Tag Archives: Georgi Kinkladze

The Foreign Legion: Georgia

Number of Georgian Players to have played in the Premier League: 5

Most appearances: Georgi Kinkladze (102)

Most goals: Temuri Ketsbaia (8)

Appearances: Georgi Kinkladze 102, Temuri Ketsbaia 76, Zurab Khizanishvili 62, Mikhail Kavelashvili 4, Rati Aleksidze 2

Goals: Temuri Ketsbaia 8, Georgi Kinkladze 7, Zurab Khizanishvili 1, Mikhail Kavelashvili 1

Assists: Temuri Ketsbaia 1, Zurab Khizanishvili 1

Georgia is a nation that with a population of just 3.7 million and having only received independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 hasn’t made too much impact on the worldwide sporting landscape. In fact, its rugby union players are probably as big as any successful footballers, having played at four successive Rugby World Cup finals, coming within a point of embarrassing Ireland at the pool stages in 2007.

From a football perspective, only five footballers have tried their luck in the Premier League – two of them have left a legacy behind. First up was the dazzling and dribbling artist, Georgi Kinkladze. Kinkladze arrived in England in the summer of 1995 after impressing in some international games against Wales. It was Alan Ball who bought him to Manchester City and the fans at Maine Road absolutely loved him. As the team struggled, Kinkladze sparkled. He scored one of the best goals of the 1995-1996 season when he waltzed his way through Southampton’s defenders in a 2-1 victory in March. Ball loved him but the club were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the campaign and when he quit shortly afterwards, other managers didn’t appreciate Kinkladze’s lack of defensive responsibility on the team. Another relegation to Division Two followed in 1998 and he departed having been part of the club’s worst recent spell with two relegations in three seasons. After a difficult time in the Netherlands, he returned to English football with Derby County in 2000 but couldn’t re-ignite the sparkle he’d demonstrated in a Manchester City shirt. Relegation followed again in 2002 from the top-flight. Kinkladze was a luxury player and some managers liked that, whilst others couldn’t stand his desire to keep the ball and attempt to beat several defenders.

On Tyneside, they had their own Georgian they loved and that was Temuri Ketsbaia. Ketsbaia joined Newcastle United in the summer of 1997 after running down his contract at AEK Athens. Eight goals was a modest return but Ketsbaia remains the highest-scoring Georgian player in Premier League history and the fans considered him as a ‘cult hero’ during his three-year stint with the Magpies. Ketsbaia is most famously remembered for his celebration after scoring a winning goal against Bolton Wanderers in January 1998. He ripped his shirt off and started taking out his frustration by constantly kicking an advertising hoarding – apparently because he was frustrated at a lack of starting opportunities under Kenny Dalglish.

The other three Georgian players are largely forgotten. Mikhail Kavelashvili joined Manchester City on transfer deadline day in March 1996 and scored on his debut in a Manchester Derby. It was his only Premier League goal and he made just four appearances before City’s 1996 relegation. Zurab Khizanishvili struggled to hold down a regular starting position at Blackburn Rovers during his three-year spell at Ewood Park whilst Rati Aleksidze’s two-game spell at Chelsea was restricted to substitute appearances that lasted 18 minutes in 2000. Even the most ardent of Blues supporters probably don’t remember his spell at Stamford Bridge.

Thanks to Ketsbaia’s celebration and Kinkladze’s dribble, Georgia has a couple of historical moments in the Premier League archives but little success to show for it.

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Premier League Files: Georgi Kinkladze

Premier League Career: Manchester City (1995-1996), Derby County (1999-2002)

With plenty of dribbling ability and the quality to hurt opposition defences, Georgi Kinkladze was often the shining light in some grim days at Maine Road with Manchester City. The diminutive Georgian might have not been able to save the Citizens from Premier League relegation in 1996 but he did his best to do it virtually single-handily. His solo effort against Southampton is still widely remembered as one of the best goals of the 1995-1996 season.

Born in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Kinkladze won three league titles with the main powerhouse in Georgian football, Dinamo Tbilisi. He was named national player of the year twice and gained some prominence within the minds of UK supporters with his dazzling displays in European Championship qualification matches against Wales.

In July 1995, Manchester City beat off stiff competition from several European clubs to acquire Kinkladze’s signature. The £2 million fee would mean he would become the first Georgian to play in the Premier League and despite some initial problems with trying to earn a work permit, Kinkladze would get his documents ready in-time to be in the starting XI for Manchester City’s opening game of the 1995-1996 season – a 1-1 draw at home with Tottenham Hotspur.

City made a wretched start to the season under new manager Alan Ball. They didn’t win a league match until defeating Bolton Wanderers in early November. Nevertheless, Kinkladze was the shining light and already very popular with the long-suffering supporters. In November 1995, he scored his first Premier League goal in a 1-0 victory over high-flying Aston Villa that briefly took Ball’s side out of the bottom three.

Initially, he struggled to settle due to the language limitations and bitter winter climate but his mother moved to Manchester just before the festive period and if anything, this home comfort made Kinkladze an even better player. In March 1996, he produced his best moment of the campaign against relegation rivals Southampton. He beat five Southampton players on a mazy solo run and clipped the ball over the experienced Dave Beasant with calmness personified. City won the game 2-1 and Kinkladze’s goal was voted Goal of the Month by BBC Match of the Day viewers.

He was named Player of the Year by his fellow teammates and supporters of the club but one high-quality player can’t always save a faltering team. On the final day of the season, Manchester City were relegated to the First Division. Despite interest from the likes of Celtic and Inter Milan, Kinkladze elected to stay at Maine Road and try to help City back to the top-flight at the first attempt.

It didn’t happen and the club went backwards. He continued to shine in the First Division but Manchester City were slipping towards the third-tier of English football and were relegated in 1998. Joe Royle saw him as a luxury player and often left him out in the 1997-1998 relegation run-in, thinking his skills were too much of a hindrance in a struggling side rather than a help.

Kinkladze joined Ajax in the summer of 1998 for £5 million but played in an unfamiliar wide position after Jari Litmanen’s planned transfer to Barcelona collapsed. He never settled in the Netherlands, playing just 12 times and felt frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities. He returned to English shores and joined Derby County on-loan initially in November 1999 making his Premier League return as a late substitute in a defeat at Highbury.

He made 14 appearances in the loan spell with the Rams and did enough to make the move into a permanent switch with Derby paying Ajax £3 million which was a transfer record for the club that stood for the next seven years. A hernia operation kept Kinkladze on the sidelines at the start of the 2000-2001 season and further injury setbacks meant he couldn’t nail down a regular place in Derby’s line-up. He wasn’t as influential in the Midlands as he had been at Manchester City. Some managers seemed to appreciate his flair like John Gregory and Jim Smith. Others like Colin Todd were not interested in this and made that abundantly clear by often not selecting him due to his lack of work ethic. In 2002, Derby were relegated from the Premier League – a third relegation on Kinkladze’s English CV.

Although he liked him, Gregory had to slash the wage bill following Derby’s drop into the Football League and had to tell Kinkladze he had to leave for the good of the club. Settled in the region, Georgi didn’t want to go and even turned down a potential move to Turkish champions Galatasaray. He stayed with the Rams until his contract expired in the summer of 2003.

An 18-month spell without a club followed. Trial periods with the likes of Portsmouth, Leeds United and Panathinaikos led to no permanent contract offer and his career in England was most definitely over. He did win the Cypriot championship in 2005 when he returned to club football with Anorthosis Famagusta before ending his career at Rubin Kazan. Retiring in 2007, he later worked as a sports agent and spent a year back at Anorthosis as Sporting Director before leaving in June 2012.

He might have been a weak tackler and a lack of defensive contribution meant he was not always a manager’s favourite. However, Georgi Kinkladze was a playmaker artist and is still fondly remembered as a bright light in very difficult times at Manchester City.

Great Goals: Georgi Kinkladze – MANCHESTER CITY vs. Southampton (March 1996)

As Manchester City struggled massively in the 1995-1996 Premier League season, the performances of their Georgian wizard Georgi Kinkladze were being noted by many observers. He saved his best moment for a strike of immense individual quality and composure against relegation rivals Southampton in March 1996.

Starting on the right-hand side of the pitch, Kinkladze spotted some space and decided to run infield, beating Southampton defender Simon Charlton. Despite Charlton’s best efforts to foul him, Kinkladze stayed on his feet and kept running. He evaded a second challenge from Ken Monkou and another sliding challenge from another opponent before waiting for goalkeeper Dave Beasant to commit. As he did, Kinkladze simply dinked the ball over Beasant and into the net.

Manchester City had a cult hero. They might have won this battle 2-1 but ultimately, despite Kinkladze’s best efforts, they would be relegated on the last day and Southampton stayed up.

Premier League Rewind: 25th-27th November 1995

Results: Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Coventry City 3-3 Wimbledon, Everton 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City 1-0 Aston Villa, Middlesbrough 2-1 Liverpool FC, Newcastle United 2-1 Leeds United, Southampton 1-0 Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United 1-0 Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal 0-0 Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest 1-1 Manchester United

Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United had lost just one game all season and had a 100% record at St James’ Park for the season. Leeds United’s visit on the weekend of 25th-27th November 1995 was the standout fixture of a weekend which produced just 21 goals in 10 matches.

Leeds threatened to take that record when Brian Deane headed Howard Wilkinson’s side into the lead after 31 minutes. Newcastle responded brilliantly in the second half and two goals in two successive minutes from Rob Lee and Peter Beardsley turned the game around. The Magpies’ 2-1 win meant they would end November on top of the table and having extended their advantage over the chasing pack.

Manchester United lost ground on Keegan’s team after drawing 1-1 on the Monday Night Football game at Nottingham Forest. An Eric Cantona penalty ensured they left the City Ground with a point but it would start a worrying run of just two wins in their next nine matches that almost cost them a chance to regain the crown they’d lost the previous season to Blackburn Rovers.

The reigning champions hadn’t yet won on their travels in the season and had just returned from a painful defeat in Moscow in the Champions League which had seen the infamous clash on the field between Graeme Le Saux and David Batty. Blackburn played out an uneventful 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Super Sunday; moved to a lunchtime kick-off to make way for the Scottish League Cup Final (back in the days when Scottish football was just as important to the TV broadcasters!)

The most enterprising game of the weekend was played out between Coventry City and Wimbledon. Ron Atkinson’s side had won just once all season whilst Wimbledon were hovering just outside the drop zone. The Sky Blues’ ended with nine men as both Paul Williams and Richard Shaw were shown red cards. However, David Rennie scored a rare goal in the 83rd minute to rescue a 3-3 draw, having trailed 3-1 midway through the second half.

Atkinson’s team remained in the drop zone alongside Bolton Wanderers and Queens Park Rangers. The latter sides both lost 1-0 to Southampton and West Ham United respectively. Liverpool FC’s slide into mid-table continued. A 2-1 loss to Middlesbrough meant Roy Evans’ side collected just one point from four league matches and slid out of both the UEFA Cup and League Cup during a nightmare November.

Going in the right direction were Manchester City. Alan Ball had seen his side fail to win a match before November. Yet, 10 points from four games saw them climb out of the drop zone. The latest success came over Aston Villa. Georgi Kinkladze scored the only goal of the game with four minutes remaining.

Tottenham Hotspur ended the month in third spot after drawing 0-0 at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea but by this stage, it already looked like a two-horse race for the title between Newcastle United and Manchester United.

What else happened in November 1995?

  • The Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish extremist who opposed peace with the Palestinians.
  • Piers Brosnan stars as James Bond for the first time in “Goldeneye.”
  • Diana, Princess of Wales admits to infidelity in an explosive TV interview for “Panorama” with Martin Bashir.
  • Rosemary West is found guilty at Winchester Crown Court of killing 10 women.
  • “Toy Story” is released as the first feature-length film created completely using computer-generated imagery.
  • The Today newspaper ceases publication, becoming the first long-running national UK newspaper title to close since the Daily Sketch in 1971.
  • The Queen Mother undergoes a hip replacement operation at the age of 95.