Les' Turkish delight
02 October 2014|Tottenham Hotspur
Les Ferdinand is widely recognised as one of the greatest Premier League goalscorers of his generation and he puts his success in the game firmly down to a year spent with Besiktas in his early days.
Having emerged from the non-league ranks quite late in his career to join Queens Park Rangers shortly before his 20th birthday, the striker admits he was struggling to focus on his dream of becoming a professional footballer and feared he might not make the grade.
The bright lights of London were causing too much of a distraction for Les, who was finding it difficult to shrug off the outside influences which he had grown up with and his football was being affected.
So, along with QPR, he made the bold decision to leave behind his home comforts and move on loan to Turkey with Besiktas, managed then by Englishman Gordon Milne, in the summer of 1988, in the hope that he could concentrate on his football and return a better player.
As it turned out, Les admits it was probably the best decision he has ever made and was eager to heap praise on Besiktas and their incredible supporters.
“Without any question, that season I spent on loan at Besiktas was the making of me as a footballer,” revealed Ferdinand.
“Whenever people talk about my time in Turkey, unfortunately they do tend to ask about things like the rituals that happened when I first arrived and perhaps that has taken away from the reality of how important that time was for me.
“The education it gave, not just in football, but in life, proved to be invaluable.
“I’d been playing non-league football in London with all my mates around me and then I’d gone on to become a professional, but unfortunately I was still doing the things I had been doing when I was younger.
“My sole ambition was to make it as a footballer and so I needed to get away from the distractions and have some time concentrating purely on my football. So I went to Istanbul!
"It was an incredible eye opener for me, because it was like nothing I had experienced before, a totally different culture. I was 21, had lived at home with my mum for my entire life but suddenly I was having to fend for myself in a country I knew very little about. But, because I was determined to be a successful footballer, I made sure I embraced the whole experience.”
Look out for the full interview with Les in tonight's official matchday programme...