Former Tottenham youth player Yaser Kasim is, despite some dodgy recent form, currently one of League One side Swindon Town’s most prized assets. During his time at Swindon a whole host of clubs from higher up the football pyramid, including from the Premier League, have been linked with moves for the Iraq international.
It might seem surprising that a midfielder for a mid-table, third tier outfit would be attracting such attention, but such has been his rise to prominence in the two and a half years since he joined the Robins that one could easily say he deserves his chance to test himself at a higher level.
Kasim’s early career only showed hints of his future promise. He left Tottenham in 2010 and signed on at Brighton and Hove Albion. During the three years he spent at Brighton, Kasim went on to make a grand total of two appearances; one in the league and one in the FA cup. He also experienced two loan spells, gaining valuable if limited playing time for Luton Town and Macclesfield Town – at the time both Conference Premier clubs. Even so, Kasim still only managed a handful of appearances at both clubs.
At the age of 21, Kasim was released by Brighton, deemed surplus to requirements for the now-Championship club.
Swindon quickly stepped in to snap up the Baghdad-born defensive midfielder. At the time Swindon were rebuilding after losing in the 2012-13 play-off semi finals, but were going through some significant changes on and off the pitch. With money for signings almost non-existent, Kasim was widely seen as a cheap option by fans, who were less than impressed with his track record – two loan spells at Conference sides is hardly inspiring. For Kasim, this was irrelevant, and the lure of working with new Swindon assistant manager Luke Williams (who had been a coach at Brighton at the same time that Kasim was a player) was enough to see Kasim join up with the Swindon squad.
Very quickly it became clear that Swindon had unearthed a gem. In fact, only two months after having signed on in Swindon, Kasim was reportedly the target of a £250,000 bid from a Championship side, showing how quickly his stock had risen. Soon after, Kasim received his first ever international call up for Iraq, and by October he had signed a contract extension at the club.
In a season in which the club were predicted to struggle, Swindon performed well above expectations and were unlucky not to reach the play-offs, ultimately finishing eighth. Kasim played a crucial role in the side, playing a total of 45 games and contributing two goals. The following year Kasim proved even more important to the team as he helped drive Swindon to the play-off finals.
Kasim also made his international tournament bow for Iraq, starring for his country in their Asian Cup. He scored the only goal as Iraq beat Jordan, winning the man of the match award for his performance. Kasim had such a strong tournament that, even though Iraq could only finish fourth, he was nominated as the best player of the tournament (losing out to Swindon’s other midfielder, Australia’s Massimo Luongo), and his contribution was recognised by his country as he was named Iraq’s best professional footballer of 2015.
Kasim’s star was at its highest point, and at the end of the 2014-15 season it was widely believed that he would go on to bigger and better things – with both Swansea and Wolves showing interest. However, his form had dropped noticeably since his Asian Cup adventure, and this might have played a role in him not securing a move away from the club.
This blip in form has unfortunately continued into the 2015-16 campaign. Kasim has also suffered a number of injuries which have limited his game time and have prevented him hitting the same heights of the last two campaigns. In the last two seasons Kasim made at least 35 league appearances. In 2015-16, he has been restricted to 25 appearances in all competitions.
This led to Swindon dipping into the transfer market to find cover for Kasim, and this replacement – QPR’s Michael Doughty – has very much hit the ground running, lessening the blow of Kasim’s absence. In a time where Kasim’s future in the Swindon first-team is being questioned, is it still even remotely likely that he will get the move to the Premier Leauge that just 12 months ago seemed assured?
Luckily for Kasim, others in the world of football have not forgotten him, and old suitors Swansea City have been linked with a move for the midfielder as recently as January of this year.
If Kasim gets the move that he clearly wants, then Swindon fans will not complain. His past performances more than make him deserving of a chance to test himself higher up the ladder, something that Swindon are unlikely to be able to offer in the near future. Moreover, there have been suggestions by fans that Kasim has gotten too big for his boots following his international successes in 2015, and therefore supporters would be less likely to complain should he end up leaving.
Whether or not his future is in the Premier League, the Championship or elsewhere, however, is dependent on Kasim’s ability and desire to prove that the player of 2014-15 still exists.