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Special K !

Posted on 22 August 2002  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

John Fennelly looks back on the career of a player who certainly left his mark on White Hart Lane - Jurgen Klinsmann.

WHEN IT CAME to press and public interest Jurgen Klinsmann was a one-man industry. The perpetual interest in the former German international striker was little short of phenomenal.

From the moment of his arrival to be greeted by the massed ranks of the media in the Bill Nicholson Suite here at the Lane, Klinsmann was up and running as an impressive ambassador for this club and the game as a whole.

The interest in what he had to say on all subjects left me staggered. We first met in the manager's office when we had a brief chat before that conference on the eve of the 1994-95 season. He looked like a tourist in his green shirt, jeans and trainers, a jumper casually hanging over his shoulders and with a small rucksack by his side.

His German passport could be seen sticking out the back pocket of his denims as we walked up the stairs and the fact that he later returned driving a battered old dark blue VW Beetle was no surprise as he parked between the Mercs and Beamers at our former training ground at Chase Lodge.

As Germany's greatest export at the time he could have had the choice of any of those top of the range models from his homeland but Jurgen was always his own man and his eccentricity added to the persona of one of the greatest players to have represented Spurs in recent years.

It was the day before his 30th birthday and there was not an agent in sight as the former German 'Footballer of the Year' conducted all negotiations himself. His £2 million move was described in the Daily Mail as "the transfer coup of the decade" and was soon to be balanced by the £2.2 million sale of Vinny Samways to Everton.

Fluent in four languages and always impeccably behaved he still had one hurdle to overcome - his reputation as a player who looked for free kicks and enjoyed conning referees by crashing to the ground at the slightest of touches. In short, English fans saw him as a "diver."

However, Jurgen struck first!

He had already bounced his opening " are there any good diving clubs here in London" line off me leaving me speechless that he should actually risk announcing his arrival in such a way. But the remark immediately reduced the packed press conference to such laughter and delight that, from that moment, he had them eating out of his hands.

However, talk was OK. It was what Klinsmann did on the field that mattered. In the end, he proved by a succession of injuries from brave challenges that he would literally go through brick walls for our cause. And that's why the Spurs fans loved him.

On a number of occasions he literally spilt blood and was later reaching for the Aspirins - but he always came back for more and his consistency was immense. He was certainly no foreign import seeking an easy ride in the evening of his career.

We received more requests on a daily basis for Klinsmann interviews than all other players - and the manager! - put together at the time. Indeed had he done them all, he would have been there all day, every day.

When he returned for the second part of the 1997-98 campaign, we had moved our training quarters to our present base at Spurs Lodge and, during the building of the site, we used a portacabin for press conferences. It was not unusual for Klinsmann, if he had the time and felt that he had something to say, to stage his own on a Thursday before a game.

As a player, he announced his arrival in the Premiership by scoring on his debut at Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day in 1994 and then scored twice as we beat Everton here soon afterwards. He was on his way and players and youngsters alike still copy his diving celebration, originally the trademark of the master but still relevant today.

Indeed many of his goals remain in the minds of Spurs fans lucky enough to witness his two spells here and often feature in any 'favourite goals' quest on our official website. His thoroughly professional contribution in such a brief time has certainly not been forgotten.

He had learned his trade with Stuttgart, Inter Milan and AS Monaco before joining us. And then maintained his Italian connection when he joined us from Sampdoria having left White Hart Lane for Bayern Munich in June, 1995.

Very much his own man off he field, his charm and intensity was mirrored in his play. He was quick thinking, fast, superb in the air, always direct and a maker of goals as well as a supreme scorer himself. Indeed, his partnership with Teddy Sheringham was something special that Jurgen still remains quick to recognise.

He was crowned 'Footballer of the Year' in his first season and scored 29 times in 50 appearances for us when we probably saw the best of him. But his subsequent return in 1998 of nine goals in 15 games was probably even more important as he helped steer us away from relegation when we really stared such a disaster in the face.

The most memorable tally in that time was his four goals in our crucial 6-2 win against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. But so many of his goals lifted you off your seat as he did at Anfield with that famous late FA Cup winner against Liverpool

These days Jurgen lives and works in the States as an adviser on the game and a university student. He regularly returns to Germany where he has qualified as a coach but tells me that this club retains a special place in his heart. When he staged his soccer farewell at Stuttgart, back where it all started, Klinsmann sent a plane to Stansted to take his many friends in England to what was an emotional night.

He did not forget us then and he has not forgotten us now as he follows our progress from across the Atlantic. Indeed, few players from overseas made such an impact on the game in this country as Jurgen Klinsmann.