In the 1990s it was quite hard still to get a glimpse of foreign players plying their trade in Italy, France and Spain. Outside of major international tournaments watching teams such as Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich was still only reserved for pay per view Sky TV so it was a luxury when a player such as David Ginola made his way over in 1995 to join Newcastle United.
I remember it being a massive signing and I don’t think I realised what a fine player we were witnessing until I saw him playing for the first time at Old Trafford.
David Désiré Marc Ginola was born on 25th January 1967 in Gassin, France. From a young age Ginola impressed. So good he was an 18 year old Ginola was signed by Toulon before moving on to RC Paris, Brest and finally Paris Saint Germain.
His movement and graceful dribbling skills highlighted him as being one of the best but a bad mistake in a World Cup qualifier would turn the French public against the young maverick and Ginola would move across to England to hook up with Kevin Keegan at Newcastle United (famoussoccerplayers.com)
David Ginola thrilled and excited the crowds in the North East and up and down the United Kingdom. Avoiding a last minute bid from Barcelona he joined for a few of £2.5 million. His presence was an integral part of Keegan’s signings and the enigmatic Frenchman was a vital part of the squad who would just fail to pip Manchester United to Premier League glory.
Unfortunately his time at Newcastle United was to be short lived as the manager of the club Kevin Keegan was to leave and Ginola followed him out the door opting to sign for Tottenham.
His talent at Spurs continued to shine though and linking up with the great Jurgen Klinsmann . The two greats hooked up beautifully but the team wasn’t strong enough to fight for major honours and he would end his time there without any silverware to show for his trouble.
After three years at Tottenham, Ginola moved to Aston Villa before settling down at Everton. He would hook up with an ageing Paul Gascogne and although still a wonderful player his powers were clearly declining and he retired at the end of the 2002 season.
The only thing more annoying than observing the opposition hold up time by the corner flag is watching your own players do the opposite. So it was that France had been almost certain to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, but a shock defeat at home to Israel set up a showdown against Bulgaria at the Parc de Princes (TheGuardian).
When the two met on the night of November 17, 1993, France required a draw and Bulgaria needed to win. Eric Cantona gave France the lead on the half-hour mark with a typical volley, but Emil Kostadinov equalised five minutes later. France held on until the 90th minute, when Ginola, who had been brought on as a late sub for Jean-Pierre Papin, had the ball by the corner flag.
Ginola’s erratic overhit cross fell to the feet of the Bulgaria left-back, Emil Kremenliev. With little time to spare, Bulgaria progressed quickly up the pitch to Lubo Penev, who chipped the ball over the France backline and into the stride of Kostadinov.
The forward controlled the ball with his first touch, steadied himself with his second and smacked it into Bernard Lama’s net with his third. French hearts were broken that night and what first started as hope and optimism turned out to be a war party against the young Frenchman.
Bulgaria were on their way to the USA and Gerard Houlier would blame Ginola for the French teams failure to progress.
Hristo Stoichkov though thought the hosts had bottled it.
“The French were so scared they played with their buttocks clenched. We knew that’s how they would be and our tactics were based on that. They played for a draw and never went looking for a win. They didn’t deserve to qualify and we hit them where it hurt most.”
Didier Deschamps, who would go on to captain France in 1998, said the failure was collective: “We’ve made real asses of ourselves.” Gerard Houllier, who described the night as “the most catastrophic scenario imaginable”, disagreed.
The France manager singled out Ginola for criticism, accusing him of being “the murderer” of French hopes: “He sent an Exocet missile through the heart of French football and committed a crime against the team.”
It was unfair to single out Ginola for the loss. Ginola was a young impressionable player who needed love and an arm round the shoulder. What Gerard Houllier chose to do was vilify him in a very public way to stave off critics for the team’s failure to qualify. It was a very selfish strategy and something Ginola did not deserve.
David Ginola is rarely mentioned as one of the Premier League greats and in my opinion he should be. He may have failed to win a trophy but the way he played the game with creativity and flare was inspirational. He was a beautiful and graceful player to watch and is a player all children should try to emulate.