Tag Archives: Sir Bobby Robson

The Managers: George Burley

Premier League Clubs Managed: Ipswich Town (1994-1995, 2000-2002)

George Burley’s club is most definitely Ipswich Town. A full-back during Sir Bobby Robson’s heyday at the club, Burley made nearly 400 league appearances for the Tractor Boys over 12 successful years which saw glory on both the domestic and European stage.

He then became the club’s manager in late 1994 and spearheaded them to their best-ever Premier League finish of fifth place in 2000-2001. Burley has managed several other clubs and also had a largely unsuccessful year as manager of the Scottish national side.

An FA Cup winner

Ipswich was not only Burley’s main club, it was his first team. Joining as an apprentice in 1972, his first job in his first senior game was to man-mark the great George Best at Old Trafford.

Six years later, he was a senior member of Robson’s squad that were the underdogs in the FA Cup final but continued the tradition in the 1970s of favourites being upset by the outsiders. Ipswich defeated Arsenal 1-0 in 1978 to win the famous trophy for the first time in their history.

In 1981, Ipswich enjoyed their best-ever top-flight campaign, finishing runners-up to Aston Villa in the First Division. They only missed out on the title on the last day of the season. There was glory in the UEFA Cup, as Robson’s side defeated AZ Alkmaar in the final. However, injury meant Burley missed out on the opportunity to play in the showpiece event.

Robson left in 1982 to take the England international job but Burley stayed for another three seasons before moving to Sunderland in 1985. He would experience both relegation and promotion on Wearside before finishing his playing days with Gillingham, Motherwell in two separate spells, Ayr United, Falkirk and Colchester United.

By this point though, he was firmly planted into a long and fairly useful coaching career.

Initial frustration

George’s first taste of management came in Scotland when he succeeded Ally MacLeod as player-manager of Ayr United in 1991. He took the team to two consecutive Scottish Challenge Cup finals but was unable to steer Ayr into the top-flight of Scottish football.

Dismissed in 1993, he resumed his playing career for a year before being appointed Colchester United boss in June 1994. He was only in-charge for 20 games, winning eight of them and was still registered as a player at the time.

In November 1994, John Lyall stepped down as manager of Ipswich with the club firmly rooted in the bottom four of the Premier League. Without Colchester knowing, he held talks with Ipswich and eventually, a compensation package was reluctantly agreed between the two East Anglian sides. Burley became Ipswich boss and once Colchester had sorted out their managerial vacancy, he took the late Dale Roberts with him as assistant manager. The pair had worked together at Ayr too.

There was early success with a fantastic 1-0 victory at Anfield over Liverpool FC with Adam Tanner scoring the only goal. However, there were few victories. The squad was ageing and relegation was confirmed to Division One in April 1995. Among the losses was a record-breaking Premier League 9-0 defeat to Manchester United.

Burley was already building for the future though but the Suffolk side’s stay in the second-tier of English football was to be much longer than hoped. Ipswich were always a promotion contender and never finished lower than seventh for five successive campaigns. There was agony in three play-off semi-finals before finally achieving promotion at the fourth attempt of asking. Barnsley were defeated 4-2 in the final at Wembley Stadium and Ipswich Town were returning to the top-flight.

A stellar return to the top-flight

Tipped by many to go straight back down to Division One after winning promotion, Ipswich quickly wowed the Premiership with an unlikely challenge for not just the top six, but the top three and a place in the UEFA Champions League.

There were impressive away victories along the way at Southampton, Everton, Leeds United and Liverpool FC and Marcus Stewart finished second to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the race for the Golden Boot. In the end, a 2-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic in April meant a Champions League position would be just beyond Ipswich with two games left.

However, they finished a fine fifth and just four points adrift of Arsenal in second spot. It meant qualification for the UEFA Cup for the first time in 19 years. Burley’s fantastic effort saw him voted the LMA Manager of the Year by his fellow colleagues.

After the highs of 2000-2001, the 2001-2002 season was very disappointing. Only two wins were achieved before Christmas in the Premier League which meant this was going to be a completely different campaign and a battle against relegation. There was an upturn in fortunes with seven wins in eight games taking Ipswich clear of the bottom three. However, a 6-0 home defeat by Liverpool FC started another drastic slide down the table. Ultimately, a 5-0 beating by the Reds at Anfield on the final day saw Ipswich relegated back to the First Division.

Burley was sacked in October 2002 after a 3-0 defeat to Grimsby Town as Ipswich started poorly on their return to the second-tier. They haven’t been back in the Premier League since.

Burley took over at Derby County in 2003 after their manager, John Gregory had been suspended. He did take them to a fourth-place finish in 2005 before resigning after strained relations with the board following the sale of Tom Huddlestone to Tottenham Hotspur. He then went on to have spells with Hearts which did see them briefly threaten the Glasgow clubs dominance of the Scottish game, Southampton, Crystal Palace and Apollon Limassol where his 2012 reign ended there after just two games in control.

Between 2008 and 2009, he was given the honour of managing his country with the remit to try and take Scotland to the World Cup finals in 2010. It didn’t work out. He won just three of his 14 matches as manager and a 3-0 friendly defeat in Cardiff to Wales in November 2009 spelt the end of his difficult reign as an international manager.

Advertisements

The Clubs: Newcastle United

All data correct upto 26th February 2018

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
872 329 225 318 1195 1178 +17 1212 23

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Shay Given 354
Alan Shearer 303
Shola Ameobi 294
Rob Lee 267
Nolberto Solano 230
Gary Speed 213
Fabricio Coloccini 211
Aaron Hughes 205
Steven Taylor 194
Kieron Dyer 190

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Alan Shearer 148
Peter Beardsley 47
Andy Cole 43
Shola Ameobi 43
Les Ferdinand 41
Papiss Cisse 37
Nolberto Solano 37
Rob Lee 34
Demba Ba 29
Gary Speed 29

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Newcastle United 8-0 Sheffield Wednesday 19th September 1999 1999-2000
Newcastle United 7-1 Swindon Town 12th March 1994 1993-1994
Newcastle United 7-1 Tottenham Hotspur 28th December 1996 1996-1997
Newcastle United 6-0 Aston Villa 22nd August 2010 2010-2011
Newcastle United 6-1 Wimbledon 21st October 1995 1995-1996
Newcastle United 5-0 Manchester United 20th October 1996 1996-1997
Newcastle United 5-0 Nottingham Forest 11th May 1997 1996-1997
Newcastle United 5-0 Southampton 16th January 2000 1999-2000
Newcastle United 5-0 West Ham United 5th January 2011 2010-2011
Newcastle United 6-2 Everton 29th March 2002 2001-2002

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle United 12th January 2008 2007-2008
Newcastle United 0-6 Liverpool FC 27th April 2013 2012-2013
Manchester City 6-1 Newcastle United 3rd October 2015 2015-2016
Arsenal 5-0 Newcastle United 9th December 2000 2000-2001
Chelsea 5-0 Newcastle United 9th November 2003 2003-2004
Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 Newcastle United 11th February 2012 2011-2012
Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle United 21st February 2015 2014-2015
Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle United 29th December 2012 2012-2013
Newcastle United 2-6 Manchester United 12th April 2003 2002-2003
Manchester United 5-1 Newcastle United 29th August 1999 1999-2000

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Kevin Keegan 4 8th January 1997
Kenny Dalglish 3 27th August 1998
Ruud Gullit 2 28th August 1999
Sir Bobby Robson 6 30th August 2004
Graeme Souness 2 2nd February 2006
Glenn Roeder 2 6th May 2007
Sam Allardyce 1 9th January 2008
Kevin Keegan 2 4th September 2008
Joe Kinnear 1 1st April 2009
Alan Shearer 1 24th May 2009
Chris Hughton 1 6th December 2010
Alan Pardew 5 30th December 2014
John Carver 1 9th June 2015
Steve McClaren 1 11th March 2016
Rafa Benitez 2  

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City 6th May 2012 52,389 2011-2012
Newcastle United 1-1 Sunderland 4th March 2012 52,388 2011-2012
Newcastle United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 18th August 2012 52,385 2012-2013
Newcastle United 2-0 Liverpool FC 1st April 2012 52,363 2011-2012
Newcastle United 0-3 Sunderland 14th April 2013 52,355 2012-2013
Newcastle United 0-1 Arsenal 19th May 2013 52,354 2012-2013
Newcastle United 0-6 Liverpool FC 27th April 2013 52,351 2012-2013
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United 28th August 2005 52,327 2005-2006
Newcastle United 1-1 Chelsea 15th May 2005 52,326 2004-2005
Newcastle United 1-0 Liverpool FC 5th March 2005 52,323 2004-2005

 

Intro

Newcastle United were once christened “The Entertainers” as their gung-ho approach to attacking football almost landed them a Premier League title under Kevin Keegan in 1996. The Magpies have often lurched from one crisis to another and although there have been some impressive campaigns under the guidance of Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Pardew, they’ve lurched more often than not with relegation and fell through the trapdoor in both 2009 and 2016. Former Champions League winning manager Rafa Benitez is hoping to avoid a similar situation in 2018.

 

1993-1994

Kevin Keegan brought Newcastle United into the Premier League in 1993 and they immediately became the team to watch. The Magpies finished a fantastic third in the table and scored more goals than any other side in the season. Andy Cole finished as the winner of the Golden Boot with 34 goals, whilst Peter Beardsley returned to Tyneside and also chipped in with 20+ goals. Among the highlights in terms of results was a 3-0 home win over Liverpool FC where Cole scored a first half hat-trick and a 7-1 drubbing in March 1994 of hapless Swindon Town.

 

1994-1995

Newcastle made a red-hot start to the 1994-1995 campaign, winning their first six league matches and staying undefeated for the first 11 games. A 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Manchester United saw the beginning of their challenge to derail. Top spot was surrendered following defeat to Wimbledon a month later and Keegan’s side faded to sixth and missed out on European qualification. Cole was sold controversially to Manchester United for a British transfer record in January 1995 but the money would be reinvested that summer. Rob Lee was one of the stars of the team with his early season form winning him international recognition from England.

 

1995-1996

In the summer of 1995, Keegan spent the Cole money on Les Ferdinand. His £6 million arrival was one of several signings during the season. David Ginola and Warren Barton were among the other pre-season captures whilst David Batty and Faustino Asprilla joined the group during the season. The Toon Army made another searing start and lost just three times between August and mid-February. A 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in mid-January saw Newcastle establish a fantastic position. They were 12 points clear and odds-on to win the Premier League title.

Then, they collapsed and opened the door for Manchester United. Defeats to West Ham United, Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers along with losing the 4-3 classic at Anfield saw them slip behind their rivals from Old Trafford. Although they dug out three successive 1-0 victories in April, Keegan’s side finished gallant runners-up; four points shy of the Red Devils. It did feel like a golden opportunity missed.

 

1996-1997

Keegan cheered the fans up after the near-miss of the previous campaign as he persuaded Alan Shearer to return home. The local Geordie joined from Blackburn Rovers for £15 million in a world-record transfer fee. In October 1996, Newcastle dished out the perfect revenge on Manchester United, dismantling Alex Ferguson’s side 5-0 on Tyneside with Philippe Albert’s delicate chip of Peter Schmeichel one of the finest moments of the season.

However, the fans would be left devastated as Keegan suddenly resigned in early January. He was replaced by Kenny Dalglish and they finished second for the second successive season, edging out Arsenal and Liverpool FC on goal difference to claim a place in the group stages of next season’s UEFA Champions League.

 

1997-1998

After the joys of the previous two seasons, Newcastle dropped to 13th in 1997-1998 and only guaranteed their Premier League survival with a win over Chelsea on the penultimate weekend of the season. Pre-season preparations were severely damaged by a serious knee injury for Shearer in a tournament on Merseyside. That kept him out of action until mid-January and with Ferdinand sold to Tottenham Hotspur, the goals dried up. There was also some issues off-the-pitch. Directors Freddy Shepherd and Douglas Hall were forced to resign after being caught in a tabloid sting which saw them mock Shearer and make fun of the club’s own supporters.

 

1998-1999

Kenny Dalglish lasted just two games into the 1998-1999 campaign. He resigned and was replaced by Ruud Gullit. The Dutchman was given a rude awakening as Liverpool FC thrashed Newcastle 4-1 in his first match in the dugout. Three straight wins did follow which got Newcastle upto fifth but that was the peak as the league season tailed off again. Even the arrival of Duncan Ferguson from Everton in November couldn’t set pulses racing. Newcastle finished 13th for the second successive season and lost the FA Cup final to Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

 

1999-2000

Newcastle were plunged into crisis in the early weeks of the season. The first shock of was the sending off of skipper Shearer in the opening day loss at home to Aston Villa. Back-to-back away defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton followed and then, Gullit controversially left Shearer on the bench for the Tyne & Wear Derby against Sunderland. The Black Cats won 2-1 and Gullit quit 48 hours later, having lost the power struggle against the captain. Sir Bobby Robson took over, stabilised the club and ensured comfortable survival. Newcastle finished 11th and recorded their biggest-ever Premier League victory too – beating Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 with Shearer scoring five goals.

 

2000-2001

Robson’s first full season as Newcastle manager turned out to be an unremarkable time as the club finished 11th again – 10 points shy of the European qualification positions. Shearer missed a huge portion of the season with injury and the £7 million spent on youngster Carl Cort from Wimbledon was poor business. A 3-1 win away at Leeds in January did take Newcastle sixth in the table but ultimately, a seven-game winless run that followed meant it was another season of mid-table mediocrity for the Geordie faithful.

 

2001-2002

Newcastle made a quantum leap forward in 2001-2002 and the signings of Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert added plenty of pace and flair to their attack. Shearer scored 23 goals in the Premier League, only narrowly missing out on the Golden Boot to Arsenal’s Thierry Henry. A 3-1 victory at Highbury over Arsenal in December ended a four-year drought without a victory in the capital and an exciting 4-3 success at Leeds ensured Newcastle topped the table at Christmas. They stayed in the title race until back-to-back losses to Arsenal and Liverpool FC in March. However, a 2-2 draw at Blackburn in April with both goals from Shearer ensured UEFA Champions League football for only the second time in the club’s history.

 

2002-2003

Although they finished with fewer points than in 2001-2002, Newcastle actually improved position in the table to finish a fantastic third, only behind Manchester United and Arsenal in the final rankings. Robson’s side made a slow start, losing three of their first five matches and conceding five goals in away defeats to both Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United.

Newcastle starting putting results together though in the autumn months and emerged as a potential outsider for the title come springtime. The £8 million arrival of Jonathan Woodgate from Leeds United helped bolster the defensive numbers but consecutive defeats in April to Everton and a 6-2 beating at home by Manchester United finished off those lingering title dreams. Nevertheless, Newcastle brushed off challenges from Chelsea and Liverpool FC to secure a deserved top-three finish.

 

2003-2004

Newcastle’s season never really psychologically recovered from a surprise exit in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds to Partizan Belgrade, losing a penalty shootout at St. James’ Park. They played poorly away from home all season, collecting a staggering 12 draws on their travels and winning just twice at Middlesbrough and Fulham.

It took until early October for a first Premier League win to be recorded at home to Southampton and it was the Saints who finished off their aspirations of nicking fourth spot from Liverpool FC, as Newcastle drew 3-3 at St. Mary’s in the season’s final week. Many fans were disgruntled by the backwards step made by the club especially as no money was spent all season. Lee Bowyer was the only arrival and that was on a free transfer from relegated West Ham United.

 

2004-2005

Sir Bobby Robson’s five-year tenure at the club was ended four games into the season. Just two points were gained and two days after a 4-2 defeat to Aston Villa where he’d left Alan Shearer on the bench saw him asked to clear his desk by chairman Freddy Shepherd.

Graeme Souness resigned as Blackburn Rovers manager to fill the vacancy on Tyneside and a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions suggested better times might follow but Newcastle lacked any consistency to launch a European challenge via the league. Key player Craig Bellamy was loaned out to Celtic in January after falling out with Souness and worse was to follow.

In April, teammates Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer started fighting each other during a 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa. Both were sent off and banned, with Bowyer fined six weeks’ wages and from that moment on, any momentum was lost. Newcastle quickly exited the latter stages of the FA Cup and UEFA Cup and finished a dreary 14th in the league table – their worst finish to this date.

 

2005-2006

To try and solve their goalscoring woes, Souness and Shearer managed to persuade Michael Owen to join Newcastle from Real Madrid for a club-record fee of £17 million that still stands today. Unfortunately, Owen sustained a broken metatarsal in a New Years’ Eve defeat to Tottenham Hotspur that ruled him out for the second half of the season.

Shearer retired at the end of the campaign, scoring in his final appearance during a Tyne & Wear Derby victory over Sunderland. Two months earlier, he became Newcastle’s highest all-time goalscorer in their history, surpassing the great Jackie Millburn’s total of 200 goals against Portsmouth.

Souness had gone well before the season’s end. He was sacked in early February after a dreary 3-0 defeat to Manchester City. Academy director Glenn Roeder took charge on a caretaker basis and guided the club from 15th on his arrival to a 7th-place finish that won him a two-year contract as manager.

 

2006-2007

Damien Duff and Obafemi Martins were the main summer arrivals in the first campaign since 1996 to start without Alan Shearer among the playing squad. Scott Parker succeeded him as captain but the momentum that Newcastle had attained at the end of the previous campaign did not transfer into this season. A large injury crisis, constant speculation about the future ownership of the club and a lack of results saw Newcastle finish a tame 13th in the table. Roeder resigned a week before the season’s end and Sam Allardyce was appointed as his successor.

 

2007-2008

Businessman Mike Ashley became the club’s new owner after buying Sir John Hall’s 41.6% share for £55 million. His arrival came a week after Allardyce’s appointment as manager and it soon became clear that he would not be able to stamp his authority on the place. Being the only side to lose all season to Derby County didn’t help.

A poor November saw the club slide into the bottom half of the table and the natives were getting restless again. Allardyce’s contract was terminated by mutual consent in early January and Ashley made the surprising move of bringing Kevin Keegan back for a second spell as manager. It took him nine games to taste victory in the Premier League but he did guide the Magpies away from danger to 12th. Worse would follow though for the long-suffering supporters.

 

2008-2009

A major falling out between Keegan and the board in early September started a chain reaction for Newcastle’s most chaotic season to-date. He resigned, stating the failure to have complete control over player transfers as the reason for his second departure from the club.

Joe Kinnear was not a popular choice and his reign only lasted until early February when health problems meant he had to stand down. Popular players like Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia were sold and sensing relegation as a real possibility, Ashley asked club legend Alan Shearer to vacate his place on the BBC Match of the Day sofa to take charge of the club in an interim capacity for the last eight games of the season.

He only won once (against Middlesbrough) and a Damien Duff own goal on the final day of the season at Villa Park consigned them to relegation, ending their 16-year stay in the top-flight.

As Sky commentator Martin Tyler said on the final day: “From undermining Kevin Keegan to overtaxing Alan Shearer, it has been disastrous.”

 

2010-2011

Under the guidance of Chris Hughton, Newcastle returned to the top-flight at the first attempt and achieved some impressive early season results. Aston Villa were thumped 6-0, Sunderland well-beaten 5-1 and an Andy Carroll header beat Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium. Hughton though was never the preferred appointment of Ashley and he was sacked following a 3-1 defeat in early December to West Bromwich Albion.

Former Southampton and Charlton manager Alan Pardew was his replacement and again, not an appointment the fans wanted. He started well with a 3-1 win over Liverpool FC but the sale of fans’ favourite Carroll on transfer deadline day for £35 million to the Merseysiders once again stretched the relationship between fans and board to breaking point.

A sensational comeback to draw 4-4 with Arsenal did sooth the pain of no replacement being brought in to replace Carroll and Newcastle finished 12th in the final standings, although it could have been ninth but for throwing away a 3-0 lead on the final day against West Bromwich Albion to draw 3-3.

 

2011-2012

Pardew inspired a wonderful 2011-2012 season from his team which still had them as an outsider to qualify for the UEFA Champions League on the final day.

After going through their first 11 Premier League games unbeaten, Newcastle then failed to win in six consecutive games in November and December, mainly due to a spate of injuries among key defenders. The team recorded a resounding 3–0 home win over champions Manchester United in January and also produced excellent victories away to Chelsea and at home to Liverpool FC.

Demba Ba arrived on a free transfer and scored two hat-tricks in the first half of the campaign. In January, Senegalese forward Papiss Cisse joined from Bundesliga side Sport-Club Freiburg and made a sensational start, scoring 13 goals in just 14 appearances. Defeats in their final two games saw Newcastle finish in fifth place but qualify for the UEFA Europa League. Pardew’s achievement was noted as he won the LMA Manager of the Year award.

 

2012-2013

Following a great campaign in 2011-2012, it was back to struggles in 2012-2013. Newcastle lost 19 of their 38 matches and experienced their worst Premier League home defeat too, losing 6-0 to Liverpool FC in April.

Ba was sold to Chelsea in the January transfer window and Newcastle finished just five points above the bottom three in 16th position. The only highlight was a run to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League.

 

2013-2014

In the off-season, Newcastle confirmed the return of Joe Kinnear to the club as Director of Football, much to the chagrin of the supporters. The only arrival in the summer was the loan signing of Loic Remy from relegated Queens Park Rangers. A 4-0 defeat on opening weekend to Manchester City was a bad start but Newcastle finish 2013 in the mix for the European positions. This is thanks to the goals of Remy, the outstanding form of Yohan Cabaye and excellent victories over Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and a first win at Old Trafford since February 1972.

Cabaye was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for £19 million in the January transfer window and Pardew attracted bad headlines when he head-butted Hull’s David Meyler during a touchline confrontation in March at the KC Stadium. He received a seven-match ban for his actions and Newcastle’s season faded badly in the closing weeks as they limp to the end in 10th place, having lost seven of their last eight matches.

 

2014-2015

Newcastle started the season without a win from their opening eight Premier League games and Pardew was faced with growing pressure from frustrated fans, who start a website SackPardew.com to try and get the board to act on the poor results. He turned the corner with a run of six successive victories that took them from 20th to 5th in the table but in late December, he left the club to fill the vacancy at Crystal Palace.

Long-serving assistant John Carver got his chance in the spotlight but his managerial reign did not go well. He presided over some of Newcastle’s worst-ever league form, including a run of eight consecutive defeats. A win over West Ham on the final day of the season ultimately secured Newcastle’s survival at the expense of Hull City.

 

2015-2016

Steve McClaren was appointed as manager in pre-season but the 2015-2016 campaign was another disappointing one for Newcastle supporters. They didn’t win a match until mid-October, when summer arrival Georginio Wijnaldum scores four goals in a 6-2 victory over Norwich. Back-to-back victories against Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur in December suggest a potential revival but McClaren’s lack of enthusiasm and results speaks for itself. A shattering 3-1 home loss to AFC Bournemouth in March saw his tenure end five days later.

Rafa Benitez was appointed as his successor but he arrived too late to save the club. Despite staying unbeaten in their last six games and a 5-1 victory over Tottenham on the last day, Newcastle are relegated but Benitez does eventually decide to stay on as manager, surprising many experts by signing a three-year contract.

 

2017-2018

Under Benitez, the Magpies hit the heights of sixth place after a 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace in October. However, a 1-0 loss to Burnley in their next match starts an alarming run of eight defeats in their next nine matches. Victories away at West Ham and Stoke over the Christmas programme keep Newcastle above the bottom three and Matt Ritchie’s recent winner against Manchester United suggests the manager’s ability to get the maximum out of his squad mean they are more than likely to maintain their top-flight status at the end of the season.

Premier League Files: Gheorghe Popescu

Premier League Career: Tottenham Hotspur (1994-1995)

A former captain of Barcelona, Gheorghe Popescu was one of the key players from the bright Romania team that was one of the most thrilling international sides to watch in the 1990s. The brother-in-law of fellow Romanian great Gheorghe Hagi, Popescu featured in several top European leagues, including Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga.

He only had one season in the Premier League but it was an impressive campaign in north London with Tottenham Hotspur. Plus, he will always have a positive spot in the hearts of Tottenham fans for scoring a winning goal in a North London Derby.

Before his Tottenham spell, Popescu had reached the semi-finals of the European Cup with Steaua Bucharest in 1988 at a time when Romanian clubs enjoyed greater success in European competition. He was signed by Sir Bobby Robson in 1990 for PSV Eindhoven and spent four years of largely qualified success in Dutch football.

After his excellent performances at the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, he was signed by Tottenham’s flamboyant manager, Ossie Ardiles in September of that year for £2.9 million. Ardiles was known for his attacking flair and his lack of defending principles. However, Popescu’s signing was seen as a potential change in his thinking. His experience and tactical knowledge would see him operate mainly in a defensive midfield role, shielding central defenders Colin Calderwood and Sol Campbell.

On New Years’ Day 1995, Popescu scored the only goal as Tottenham beat Arsenal 1-0 at White Hart Lane. By now, Gerry Francis had succeeded Ardiles as manager and he helped maximise the potential of Popescu, who added another two further strikes as Tottenham finished seventh and above the Gunners in the table for the last time until the 2016-2017 campaign.

The lure of Barcelona though was too much for Popescu and he moved for £3 million in the summer of 1995 to replace the ageing Ronald Koeman in the team. He was reunited again with Robson, who made him his captain and helped Barcelona to a Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup double in 1997.

Deemed surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal, Popescu’s next move was to Galatasaray. He spent four years in Istanbul, winning more trophies and the UEFA Cup in 2000, when Galatasaray defeated Arsenal in a penalty shootout. Further spells followed with Leece in Italy and an eight-game stint with Dinamo Bucharest in his homeland. He retired in 2003 after one season in the Bundesliga with Hannover 96.

He won the Romanian Footballer of the Year award six times and won over 100 international caps for his country.

However, in 2014, Popescu was sentenced to a three-year sentence in jail after being found guilty of tax evasion and money laundering in connection with the transfers of football players from Romania to other countries. At the time, he was the favourite to become the next president of the Romanian FA.

It was an unsavoury conclusion to a life in football which made him an idol in his home country and a key figure for some of Europe’s most senior clubs.