.
“Mutchy’s got a great talent… Obviously he’s not fulfilled it as much as he would like but it’s another opportunity for him here now.”
And so far, he’s grabbing that opportunity with both hands. He’s hit the ground running since arriving in the A-League, and while it is still early days, an impressive return of two goals and an assist in four appearances represent better statistics than the Englishman has enjoyed at almost every club he has played for so far.
If these performances are anything to go by, Mutch may finally have found a home for himself at the heart of Red and Black midfield.
Unbelievably, still just 29 years old, if the former Premier League midfielder can stay fit and continue to impress under Robinson in Western Sydney, he has plenty of time to enjoy a lengthy career renaissance in Australia’s top flight.