David Ginola is one of the most iconic players ever to play in the Premier League and his foreign flamboyance opened the gates for a number of future stars.
His career in England coincided with chaotic scenes in France when his catastrophic wayward pass created a goalscoring opening for Bulgaria to knock the French out of the World Cup at the qualification phase.
Newcastle United offered him a god-like reception when he arrived in the North East and he repaid them for their fanatical support with an outstanding debut season. Kevin Keegan was his manager at this time and his style of play suited Ginola perfectly.
However, The Magpies threw away a 12-point lead from Christmas to succumb to defeat in the Premier League title race to Manchester United. It was a disappointing end to what had been an exceptional season, but the wheels began to fall off from this point onwards.
Keegan announced his resignation just six months into the following season and Kenny Dalglish was chosen as his successor. Dalglish was a contrasting character to Keegan and Ginola was unable to express himself under the restraints implemented by the manager.
It was inevitable that his future would take him elsewhere and he joined Tottenham Hotspur in July 1997 for £2 million. He was voted PFA Player of the Year in his second season at White Hart Lane and also won the League Cup in 1999.
George Graham was at the helm when Ginola won PFA Players’ Player of the Year, but the pair shared a stony relationship in the aftermath of his outstanding season and Graham subsequently sacrificed him just one season later.
Ginola knew that he was going to be unable to replicate his fantastic form in his thirties and his career dwindled to an uneventful conclusion at Aston Villa and Everton. It was a tragic way to end a career of such an exceptional talent, but he’ll always be remembered for his heroics at Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Newcastle United: First Steps to Greatness
17 November 1993 is a date that will always stick out in the minds of French supporters and more so David Ginola. France had to draw to reach the 1994 World Cup finals, but with the scores tied, Ginola brainlessly sprayed an unsuccessful ball across to the right hand side in the dying stages. Bulgaria subsequently mounted a counter-attack and clinched victory to knock France out of the World Cup.
Ginola was labelled by the press as the “assassin of French football” and it was an extremely difficult time for him and his family. France had turned its back on one of the most talented players in the world and his international career would draw to a tragic conclusion in 1995.
However, Ginola decided that his spell at Paris Saint-Germain should draw to a close at the end of the 1994/95 season and his desire to join England originated when he spoke to Newcastle United. He was taken aback by the fanaticism of the supporters and joined The Magpies for £2.5 million in 1995.
Newcastle United was managed by Kevin Keegan during this period and he’d built a promising squad of players. Rob Lee, Keith Gillespie and Les Ferdinand formed the spine of the attack and Ginola supplied flair and excitement with each and every moment he spent on the ball.
He was a magician and his uniqueness was endorsed by Keegan, which enabled him to express himself and achieve great things on the football pitch. Newcastle United boasted a 12-point lead by Christmas and they were expected to be lifting the Premier League title by the end of the season.
The team played with such a freedom and attacking intent in the early stages of the campaign, but other clubs subsequently exploited their defensive deficiencies in the climactic phase of the season, and this of course proved decisive.
They lost just three of their opening 25 league fixtures, scoring an incredible 49 goals in the process. Attack was the best form of defence in Keegan’s book and it was a huge factor in their unexpected rise, but it was also a contributory factor to their rapid decline.
Keegan failed to remain composed in the run-in for the Premier League title and Newcastle became flustered by the pressure. Newcastle won just five of their last 13 league matches and Manchester United subsequently snatched the title by four points.
At the end of the season, Ginola was voted PFA Player of the Year for his successful debut season and his critics in France were left eating their words. The French National Team continued to make him an outcast, but his performances at club level remained exemplary, until Keegan announced his resignation mid-way into the 1996/97 season.
Kenny Dalglish was appointed as his successor and the pair shared a rather inharmonious working relationship. Dalglish preferred a more direct style of play and overlooked Ginola’s unrivalled technical ability and expected him to track back and defend.
Tottenham Hotspur: The Revival of “The Entertainer”
Alan Sugar met with David Ginola to discuss a potential transfer to Tottenham Hotspur ahead of the 1997/98 season and the pair subsequently agreed a deal worth in the region of £2 million. Ginola had become isolated under the tutelage of Dalglish and he was prepared to re-announce himself in the Premier League at White Hart Lane.
He returned to his former self and bagged nine goals in his debut season, which was the most goals he amassed in a single season in England. It was a turbulent season for Tottenham Hotspur, who went through two different managers over the course of the season and finished in an unsatisfactory 14th place.
Les Ferdinand, whom he’d played with at Newcastle United, had transferred to Tottenham Hotspur just a fortnight after the arrival of Ginola and the pair were accommodated in the attack by the legendary Jurgen Klinsmann.
But the team lacked balance and the continuous leaking of goals meant they lacked consistency and failed to produce results. George Graham arrived just weeks into the 1998/99 season and Ginola enjoyed arguably his greatest season in England.
Graham provided the stability that the club was craving and Ginola’s flair was a feature in his style of play during his opening season at White Hart Lane. Ginola was voted PFA Player of the Year and PFA Players’ of the Year, despite the mammoth achievement of Manchester United winning an unprecedented treble, and played an influential role in guiding Spurs to glory in the League Cup.
This further emphasizes the quality of Ginola and it was a testament to his ability to receive that award over the likes of David Beckham, Andrew Cole and Ryan Giggs. The man was a phenomenon but it was during this period that the relationship between Graham and Ginola took a turn for the worse.
A Tragic End to a Wonderful Career