Ex-Sheffield United, Derby, and Swansea defender Kieron Freeman on his Portsmouth lifeline: I've had two wasted years, it was the worst time of my career
Kieron Freeman was granted his Wales international debut in Albania – 19 months later he was without a club and training in a Nottingham park.
Remarkably, a double promotion with Sheffield United and subsequent Premier League outings would precede the worst time of the right-back’s football career.
Released from Bramall Lane in the summer of 2020 following six seasons, 141 appearances and 17 goals, Freeman braced himself for interest.
Instead he became football’s forgotten man.
It wouldn’t be for another six months before Swindon provided the lifeline his career needed in January 2021, before Swansea paid a transfer fee for him 25 days later.
Even then, Freeman totalled 10 appearances during a ‘wasted’ two years.
It’s a haul already exceeded in his opening two months at Fratton Park as the one-time Welsh cap strives to make up for lost time.
Freeman told The News: ‘I wasted two years of my career just sitting about doing nothing.
‘The previous time I was playing regularly was when Sheffield United were on the verge of going to the Premier League and I was playing international football for Wales. That was 2018-19.
‘With Sheffield United doing so well and not changing the team, I then didn’t get a chance to play. It is what it is, that’s how football works sometimes.
‘In the last year of my contract, I had a lot of clubs wanting to take me, but they wouldn’t let me leave.
‘I was offered a new United deal and basically it was out of my hands without me knowing. By the time I found out, the contract was gone. That was my old agent.
‘What happened next was the worst time of my career. I felt I had so much to give, but no-one to give it to.
‘I then had six months with no club, waiting on people’s ifs, buts and maybes. I wasn’t injured, it was down to politics. My old agent didn’t have my best interests at heart.
‘I didn’t have anyone to play for, instead I’d run in the park with my partner, Lavheen, to keep fit. I also painted a lot of doors and a lot of walls, I can tell you.
‘For a while there weren’t even any gyms open because of Covid, so I had to buy my own weights and do some kind work.
‘Mainly it was running, though. Lavheen was starting to get into fitness and, with the kids at school, she joined me on runs. It was nice, I wasn't in it alone, running by myself.
‘I’m choosing my words carefully here, but my old agent let me down big time. I was waiting (for offers) and he kept saying “We’ll sort something out, we’ll sort something out”.
‘It got to the point then when I stopped even ringing him, I thought he’d just ring when something came about. But nothing did.
‘By the time I finally got a club, I had changed my agency.’
In January 2021, Freeman was handed a way back into football by League One side Swindon.
Signing a short-term deal until the season’s end, the defender’s involvement was initially delayed after contracting Covid.
He recovered to make two appearances – yet, after just 25 days at the County Ground, he was on his way.
Freeman’s re-emergence had caught the eye of high-flying Championship side Swansea, paying an undisclosed fee for his services.
The 29-year-old added: ‘I said to my new agent: “Look, I just want to play football, that’s all I want to do”. That’s the whole reason why I went to Swindon.
‘I signed in January 2021, did the Covid test, then found I had it, so had to self-isolate for 10 days.
‘When I returned, I played two games and, on deadline day, Swansea bought me for around £100,000.
‘I’d gone from playing in the Premier League, to a free transfer unable to get a club, to playing for Swindon and then, three weeks later, bought by a Championship club!
‘Swansea were second and pushing to go into the Premier League, how do you say no to that? You can't really.
‘I ended up playing one game there and that was against Manchester City. Still, how can you say no?
‘Having said that, it was a waste of time really, a waste of everyone’s time.
‘Nothing against the club, it’s a great club, really well run with some fantastic people, but, for my career, it was a waste of time.’
Freeman’s sole first-team contribution was 24 minutes as a substitute against Manchester City, in a 3-1 FA Cup defeat.
However, he remained around the Swans’ squad, and was an unused substitute in their Championship Play-Off Final defeat to Brentford at Wembley in May 2021.
Released at the season’s end, Freeman chose Pompey over fellow League One side Rotherham, signing a two-year deal.
And with 11 appearances for the Blues so far, the former Nottingham Forest man has enjoyed an encouraging start to life at Fratton Park.
He said: ‘When Danny Cowley came to me with his plan, you can understand why I bought into it and joined Pompey.
‘It was a no-brainer, I was sick and tired of waiting around.
‘What happened to me over that period made me stronger, mentally it helped me understand what I wanted.
‘I’ve played a lot and won quite a bit, but you always need to prove yourself. Pompey is the best opportunity for me, it was too good to say “no”.
‘Why wouldn’t I want to come here?’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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