Alan Sugar, George Graham, £11million. Doesn’t sound like a successful cocktail does it? CHRIS CLARK looks back at the Spurs signing who promised so much but delivered so little.
Tottenham Hotspur ruined Serhiy Rebrov. At the turn of the millennium Spurs were a mess, managed by a man who was hated by the supporters, despite him winning the League Cup (by the way, check out that final against Leicester City the next time you’re suffering from insomnia).
George Graham was in the process of creating Wimbledon at Tottenham Hotspur, in recent months he had bought Chris Perry, Ben Thatcher, Oyvind Leonardsen and Neil Sullivan. Meanwhile, the Director of Football David Pleat had his own budget to bring in young players to join the club, irrespective of whether or not they could fit into Graham’s turgid brand of football. Pleat’s role of scouring the lower leagues could be described as hit and miss. Simon Davies and Matt Etherington were brought in from Peterborough; Davies went on to have a fine career at Spurs, and Etherington had a solid Premier League career elsewhere. Meanwhile, the least said about Anthony Gardner and Gary Doherty the better. Doherty was equally inept in either penalty box, which says a lot for a player who thought he could play at the back or up front.
1999/2000 was a tough time to be a Spurs fan. Whilst Arsenal were delighting the Premier League with their attacking brand of football, Tottenham were stinking the joint out.
Alan Sugar – in what was to be one of his last significant acts as Tottenham Hotspur – endorsed the signing of Serhiy Rebrov from Dinamo Kyiv in May 2000 for a then club record fee of £11million. Rebrov had just come off being the joint-top scorer in that season’s Champions League with ten goals. Whilst Rebrov had an amazing record at Kyiv (93 goals in 189 games) in which he scored a range of goals from long range strikes to deft headers, to classic goal poaching, it was hard to see how a 5ft 7in forward was going to fit into the Graham long ball style of play.
Upon joining, Rebrov stated “Obviously I came to Spurs to win the Premiership and qualify for the Champions League with Tottenham. If the club didn’t have the same hopes I would not have joined. I came to Spurs because they are ambitious.” In later years, Alan Sugar found fame on the TV program “The Apprentice” and one of his catchphrases was “I can’t stand bullshitters”. Well, in May 2000, Sugar must have lied his arse off for Rebrov to believe Spurs would challenge for the title.
As the 2000/2001 season began, Rebrov formed a classic big man, little man combination with Les Ferdinand and things were looking fruitful. However, Ferdinand’s time at Spurs coincided with him being made out of glass, and the slightest touch and he would be out for weeks. Luckily for Spurs the back-up to Ferdinand was the equally injury prone Steffen Iversen. Rebrov could not strike up a regular partnership with any centre forward. Things got so bad at Spurs during December 2000 that Andy Booth, yes Andy Booth was brought in on loan from Sheffield Wednesday. Serhiy Rebrov had gone from playing with Andriy Shevchenko to Andy Booth in little over 18 months. No wonder his confidence dipped. However, Tottenham were yet to hit “peak George Graham”. January 2001 was the nadir. The weather is miserable, the days are short. You need football as a pick me up. Rebrov, due to injuries in the squad, was asked to play up front on his own, and these are the results as Serhiy saw the ball fly over his head on numerous occasions:
Everton (away) 0-0
Southampton (home) 0-0
West Ham Utd (away) 0-0
Charlton (home) 0-0
It was depressing. It was drab. If it was after the watershed it was fucking shit. This drought was ended by Rebrov away to Manchester City. The relief on his face when he actually received a ball to feet, so he could actually do something with it was a joy to see. He had the ability but Spurs would not play to his strengths. His goal-scoring abilities were in full effect in a tense FA Cup quarter final away to West Ham United, in what was to be George Graham’s last game in charge of Spurs. Rebrov scored a sensational volley to give Spurs a 3-2 win at Upton Park. They were to be his last goals in a Spurs shirt. A talent cruelly wasted.
ENIC took over the club in March 2001, and to get the fans immediately on board, George Graham was sacked for breach of contract, over making transfer dealings public. It was a bit wishy-washy but Spurs fans didn’t care. Graham was out. Glenn Hoddle – the messiah – was put in charge. Hoddle with his god-like status at Spurs, in no way wanted any connection to the previous incumbent’s reign. The key thing to do is to ostracise the record signing. Rebrov was given no chance to shine and was loaned out to Fenerbahce for 2 seasons. Rebrov struggled, he was a broken man.
In Rebrov’s place, Hoddle splashed out £6.25million on Helder Postiga…but that’s a story for another day.
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