Everybody goes weak at the knees for… the irresistible David Ginola

Date published: Saturday 24th October 2020 9:00

Who’s this then?

David Désiré Marc Ginola is a 6’ 1” Frenchman from Gassin in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur région, not far from St Tropez, which seems about right. And by the way, how much sexier is Marc compared to plain old Mark?

David is now 53 – how old do you feel now? He played for eight clubs in a 17-year career Toulon, Racing Club Paris, Brest, Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and finally Everton, never staying longer than three seasons at any club.

His time at the first three of those teams were not marked by any silverware but his reputation as a tall, mercurial, skilful winger and midfielder was growing and he earned his first of 17 caps for his country in 1990.

However this move to PSG in 1992 marked the start of his ascendency to iconic status. He won the league title in 1993–94, Coupe de France in 1992–93 and 1994–95 and the Coupe de la Ligue in 1994–95, in a cup double.

He began to add goals to his game with 18 in 49 during the 1993-94 season. A big fan favourite, despite admitting to being a Marseille fan as a boy, after three years in Paris he was expected to move to a Spanish club, possibly Barcelona, however, and surprisingly, Kevin Keegan convinced him to move to the more salubrious climes of Newcastle for just £2.5 million.

It was here when he first really came to British football fans attention as part of the swashbuckling side which was everyone’s second favourite club. Being well over six foot and with real pace, in full flight, ball at his feet, he was an imposing presence, helping the Toon to two second-place finishes.

However when Keggy left, his relationship with Kenny Dalglish was frosty and soon he was offski to Tottenham for £2.5 million in 1997 to hook up again with Sir Les Ferdinand. This was a period, as at Newcastle, when he was a joy to watch, winning the League Cup in 1998-99 in the process. This was perhaps his peak year, Johan Cruyff called him the best in the world and he was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year in 1999, the first player to do so at a club not in the top four, and more amazing still, this was achieved in Manchester United’s Treble season with most United players voting for him, according to their manager. All quite simply because he was so exciting to watch and had given everyone so much pleasure. That’s a proper legacy.

By now 33, Spurs surprisingly sold him for £3million to Villa where he spent two seasons running down his career, with only glimpses of the old lion-maned brilliance. Manager John Gregory accused him of spending too long at the timber yard. He responded with a cracking goal and a muscular display. But time was running out. He also did some stampy-stampy and got banned. It was all coming to an end and when that happened back in the day, quite often, you moved to Everton.

There was a last gasp on the footballing Gauloise at Goodison, then David Moyes arrived. He played just five times and then jacked the game in, a feeling which many have had after watching Moyes’ teams play.


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His international career had been rather disappointing and was marred by Gerard Houllier’s slaughtering of him back in 1993 for losing a game to Bulgaria after overhitting a cross and conceding on the break, naming him “assassin of the team” which seems a bit harsh of the scarf-wearing, corner-turning manager. Houllier came back for another bite at him in 2011 reiterating his criticism of 1993. David sued him for defamation, but lost. Let it go, lads. It’s only football.

His post-playing career has been one of very much the renaissance man. With his good looks and dashing charisma, it was perhaps inevitable he’d take acting lessons at RADA and then played Didier the Butcher, which was the leading part in the Anglo-French short film ‘Rosbeef. Rosbeef’, a tale of love, lust and a kilo of sausages, which won a prize at Cannes. A few other roles followed, as did plenty of TV appearances, adverts and ambassadorial roles such as campaigning worldwide for the English FA bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Safe to say, that didn’t go so well.

He’s tried his hand at punditry but hasn’t had a long-term gig here. His golden glow always enhances a broadcast, though the feeling that he doesn’t really apply himself 24/7 to the role, just as he was often unable to do in his career, pervades. Indeed, he seems to be one of life’s butterflies, flitting hither and indeed thither.

Has he got a vineyard? Of course he has. His Provence rose is reportedly excellent glugging. He’s also been a catwalk model for Cerruti and there were the L’Oreal ads too, of course. Because he’s definitely worth it…and then some.

There was some nonsense about standing for the FIDA presidency and getting £250k from Paddy Power for the pleasure in 2015. But more seriously in 2016 he had a heart attack while playing in a charity game. Frederik Mendy gave him CPR which may have saved his life. A quadruple bypass later, our man was up and about like the veritable spring chicken having suffered no neurological damage. Phew.

No-one would claim that David was always a great player. His career is marked with inconsistency and periods of ‘frankly I can’t be arsed.’ This has without doubt infuriated managers and teammates down the years, but when he brought the genius, he had few if any peers.

Why the love?

Long after the noble journeymen of football have come and gone, while they may be rightly remembered by a few dedicated followers, it is the mercurial geniuses that are still talked about. So it is with Mr G. He played seven seasons in English football, for a good part of four of them, he was fantastic, for the other three, not so much, but those four seasons, two for the Magpies and two for the Lilywhites, have given thousands of people so many happy memories. So many spikes of adrenalin in the collective synapses.

And people who bring that golden light of the infinite are rightly treasured. Consistency is not relevant to it. It is those moments of supreme brilliance, of creative thinking matched to elegant ball control and outrageous ambition that all rolled into one in moments of everlasting joy.

It didn’t hinder any of this that David was and still very much is, a handsome chap of twinkling blue eyes and luscious locks. He radiates good vibes and personality in a way that is very much not the norm.

However, if we revisit his on-pitch performances, in his pomp he was a remarkable force. He’s not often spoken of as especially quick, maybe he didn’t look it on TV or something, but in real life he was super speedy and as such a big, physical and two-footed unit, he was quite the imposing figure.

Perhaps subsequent years of watching CR7, a big slice of beef, flying down the wing, cutting inside unleashing a shot has made us over familiar with the artform, but in the mid-to-late 90s it was a thrilling, even shocking thing to witness. Watch his ball control, it is exceptional, always keeping it just a free centimetres ahead of him as he runs at pace. I love how he just taps it a little ahead of himself in a small but masterful way. He also had a grab bag of tricks to get him out of tight corners. The drag back and a side-ways heel down the touchline, a wide touch while spinning away from a marker. Then there were volley’s galore and long range top corner curlers. I

Being tall and broad, he had the ability to really impose himself on a defence. In slow motion, sweat dripping from his hair, with those high cheekbones and a strong jaw he looks magnificent. The camera bloody loved him.

Like all truly great footballers, he ran with a smoothness that suggested he was driven by a high performance engine. Yes, he could frustrate fans when he wasn’t at peak form, he also had an edge to his play if he felt he was getting too much of a kicking, he wasn’t beyond taking vengeance. It must also be said some thought him a diver, what with him being foreign, Jeff. But none of this takes any shine off his halo of brilliance.

There was the moment he was caught making a wanking gesture live on a BTSport, that will always make you loved by the people. In subsequent interviews he’s talked with characteristic passion and eloquence about the game.

He played in the last era before professionalism really kicked in, demanding everyone be a 7/10 rather than a 10 one week and a 4 the net. It demoted, or removed those of an especially maverick or creative bent from the game. His contribution to games could only be measured by the excitement, thrill and joy in the hearts of those who watched him. Opta doesn’t have stat for that.

 

What the people love

I’m a great believer that players who give us great pleasure, one way or another, become markers in the stream of time that is our lives. They take us back to specific moments or periods in the way a song can, or the smell of something. This is one of football’s great functions. It is a transportative mechanism, allowing us to look back down the wrong  end of the telescope at our previous selves and be taken back to who we once were. David Ginola is the sort of player who is the perfect example of that. He is 90s football made extant. So it was no surprise much love poured in for him this week.

Makes me go weak in the knees

It’s a cliche but he was a player who got you on the edge of your seat as soon as he got the ball. It was a poor Spurs team he was in but he made it worth watching and scored some great goals like the one against Barnsley. Seems like a really good bloke too.

Impossible to dislike the man. And what a player. Used to love watching him play and dont think he really got the praise he deserved.

He was always lovely and charming to my Nan, who was the tea lady at WHL from 1966- 00’s and him and a few others would always pop their head in to say hello and see how she was. Scored some good goals as well. Feel privileged I was able to watch a player like that at.

Ginola at Newcastle in that shirt was the only time I considered switching allegiances to a different club. I was 13 and he was the height of gorgeous, effortless cool; as a dreadful footballer myself, I watched open-mouthed at someone who made it all seem so disdainfully easy.

The best left midfielder in premier league history in my, admittedly worthless, opinion.

It’s criminal he never played at the very very top level. As close as Newcastle were 95-97 he should have been at madrid or juve mid 90’s.

The sublime skills. The hair. The smile. He was an absolute joy to watch. Definitely one of the best the premier league has seen.

An absolute Rolls Royce of a player. Also turned Sue Barker into jelly on a Question of Sport with his gallic charm.

Ginola was on the cover of FIFA 97’. Great goals against Man Utd, Ferencvaros amongst others. He could go missing – Shearer had him up against the wall according to mark lawrenson for not crossing the ball / showboating vs Arsenal in 96/97 (1-2 defeat). Mercurial like Asprilla

Majestic on the ball, with good looks that everyone’s mum fell in love with, charming and endearing, to say “Everybody Loves David Ginola” is very likely true, he is the original Maverick.

Hold him in the same bracket as Bergkamp & Cantona – he was just as good if not better. For me the most naturally gifted player of his generation. Never seen a player who was as comfortable in scoring with both feet. Should have & could have gone to the very top.

A player who was cutting in and shooting before it was the fashion. As soon as he got the ball every fan would shudder into attention, you did not know what he would do, but you knew he would do something. Silky, strong, irritating, magical, missed.

A player who cut in and shot and missed so often. However no matter how many times he sent it soaring over the bar we all knew that the next one might crash into the top corner. I appreciate hard working consistent players, it’s the Ginolas of the world we pay to see though.

I have precisely zero interest in how many metres Monsieur Ginola covered in a match. But if he was playing in a match I had no emotional involvement in, I would have been far more likely to watch.

The sort of player you’d pay to watch at the local park on a Saturday afternoon.

He was fast! I remember Spurs playing Boro at the Riverside and I was sat in the front row – he gave Curtis Fleming a horrible time. He didn’t have a weak foot either. What an enigmatic player too.

When John Gregory tried to take him on at Villa (top of the table at Christmas photo friends) – said he was carrying too much timber. Next game? He scored a cracker and took his top off. What a whopper Gregory was.

At Durham Uni sports ground, 1996/7 seeing him in the communal showers singing “Come on baby light my fire”. I have never loved a man more.

Too much. Too much hair, too good looking, too much talent. And seems a nice fella too. Brightened many a Spurs game in the otherwise grim late 90s but … too much!!

Despite being managed by Gerry Francis, Christian Gross and George Graham he was an absolute delight at Spurs. Definite shades of Le Tissier at Southampton during his time at Spurs. He should have played at the very highest level. Beautiful footballer. Beautiful man.

One of the most gifted players I was lucky enough to see live

The one player I remember having a huge impact on me as a kid, after watching him ‘live’ in stadia. I’d sit there willing him to get the ball, breathtaking grace on the left wing.

Probably the sexiest footballer ever, in both ways.

The source of one of my all-time-favourite terrace chants: “The Frog on the Tyne, is all mine, all mine. The Frog on the Tyne, is all mine!”

 

Four great moments

That’s just showing off…

One of his classics…

A piledriver followed by shameless nudity…

Now that’s how you volley a ball…

What now?

Hopefully he keeps in good health and continues to pursue his career as the bright elusive butterfly of love. He is such a great English speaker but with a delicious French accent that has an eternal appeal for us. Because his peak years were played out in the northeast and north London, he will always have a seat at football’s table on these islands. And if he feels like making a wanking gesture at any point, then he should be encouraged to do so on live TV.

I daresay we will see him at UEFA or FIFA events smiling, wearing understated expensive tailoring and no doubt smelling of a gorgeous cologne made from the tears of angels. And in that way, he will continue to radiate the pleasure we first saw 25 years ago. Merci David, tu as amélioré nos vies.

John Nicholson

 

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