Les Ferdinand: "I’m proof that dreams can come true"
10 May 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
The days, hours and minutes are ticking away to 'The Lane, The Finale' and the final match at our famous old stadium against Manchester United on Sunday. To mark the occasion, we've spoken to a number of legends for their memories of White Hart Lane. Next up - fan, player, coach, Les Ferdinand...
- 149 appearances, 39 goals for Spurs, 1997-2002
- League Cup winner, 1999
- Scored Premier League's 10,000th goal for Spurs v Fuham, 2001
- Scored 184 goals in 483 career league games
- Capped 17 times by England
- Coached at Spurs 2008-2014, now Director of Football at QPR
As a kid growing up in Paddington, west London, Les Ferdinand dreamed of playing at White Hart Lane.
“Not only did I get to play there,” QPR’s director of football told us this week. “It also became my home for many years.”
A classic centre-forward and one of the best headers of the ball the Premier League has seen, Les didn’t get the chance to go and watch football as a youngster and his dream must have seemed a million miles away as he began his career in non-league circles at Southall and Hayes.
That all changed when QPR signed him in 1987 - and that’s when the dream became a reality.
“I was at QPR and played at White Hart Lane for the reserves,” he recalled. “Back then, teams always played reserve football at their home stadium. I can always remember the first time I played at Spurs, it was like ‘wow, this is White Hart Lane’ and walking out of the tunnel into the stadium, playing on the pitch, it was like a dream come true.
“I always remember seeing players in Tottenham tracksuits and you just knew they belonged to something special, so to go out there and play was incredible.”
Below: Les scores the 10,000th goal in the Premier League at the Lane v Fulham - 2001
Eight years after joining QPR, and with almost a goal every two games, Newcastle came calling and Les’ career went into overdrive. He hammered in 50 goals in 84 appearances, forging a lethal partnership with Alan Shearer that took Newcastle to runners-up spot in the Premier League in successive seasons, 1995-96 and 1996-97.
Spurs came calling after that and in the summer of 1997, Les stepped out at the Lane in that famous Lilywhite kit for the first time.
“As a player, even before I joined Spurs, if you spoke to players, White Hart Lane was always one of their favourite places to play, especially those evening matches,” added Les.
“Playing there and scoring a hat-trick (against Leicester in November, 2000) that was special. It’s what dreams are made of. There are so many boys out there who would say ‘I’d love to play for Tottenham’ and I’m living proof that dreams can come true.”
Below: Les celebrates his hat-trick against Leicester in 2000 - but where was his matchball?
'I went home with Les Ferdinand’s hat-trick ball!'
There was one thing missing after Les grabbed his first Spurs hat-trick against Leicester City - the matchball.
Les recalled: “You know sometimes you lose a game and you get frustrated and one of the players just booted the ball into the stand on the final whistle. They gave me another ball, but it wasn’t the same as getting the ball I scored my hat-trick with!”
And that brings us to another story, re-told by Spurs fan Daniel Redland as part of our collection of fans’ memories of White Hart Lane, many of which are now collated on our excellent ‘Memory Lane Timeline’.
Here is Daniel’s story...
“I was at the Lane for Spurs v Leicester and Les Ferdinand scored his first hat-trick for Spurs. Just before the final whistle I went up to the stairs to leave. As the whistle blew one of the Leicester players booted the ball off the pitch. I turned and went down the stairs and something hit me. I looked down and in my hands I realised I had the matchball! Excitedly, I carried on out the ground with the ball. It was only as I was walking back to my car that it dawned on me that Les had scored a hat-trick and might be wondering where his prized matchball might be! To make matters worse I remembered reading that Les had been a Spurs fan as a child and so felt really bad.
“I got back to my car and immediately called Jonathan Pearce on Capital Gold Sports (radio), told him what had happened and
asked if he could help me get the ball back to Les. We agreed that I would bring it in to the studio the next day and I thought that was the end of it, until my mobile rang as I got home and I found myself live on air with Les on Capital Gold Sports!
“I wrote a letter to Les explaining what had happened and apologising, stuck it to the ball and took it in to Capital Gold Studios and forgot all about it. Anyway, about six weeks later my doorbell rang and the postman was standing there with a box. When I opened it there was a Spurs ball inside signed by the whole squad and attached to it a really nice handwritten letter from Les thanking me for returning the ball. It was a really nice touch from Les and I really appreciated it. Obviously, Sir Les was a true gentleman!”
Les added: “The fan realised what was going on and gave it back! That was a nice touch!”