David Ginola was one of those rare footballers that set hearts a flutter, both on and off the pitch. Many will recall the sight of Sue Barker, nearly slipping out of her chair, every time that “Daveed” appeared on BBC’s ‘A Question of Sport.’ But it wasn’t just middle aged women that struggled to find comfort in their chairs. Ginola possessed a quality that also caused men, of all ages, to wrestle with their seats, trying to keep track of the intricate twists and turns that the French winger would perform on a football pitch.
Kevin Keegan was the man responsible for bringing the flamboyant Frenchman to English shores. Beating away interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona, Keegan persuaded Ginola to sign for Newcastle in a £2.5m deal back in 1995. He arrived from Paris Saint Germain with an exciting reputation and shampoo advert looks. Keegan signed him with one thing in mind, ‘entertainment.’
Ginola flourished in an exhilarating Newcastleside that surrendered a 10 point lead to Manchester United at the top of the league, ultimately finishing the season 2nd. The Frenchman had scored five goals in his first season, causing the Toon Army to nickname him ‘David Copperfield,’ due to his magical displays. In his second season Newcastle again finished the league as runners up. He only managed one goal, but it was a memorable one in a 5-0 win over Manchester United.
With Keegan gone and Dalglish not a fan, Ginola moved to Tottenham for £2.5m in July 1997. At Spurs his performances went to an even higher level, despite being in a poor team that included the mediocre talents of Perry, Thatcher and Iverson. During his time at Spurs he was named PFA Player's Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year. It was the first time that any player had won the award playing for a club that finished outside of the top four. In 1999 Johan Cruyff also stated that he believed Ginola to be the best player in the world.
Most fans of English football will remember Ginola for his act of sheer individual brilliance against Barnsley, in the 98/99 League Cup 6th round game. By way of slight exaggeration, he pretty much dribbled past the entire Barnsley team, twelve times, before sliding the ball precisely into the left hand side of the net. In 1999 Spurs won the League Cup, it was Ginola’s mind bending performances that largely dragged them to that triumph.
The aging Ginola went on to brief, and far less successful, displays at Aston Villa and Everton. But, it was his time with Newcastle and Spurs that most fans will recall fondly. With his elegant first touch, deceiving acceleration, aloof drops of the shoulder and sweet right foot he was one of the most watchable players to ever grace the English Premiership. Regardless of who you supported Ginola was a player that fans loved to watch, he transformed the left hand side of most football pitches into a masterfully crafted oil painting.
Put simply Ginola needs to be remembered because ‘he’s worth it.’
image: © TottenhamFan