Nowadays, Georgian Temuri Ketsbaia is a manager who has guided Anorthosis to two Cypriot titles and also had spells in charge of AEK Athens and APOEL Nicosia. In his playing days, he is remembered for one thing and one thing only – that mad celebration after scoring for Newcastle United in a Premier League match in January 1998.
Ketsbaia arrived at Newcastle United in the summer of 1997. Already an established international footballer for his country, he ran down his contract with AEK to earn his move to Tyneside. The early signs were good. He scored the goal against Croatia Zagreb in the qualifiers to earn Newcastle their maiden adventure into the UEFA Champions League group stages for the 1997-1998 campaign.
Considered as a cult hero by many of the club’s supporters, Ketsbaia’s early career didn’t quite take off. So he decided rather than requesting a transfer or arguing with the manager Kenny Dalglish, he would become memorable for something completely unique. Newcastle were playing Bolton Wanderers at St James’ Park and the score was level at 1-1.
In the last minute, the ball bobbled around in the Bolton penalty area after a knockdown from the returning Alan Shearer. The defenders couldn’t clear the danger and Ketsbaia ran onto the rebound and smashed the ball home to win the match for Newcastle. Afterwards, he ripped his shirt off and started kicking the living daylights out of an advertising hoarding! Teammate Alessandro Pistone tried to restrain him but there was no stopping Ketsbaia. He would not stop in getting his point across. The main reason for this was his sheer frustration at not being selected regularly in the team.
Ketsbaia spent three seasons at the club and when he was manager of Georgia, revealed his fondness for British football. He added: “I had a fantastic time. My time in British football was my best time as a football player. The atmosphere, the pitches, everything is at a high level – that’s the reason that everybody wants to go and play in England. I have many good things to remember, not only kicking the boards!”