And so we reach part four of our critique of United's French Foreign
Legion and having dealt with the flotsam and jetsam of the also-rans, we'll
focus on the first of the successes - the nearest thing we've had to les trois
begin with the man from St.Tropez, who was at the vanguard of the invasion.
Books have been written about this bloke (albeit rotten ones) but it’s
important to state for the record that there were two blokes called David
Ginola who played football in this country.
One was a scruffy fellow who was lauded by Spurs fans and southern pundits
alike after a much-repeated and over-rated striker away at Barnsley, who
gradually turned into a caricature of a bloated, content former footballer.
Unfortunately (for them) he was still on the books as a player at White Hart
Lane, Villa Park and then briefly, Goodison Park – the midlands move seeing
him come into conflict with Mister Vain himself, John Gregory.
The other Ginola is the one we prefer to remember – clad in the ageless
design classic shirt that was our Adidas three-button brown ale effort, or the
hooped maroon and blue effort, slamming in sublime strikes, tormenting
defenders to distraction or supplying the most inviting of crosses for Sir Les
to bury in the back of the net.
If we were the entertainers, an on-song Ginola was the star of the show -
winking at the Sky cameras, juggling the ball from foot to foot and generally
wowing punters who just four years previously had been subjected to the
dubious delights of Franz Carr on the wing.
However, after arriving in the summer of 1995 and taking his part in what was
becoming a dream team, 1996 was a strange year for Ginola. It began in
rip-roaring fashion with a howitzer of a shot past Seaman at the Leazes End
within 90 seconds of kickoff as the Gunners were beaten 2-0 on the second day
Eight days later though and against the same opposition, this time in the
League Cup down at Highbury, things started to unravel.
Disgraceful refereeing saw savage tackles on Ginola go unpunished and even
result in a booking for the Frenchman when brought down. His frustration
resulted in a dismissal for elbowing Lee Dixon in the face as United lost 0-2
and the evening ended with a tearful and inconsolable Ginola in the United
And after that, he was never quite the same again. The London press blasted
him for being a diver and Ginola took it personally. His form dipped as he
became even more of a maverick and at times seemed to trying to beat
opposition sides single-handedly, exasperating himself, his colleagues,
manager and fans alike in the process.
Only one more goal followed before the end of the season as we gradually
imploded - a great effort on a memorable, but ultimately painful night at
Anfield - and despite his country playing at St.James' in Euro 96, there was
to be no recall to Les Bleus from coach Aimé Jacquet.
Season 96/97 began with Ginola in the side to provide service to both
Ferdinand and Alan Shearer, weighing in with great goals at the Gallowgate end
as Manchester United and Ferencvaros were both beaten in style.
But those proved to be high points in an otherwise unspectacular season, that
had begun with Kevin Keegan fending off interest in him from both Barcelona
and Arsenal, making TV commercials, talking about a career as a racing driver
and suffering a burglary and vandalism at his home while he was away in
A calf strain in a 1-1 home draw with Liverpool put Ginola out of the side
over the Xmas period and when he returned for the FA Cup replay against
Charlton, his ally Keegan was gone and the glowering Dalglish stood in the
Over the next few months Ginola's appearances were curtailed by what was
officially injury but also an increasingly cold relationship with his manager
that saw him reduced to a substitute role, to the player's disgust.
By February Ginola was openly talking of a summer move and linking himself to
both PSG and Marseille and a month later he'd submitted a written transfer
request after a training ground spat with Dalglish (the manager famously
commenting that "the writing was beautiful.")
His final United appearance was a seven minute cameo at the end of a midweek
3-0 success over Chelsea in mid-April 1997 and by the time Nottingham Forest
were beaten 5-0 on Tyneside the following month to force open the gates to the
Champions League, Ginola's bags were packed.
had hoped for a move to a big-name continental club, with Ajax and Real Madrid
both mentioned, but ultimately the 30 year-old ended up at White Hart Lane as
Spurs tried to appease fans who were raging over the departure of Teddy
Les Ferdinand soon followed Ginola down the Seven Sisters Road as Kenny's New
Model Army started to take shape - although by the time they made their return
to Tyneside (along with Ruel Fox) and a young Stephen Carr, it was more like
Dads Army with Barnes and Rush in black and white.
A last minute Warren Barton goal claimed the points for the Magpies as
Ferdinand received a great ovation from the home fans, while Ginola was
booed...and Fox ignored.
That negative reaction continued to build in the three years that Ginola
stayed at Spurs, culminating in a 2-1 Newcastle victory at SJP in November
1999. That day the Frenchman was abused constantly by toon fans in the wake of
an address he'd given to the Oxford Union a week before, during which he
slagged off Alan Shearer. A number of Newcastle fans later reported to Ginola
and Tim Sherwood to the police for alleged rude gestures, which was a tad
unfair given the stick the players had been subjected to.
Within a month though we and they were all back to do it again, thanks to the
vagaries of the FA Cup which saw the Third Round played before Christmas. On
this occasion Ginola scored but ended up on the losing side as we ran out 6-1
One memorable passage in
this game came as the half time was signalled, with a disconsolate Ginola
sitting in the centre circle, pleading in vain with the referee for a free
kick. To the unbridled delight of the crowd, Graham Poll strode towards the
Frenchman before indicating first the touchline then mimicking a stretcher.
Cue more frantic Gallic shrugging and arm-waving, more suited to a Paris road
traffic accident than a football pitch. Rather belatedly Ginola then limped
off the pitch in an utterly unconvincing manner, prompting yet another tirade
of abuse from the locals.
then decamped to Villa and made more appearances against us in a similar vein,
including one bizarre night when he appeared at a virtually deserted Villa
Park playing in defence for the reserves against Newcastle, while a trialist
was preferred in midfield for the home side.
was to be another pantomime starring Ginola and a chortling Tyneside crowd, as
comedy villain John Gregory illuminated the final game of the 2000/01 season
by subbing the player three minutes before half-time, in the footballing
equivalent of an emperor's downward thumb in the Coliseum.
Cue hysterical laughter and the cruellest of receptions possible as some
Gallic unpleasantries were aimed in Gregory's direction….as was his shirt, a
second or two later.
brief stint at Everton never saw us cross paths, but he did play two games in
the same midfield as a certain Paul Gascoigne and was reunited with Steve
The end came in a 4-3 defeat to Arsenal in May 2002, on the same Highbury
ground that had marked a change in his fortunes in the English game and to the
jeers of Gunners fans who remembered the Lee Dixon incident and of course his
subsequent Cockerel affiliation.
Now he's hung up his boots and has a lower profile, it's possible to
appreciate the quality that Ginola brought to United - a point amplified by a
wander through the relevant end-of-season videos.
But like so many of his countrymen, it all ended on a sour note. But if circus
entertainers like Brian Kilcline or plodders of the calibre of Billy Rafferty
can be wheeled out as half-time heroes at toon games, then surely the man from
the South of France can take his bow at Gallowgate one more time? I’m sure
even he might appreciate some comic booing amidst the applause….
Back to Main Page