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'30,000 WERE AT TRAINING!'

Posted on 17 October 2006  - 12:00

Two loan spells at Besiktas proved a springboard for one of the most prolific goalscorers in Premiership history - and who better than Les Ferdinand to run the rule over our UEFA Cup opponents on Thursday night?

Two loan spells at Besiktas proved a springboard for one of the most prolific goalscorers in Premiership history - and who better than Les Ferdinand to run the rule over our UEFA Cup opponents on Thursday night?

'Sir Les' first travelled to Turkey for a three-match loan stint between March-July 1988 and returned in August that year for the spell that would launch his career.

This time he bagged 14 goals in 24 league starts and having progressed through non-league football and QPR's reserve team, he was ready for the number nine shirt. Five years later he moved to Newcastle United for £6million having scored 80 goals in 152 league starts and having banged in 41 goals in 67 league starts for the Toon the switch to White Hart Lane where despite terrible problems with injuries, 33 goals in 97 Premiership starts for us.

BESIKTAS TRAVEL ADVICE

Boyhood Spurs fan Les, back at the Lane as a spectator already this season, only has happy memories of Istanbul.

"Besiktas was great for me," he reflected this week. "It was my first loan to another professional club and first real taste of senior football. Gordon Milne took me over there and as the only English player, they really looked after me.

"It was a step into the unknown for me - my only knowledge of Turkey was from the film Midnight Express!

"I hadn't really played in front of any crowds either - apart from the FA Vase Final at Wembley - as I'd come up through non-league and I'd been playing reserve football at QPR.

"All of a sudden I'm at Besiktas and there were 30,000 in the stadium for my first training session! There was so much interest in English football then. I just remember thinking to myself 'do these people know I've only been playing in the reserves?' but it was something to behold.

"I wouldn't go as far as saying it was make or break for me out there but it was because I did so well out there that I was able to come back to England and push on. It was an experience I wouldn't change for anything and one that was very important in the context of my career as a whole."

So what are we in for in our opening UEFA Cup group match? "I can tell everyone at Spurs that they will be stepping into an incredible atmosphere," he said. "There wasn't as much European football when I was there but when any English teams came over to Istanbul it was massive for the team involved and all the supporters from the other teams would go along as well. It was like a World Cup game.

"It's an unbelievable atmosphere and one every professional footballer should relish. It will certainly be a great experience for the younger lads at Spurs and this is what getting into Europe is all about - you want these tests."