Midfield playmaker delighted to come back to first club
Jason Koumas says he is fulfilling a promise to himself by restarting his stalled career in professional football with Tranmere.
The 33-year-old, who has won 34 international caps with Wales, spent much of his career in the Premier League and commanded transfer fees totalling more than £7.5million, admits he was drawn back to the local club where his journey began 15 years ago.
“I had plenty of offers to go to other clubs, even this summer,” Koumas said a few days after ending a two-year self-imposed exile from the game by signing a 12-month contract at Prenton Park.
“I always said that I would come back here.
“The spark for returning to football was coming back to Tranmere.”
The boy born of a Cypriot family who grew up in Wallasey, emerged from Tranmere’s youth development set-up to play 150 first-team games between 1998 and 2002. Then he made a £2.5million move to West Bromwich Albion.
Koumas was 22 at the time. More than a decade later he judges he might have benefited from remaining with Rovers for a little while longer.
“I do have some great memories of my time here,” said Koumas, whose performance in a 2001 FA Cup win over Everton at Goodison remains a cherished recollection for many fans.
“I think I left Tranmere maybe a little too early. At the time the club needed to do it (the transfer). They were in a bit of trouble and needed the money.
“It’s great to return and I have returned at a good age.
“I wanted to come back here when I can still do a job. I did not want to come here when I was past it and not able to do myself justice.”
Manager Ronnie Moore says he believes Koumas has regained his passion for the game. The contract with Tranmere offers the opportunity to return to the simple life of playing and training for the club from down the road.
There were times, during a journey that took Koumas to Wigan Athletic for £5.3 million in 2007 and included a couple of lengthy loan spells with Cardiff City, when he was a less than comfortable traveller through the football business.
Koumas gave the game up altogether after completing the second loan spell with Cardiff in May 2011.
He concedes the job of getting his body back in shape for the demands of League One football after two years out of the professional regime is not yet complete.
Koumas says he got back into serious training with Tranmere barely three weeks ago and needs a little more time to build up match fitness and sharpness.
Moore is inclined to be patient, believing Koumas’s arrival has bestowed upon his squad the gift of the best passer of the ball in the division.
He is being careful about how quickly he puts Koumas at the heart of the team, preferring a gradual build-up of time on the pitch.
Koumas played around half an hour of last Saturday’s opening League One fixture, a 3-1 defeat at Walsall and saw more action from the bench in Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup tie against Mansfield at Prenton Park.
The player hopes supporters will also show a little patience with him. “I really do feel that in two or three weeks time the fans will see a better player,” he said.
“Each day I’m feeling better. I’m feeling tired but that is due to the work. Walsall was my first competitive game in two years.
“The fans have been great. They are another reason why I’m here. I want to do a good job because there is a big challenge here.”