Les Ferdinand – Sir Les

Les is another cult hero at Tottenham and a premier league legend. Let’s look at his career and celebrate the man we know affectionately as Sir Les!

Early Career

Ferdinand’s early career took place in the realm of non-league football. He initially joined Viking Sports and then shifted over to Southall. His introduction to league play happened with Southall in August 1984 in a match against Chertsey Town. He played a part in the squad that made it to the FA Vase final in 1986, though they ended up losing 3–0 to Halesowen Town. After this chapter, Ferdinand moved to Hayes, where he showcased his skills by netting 20 goals in 42 appearances across various competitions, including friendly matches. His talents caught the eye of Queens Park Rangers, and he was subsequently signed for a sum of £50,000.

Queens Park Rangers

Sir Les debuted for QPR on April 20, 1987, as a substitute in a 4–0 loss to Coventry City at Highfield Road. He had two league appearances that season. The following season, he added another league game and was loaned to Brentford for three matches. He then ventured to Turkish side Beşiktaş on loan in 1988, impressing with 14 goals in 24 league games and winning the Turkish Cup.

At QPR from 1989–90, he played nine First Division matches and scored his first two English league goals. His performance improved in 1990–91 with 18 league games and eight goals, placing QPR in mid-table. In 1991–92, he scored ten goals in 23 games, securing QPR’s spot as a founder member of the new FA Premier League. He stood out as a top striker in 1992–93, netting 20 goals in 37 games as QPR finished fifth. Ferdinand recalled a proud moment of scoring a hat-trick against Everton at Goodison Park after facing racist abuse there.

His strong form continued in 1993–94 with 16 goals in 36 games, helping QPR to a ninth-place finish. Despite transfer rumours, he signed a two-year deal with QPR in 1994. In the 1994–95 season, he scored 24 times in the Premier League, sparking further speculation of a more significant club move. Over his near-decade with QPR, he played under four managers – Jim Smith, Trevor Francis, Don Howe, and Gerry Francis.

Newcastle United

Next, his football journey took him to Newcastle in 1995 for a hefty £6 million fee (back then, this was a significant sum of money; it’s not like now, where 100 million is squandered on bang-average players). His previous club, Hayes, raked in £600,000 thanks to a sell-on clause from his QPR transfer. Hayes built a fancy “Ferdinand Suite” with this money in his honour. Interestingly, Newcastle had tried to capture him three years prior, offering QPR £3.3 million during their Division One promotion season, but QPR had turned down the offer.

His time up north could be called his peak in club football (personally, Id say it was at the lane, but maybe I have some bias). He smashed in 29 goals during his first season with Newcastle, playing a significant role in the team’s close shot at the Premier League title in the 1995–96 season. They were even leading by 12 points at one point, but Manchester United snatched it away in the final months. (Just like the Gunners last season. Bottlers.)

He was second in the Premier League in both seasons at Newcastle. In his second season, it was a tense race with Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool, with Manchester United eventually clinching the title. Things shifted in the 1996–97 season as Kevin Keegan left and Kenny Dalglish took over. Dalglish let him go to free up cash for new signings, despite his talent. In 2019 Ferdinand admitted that he regretted leaving Newcastle and wanted to stay there for his whole career (why do you have to hurt us like this, Les. why!)

Sir Les made quite an impact at Newcastle, banging in 50 goals in just 84 games and forming a dynamic partnership with Alan Shearer. The Newcastle fans loved him and fondly called him ‘Sir Les’.

Returning to St James’ Park in a Tottenham jersey, Ferdinand got emotional trying to wear Shearer’s number 9 shirt for a victory lap. He even wore it inside out and backwards before leaving the field. He made another comeback for Alan Shearer’s testimonial and scored after a standing ovation.

He got the nod for the Newcastle United Foundation Hall of Fame on November 7, 2017

Tottenham Hotspur

In 1997, his dreams came true when he was finally snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur, the club he (like most of us reading this) had supported since childhood. However, his initial days at Spurs were plagued by injuries, putting a damper on his first season. But as the season ended, he clicked well with Jürgen Klinsmann, and their combined goals helped rescue Spurs from relegation in the Premiership (see, it has been a lot worse than it is now). The partnership was a game-changer; we would have gone down without it.

Ferdinand’s impact extended further when he contributed to Tottenham’s victory in the League Cup in 1999. They clinched the trophy by beating Leicester City 1–0 in the Wembley final. However, injuries held him back, and he managed just 12 goals in his first three seasons with the club (Maybe Newcastle was the peak of his career …).

In the following two seasons, he showcased his growth in goal-scoring. He notched ten goals during the 2000–01 season and added 15 more in the 2001–02 campaign. He etched his name in history by scoring the 10,000th goal in Premiership history on December 15, 2001, in a commanding 4–0 victory against Fulham. Ferdinand also featured in another League Cup final for the club, facing Blackburn Rovers in 2002. Unfortunately, his efforts were thwarted by Rovers’ goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who pulled off three impressive saves, resulting in Spurs’ 2–1 loss (Luckily, Brad made up for it in a way when he made his way to the lane some years later).

Late Career

Soon he changed gears after struggling to nail down a spot in Tottenham’s starting lineup, especially after Glenn Hoddle brought in Robbie Keane from Leeds. On January 21, 2003, he switched to West Ham United in a deal with an undisclosed fee. He found his scoring boots against us (typical) but couldn’t stave off West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League (Much to our delight). He chose to stay in the top flight, joining the newly promoted Leicester City on a free transfer.

Leicester City proved to be a fitting stop for Ferdinand, even at 37. Despite his senior status, he banged in 14 Premier League goals. Unfortunately, the Foxes got relegated that season, prompting Ferdinand to turn down a contract offer and make his way to Bolton Wanderers.

While with Bolton Wanderers, he delivered a memorable goal against rival Manchester United in the last moments, even though he was playing as a centre-back. It seemed to secure a victory for the Wanderers, but a late goal by David Bellion salvaged a draw for United. Starting opportunities were scarce, but his experience made him a valuable substitute. He even found the net against his ex-club Tottenham in the League Cup, although it was just a consolation goal in a 4–3 thriller that Bolton lost. Ferdinand left Bolton on January 2, 2005; shortly after, he inked a deal with Reading. He stuck with Reading until the end of the 2004–05 season, netting one league goal in a 2–1 loss to Coventry.

Ferdinand took on a non-contract role at Watford in 2005–06. Even though he didn’t get onto the field during competitive matches, he left after Watford’s promotion to the Premier League via the Football League Championship playoffs. A few months shy of his 40th birthday, he called it a career, retiring from football.