'A true professional and a gentleman' - Ledley remembers Goran
Tue 22 October 2019, 12:04|Tottenham Hotspur
Tonight’s Champions League match against Crvena zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) has got us all thinking about our former Yugoslavia/Serbia-Montenegro international defender Goran Bunjevcevic, who sadly passed away last year.
A title-winning captain with Red Star, Goran joined us in May, 2001, but having started promisingly in four of our first five matches in the Premier League that season, suffered a fractured cheekbone against Chelsea in September, 2001. That ruled him out until December and he only started twice more in his debut campaign.
The following season, 2002/03, was his most productive with 37 appearances, including 35 in the Premier League, starting 31 times. We finished 10th but a difficult start to 2003/04, Glenn Hoddle’s departure and the arrival first of David Pleat, then Jacques Santini and onto Martin Jol in 2004, saw Goran’s chances limited.
Ever the professional, Goran captained our reserve team to the FA Premier Reserve League South title in 2005/06, playing a team-high 19 times alongside the likes of young professionals Andy Barcham, Lee Barnard, Rob Burch, Charlie Daniels, Tom Huddlestone, Johnnie Jackson, Charlie Lee, Stuart Lewis, Kieran McKenna and Jamie O’Hara.
After leaving us in 2006 - having featured 58 times, scoring twice in our colours - Goran played for ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands for one season before retiring from the game and had a six-month spell as Sporting Director at former club Crvena zvezda, resigning from the post in September, 2008. He took over the role of general manager at FK Zemun in Serbia in 2013/14 before being appointed sporting director of the FA of Serbia.
But the football world was rocked with the news of his passing last year. Sadly, Goran suffered an aneurysm and battled for over a month in hospital, but passed away on 28 June, 2018, at the age of 45.
Legendary former skipper Ledley - 323 appearances between 1999-2012 - had begun to break into the team on a regular basis in Goran’s second season, 2002/03, and they started 22 times together in the Premier League that term, often with Ledley playing the holding role in midfield.
“Goran was a ball-playing defender, lovely left foot, very calm on the ball,” recalled Ledley. “It’s fair to say, at that time, he was a different type of centre-half than we were used to seeing in the Premier League. Glenn Hoddle brought him in and you could see what he saw in him, technically gifted, good on the ball, a defender who could pick a pass.
“The younger players were full of praise for Goran when he played that season in the reserves. You need to be a good character. As a young player, you don’t need the more experienced players coming in with the wrong attitude, grumpy, players who don’t want to be there. Goran helped the young players not just to perform well, but to conduct themselves in the right manner.
“It’s no surprise to learn that he went into management and then into a sporting director’s role. He had a wealth of experience both on and off the pitch, all that knowledge of the game having played in different countries and international football (16 caps). More than anything though, he was a gentleman. A true professional and a gentleman.”
Read more on Goran, including tributes from former team-mates Milenko Acimovic and Stephen Kelly, in tonight's official matchday programme. We will also pay tribute to Goran during half-time, including memories from special guest Darren Anderton.