Kerem Bulut is on his last chance. There’s a line that’s been heard before, but this time, after re-signing for the Western Sydney Wanderers on Wednesday, it really is the T-intersection in his career.
Make the right turn and he can have a career that sets up himself and his family, potentially for the rest of his life. He sure has the talent.
The wrong turn? Who knows where that could lead. It’s a jungle out there, but knowing Bulut’s past, nothing can be ruled out. Nothing.
At 24, he has to be old enough to know it. The excuse of youth has passed him by.
It will shock some to hear it but Bulut is actually as humble and friendly as they come when he’s in the football world. He’s a genuinely nice guy with a love of the game and his teammates.
But everyone knows his past and everyone knows the stories. A Google search makes your heart sink.
Ironically, Bulut hasn’t done anything wrong (at least that we know of) in recent times and has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the Wanderers at the end of the 2014-15 season.
A year in Greece, however, was a football disaster. He scored only one goal in 17 games with Iraklis, he went six months without being paid and ended up walking out on his three-year deal.
So perhaps he deserves better than to be judged like this. Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance?
They do, but nothing written here will compare to what Wanderers’ coach Tony Popovic will have laid out before Bulut before he signed him for the second time this week.
Make no mistake, Popovic will have made it clear as day that if Bulut is as much as five minutes late for training, he needn’t turn up the next day.
Maybe what is most surprising is why Popovic has extended the olive branch to Bulut for the second time.
Popovic has had ample opportunities to re-sign players who’ve left the Wanderers but has baulked every time. Once you leave the Wanderers, that’s it. You’re effectively dead to them.
But Bulut made such an impression during his short stint that it was hard to imagine he didn’t have more chapters to write.
His bond with the Red and Black Bloc was consecrated as soon as he scored his first goal; he sees himself as one of them, albeit wearing studs and on the other side of the white line. Now the Wanderers clearly need someone capable of leading the line, too.
Losing Mark Bridge is a sizable blow to the Wanderers’ attack and Brendon Santalab, who tuns 34 next month, can’t go on forever. The less said about Federico Piovaccari the better. Even after Bulut, they probably need to sign another forward.
But there is some really good news for Wanderers’ fans about this signing. Not only will Bulut be able to get near match-fitness in time for the new season - he came in mid-season last time - but Popovic hates signing players who won’t go to war for him.
He loves the idea of giving players their last chance and having them fight and scrap to prove their worth. It’s served him so well and the proof is in the pudding: three grand finals in four years.
One suspects Bulut has made that pledge to Popovic and then some. The coach will have demanded total commitment to the cause.
That’s not the worst thing for the ex-Sydney FC junior. The discipline and direction offered by the Wanderers might be exactly what he needs to get his career moving forward.
He’s got the talent, that much has never been in doubt. It’s now up to him what he wants to do with it.