Les Ferdinand was massively popular when he played for Newcastle United.

It is now 22 years since he left and the fans still love him.

The two years he played for NUFC, they finished second in the Premier League both seasons, the closest the club had come to winning the league since 1927.

The first season saw Les Ferdinand paired with Peter Beardsley and in the second it was different kind of formation with Alan Shearer his strike partner, with Beardsley in another role.

That second season saw Ferdinand and Shearer score 49 goals between them in all competitions.

Sir Les left Newcastle United in summer 1997 and says about going from St James Park to White Hart Lane: ‘From a football perspective that was probably the worst decision I made.’

Kevin Keegan left Newcastle halfway through the striker’s final season and Les Ferdinand has been widely reported previously as one of the reasons he did so.

John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were looking to float the club on the stock exchange and wanted Kevin Keegan to sell certain players to help the financial position look better before the flotation.

As Les Ferdinand indicates below, Shepherd and Hall thought £6m for a 30 year old was too good to turn down, whereas Kevin Keegan didn’t, he understood that class players such as Les Ferdinand were rare things. Which other club would be so stupid as to pressure a manager to break up Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand, a partnership capable of delivering 49 goals in a season?

The season after Les Ferdinand left, Newcastle went from only Man Utd having scored more than NUFC’s 73 PL goals in 1996/97, to only Wimbledon scoring less than NUFC’s 35 goals in 1997/98.

Kenny Dalglish took over from Keegan and he (Dalglish) was happy to do Shepherd and Hall’s bidding, selling Les Ferdinand for £6m and, ironically, bringing in ‘cheap’ free transfer replacements in his mates Ian Rush (aged 35) and John Barnes (aged 33), as well as 35 year old Stuart Pearce.

As for £6m being a great price for a 30 year old Les Ferdinand…Newcastle went on to waste fortunes eventually in trying to find goalscorers with Jon Dahl Tomasson, then Andreas Andersson and many others.

The injury to Alan Shearer was of course something that massively compounded the problem of selling Les Ferdinand BUT when you do stupid things such as selling a class act like Sir Les, you often get these things happening.

Now 22 years later Newcastle United are relying on a loan striker, one who puts his fingers in his ears to fans despite scoring only two goals in these past eight months, plus a Stoke City reserve striker who cost less than the fee Newcastle banked for Ferdinand 22 years ago.

Les Ferdinand speaking to the Sky Sports News Transfer Talk podcast:

“I didn’t want to leave Newcastle United.

“I was there for two years and I would have spent the rest of my career there. I thought it was a great club and thought we were on the cusp of winning something.

“But I think managers, and certainly British managers that I’ve come across, they like to change it because if they don’t change it and that team goes on to be successful, everyone talks about it being the previous manager’s team.

“Kenny (Dalglish) had his own ideas, he came in and he needed to raise funds.

“He did say to me he didn’t want me to leave, but the club were looking to raise funds, and he was pretty honest with me. He said he didn’t want to lose me but I didn’t really believe it.

“Tottenham came up with £6m, I had been there for two years, I was 30 and Newcastle probably saw it as good business.

“There were a couple of other clubs that came in, Liverpool only wanted to pay £3.5m, Sheffield Wednesday were willing to pay £6m, so I remember speaking to David Pleat. But I thought if I am going to leave Newcastle, Tottenham were my boyhood club so that was where I was going to go. I knew the club was in a bit of turmoil at the time, but after speaking with Alan Sugar he utterly convinced me to sign for Tottenham.

“People go through their careers and say they don’t have regrets, but from a football perspective that was probably the worst decision I made (joining Spurs).

“Tottenham were a club in unbelievable turmoil and I didn’t realise how bad it was until I got there. In my first five years, I had four different managers and a change of board, so that tells you the type of turmoil the club was in. I made a decision based on pride rather than what was best for my football career.

“When I left QPR and went to Newcastle that was a football decision because I felt I was going to become a better player and I think I did become a better player.

“When I left Newcastle to go to Tottenham I probably allowed my pride to get in the way of making what was the right decision for my career. But I enjoyed playing for Tottenham.

“I was in a restaurant on Saturday night, Newcastle had already gone to the Umbro tournament and I had a call on the previous Thursday that they had accepted a bid from Tottenham and that they wanted me to come down for a medical.

“I had the medical on the Friday and I was sitting in a restaurant on the Saturday when I got a call from my agent saying that Alan had broken his ankle at the Umbro tournament and could be out for the season.

“He said Newcastle want me to come back, but they were not allowed to speak to me and could only speak to me through him, because they had accepted the bid from Tottenham.

“Unless I turned down Tottenham they were not allowed to approach me.

“They came down on the Sunday spoke with my agent and told him what they would pay me to come back, so he was hoping to go back to Tottenham and say you’ve got to match that.

“I felt I was shabbily treated by the club. I remember speaking with Alan on the phone and he said to me ‘this is my boyhood club, I love it and I would love it for you to come back, but because of the way you’ve been treated I understand if you didn’t’.

“I had really made up my mind because of the way that I had been treated.

“I felt bad for the supporters, I really wanted to go back because I really enjoyed playing in front of them. But didn’t feel what the club had done was right.”

  • Kenny

    Look lads, real footballers.

  • East Durham Mag

    Dinnae fash Les we were even more gutted. What a striker!

  • Paul Patterson

    In 97 that floatation and Kenny Dalglish set us back five years.
    Then in 2004, Sourpuss set us back another five years.
    But now, Ashley has set us back more than twenty-five years.

    • Leicester Mag

      There are cave paintings of a Hos a cow’s rse and banjo dating back to the Stone age that have flummoxed experts for years; weve gone back that far

  • Peaky

    Often overlooked when they mention our great centre forwards imo……what an impact in his time here….a great striker,great bloke…

    • East Durham Mag

      Brilliant and combined with Alan Shearer they were a force to be reckoned with.
      Halcyon days Peaky.

      • Billmag

        Aye they where outstanding in the 5-0 drubbing of Manure.

        • Kneebotherm8

          Never tire of watching that DVD…….brilliant…..

      • Kev Newcastle England

        Yep,they were both NEARLY as good as Beardsley,although different types of forwards.

    • Kneebotherm8

      He even met the Monk in a lift and that potential life changing event never fazed him……

  • Leicester Mag

    First in a virtual 20yr unbroken streak of 💩 decisions

    • Leazes.

      Oh Yes…. I think that was the time when the Halls sold the Metrocentre as well in order to set themselves up at Wynyard…. a development for the future which would ultimately give us Michael James Wallace Ashley.

      …..but the only difference with this chronicle version of the history story is that the money loaned personally for Alan Shearer was being clawed back by Hall….

      Coincidentally the same figure £6m that was lent personally by Lady Mae (Where she amassed millions from is open to conjecture as her only job was working in an office) to basically stop Man United getting him.

      Clawback time…… that was the point at which the Halls lost their love of United…… the following 6 months we had toongate with the fake sheik.

      ….and almost everything went backwards from that point…. yup that was turning point….. Ferdinand…. or should we say Wynyard.

  • Billmag

    A scholar and a gentleman, I will always remember that goal he headed
    against the Mackem’s, the headlines stating “Ferdinand rose like a Salmon” what memories of such a fine footballer.

    • Leazes.

      Much overused and misused word ‘gentleman’….. he was ‘personable’ and ‘media friendly’….. he wrecked the Blue Peter garden…. a gent wouldn’t do that!…. don’t think he was much of a scholar either.

      • Billmag

        The word scholar was meant in a different context to the way it was portrayed, and he was a gentleman in my eyes because he was held in high esteem by me and thousands like me.

        • Leazes.

          What context of ‘scholar’….. it actually means something quite specific, so does ‘gentleman’ for that matter?

          • Billmag

            So sorry you don’t approve of my Hetton-le-Hole lingo, I keep forgetting we are outside your Castle walls, your inner sanctum, scholar is a figure of speech where I come from, and I couldn’t give two [email protected]@ks about the bloody Blue Peter garden, now if my post doesn’t meet your approval so be it. Ferdinand is still and always will be a Scholar and a gentleman.

          • Mark Davies

            I agree with you Billmag. Although mr precise (the self appointed boring know it all from Nothumberland with nowt better to do) wont agree, you, myself and numerous others use the phrase to recognise someone as a great person who has bought enjoyment to our lives.

            Im often fond of thanking my pals for a pint by saying “cheers mate, your a gent”, or “you’re a schloar and a gent mate”. We all know a low level GCSE doesnt make one of the lads in question renowned scholar and I dont think hitting a few mackems on occasions makes him a gent in the true form, but by god at that moment as I thank him for that pint of magic to me he is indeed a scholar and a true gent!

            AS WAS SIR LES!!!!!

          • Billmag

            Aye Mark I should have known he wouldn’t understand, I’ve worked 50 years with some really good people and met some really good people so we know what we mean even if he doesn’t.

          • Cushty lad

            I think leazes is upset cos Kenny hasn’t invited him round for tea & cuddles tonight.

          • Peaky

            😂🤣😂…..You tell him Bill…..“A gentleman a scholar and a singer of fine songs” is a phrase we still use when we get together as is “A gentleman a scholar and a drinker of fine whiskies”….it’s all part of the craic & banter,just like yourself.

          • Billmag

            Correct mate, he’s a miserable grump, anyway I had to laugh because I never thought for one moment that Sir Les had any sort of A levels.😀😀😀😀.

          • Rich Lawson

            And, like Julio Geordio ”s####d that Dani Behr” !

          • Kev Newcastle England

            Dani Behr was in the crowd when that being sung.Milburn Corner lads,brilliant days.

  • Will Venus

    49 goals in a season and to think at the time it was said they couldn’t play together!!! Makes you weep when you think what we have now😶😶

  • MadMag83

    Fond memories of Sir Les. As a young Toon supporter I was bamboozled as to why we sold him.

    • Leazes.

      To pay back Halls personal loan, we bought Shearer to stop Manure getting him…..

      ….then Keegan left because he couldn’t take the club forward…. so Shepherd brought in Dalglish to take it backwards.

      …. She swallowed the bird, To catch the spider, Who wiggled and jiggled
      And tickled inside her, She swallowed the spider, To catch the fly
      But I don’t know why, She swallowed a fly….
      ….I guess she’ll die

      • Kenny


      • MadMag83

        If only Ashley would swallow a horse, then he’d be dead of course!

    • Dillon Tovak

      I was gutted too as I chose Ferdinand for the back of my shirt out of loyalty even though I really wanted Shearer, then Sir Les toddled off to Spurs 🙄

      • MadMag83

        The last player I got on the back of a Toon shirt was Martins and that didn’t​ end well.

        • Dillon Tovak

          Haha well he had his moments. I learned my lesson and only got Shearer from then on.
          Although having said that, I got an England Owen shirt for the 2002 World Cup, not a great omen.

  • Mike

    A real legend

  • Consett Mag

    I remember thinking at the time that selling Sir Les when Shearer was out for most of the season with a broken ankle, was a terrible move. How do you replace a 50 goals strikeforce?
    I suppose that driving KK out was the start of our long decline.
    My fear is that the decline hasn’t got into top gear yet.

    • Blackburn1066

      Sir Les, Alan Shearer, Joss in the loo what a decline

  • Mrkgw

    Absolutely brilliant player, Ferdinand was a true legend, and integral to the ‘entertainers’ era. I wish that we hadn’t sold him – major error on part of the club that. He will always be welcomed by the faithful.

  • Dillon Tovak

    One of the things I most admire about Bobby Robson was his integrity, but it’s funny because I wish he had a little less and would have walked out on Barcelona when Newcastle approached him to succeed Keegan, then the likes of Ginola and Ferdinand would have been kept on to further success.
    Anyway, the best things come to those who wait and he made his way home soon enough.

    • MadMag83

      Only for Shepherd and a section of the happy clappers to get rid of Sir Bobby. It’s happening again with Benitez.

      • Dillon Tovak

        Exactly if Robson had joined after keegan he’d probably of be sacked by the time he actually took up post. 🙄

  • nufcslf

    I would have told the club to go and f**k itself then, as I would now. Sir Les should never have gone anywhere. Thick business decisions instead of football ones, seems to be a trend for a sh*t club. Should be followed up nicely with another loss on the weekend…all going to plan, then…

  • 1957

    My mate went to the talk in he did at SJP last year and said he looked genuinely sad when he told this story.

    He apparently blamed a school pal called Denis Wise (formerly of this parish) for the Blue Peter garden fiasco… but I thought I read recently it was the son of a BBC producer.

  • Just my opinion

    This will be a red rag, I know, but I actually preferred les, to alan.

    Of course shearer ,is a legend but I think les, was just as good

    Shoot me !

    • Paul Cannell

      A waste of a bullet.

    • Martin Rooney

      I agree

    • Mark Davies

      Nicer bloke thats for sure

    • Kev Newcastle England

      Your not far wrong man,watched his goals again recently and reminded me how good he was.Fantastic striker.

    • Jonas

      brave but I’m open to that, we didn’t get the best of Shearer after that first season because of the injuries but have a new found appreciation for the little things he did when he had to adapt.

      I certainly love Les more.

      But i believe in hindsight Shearer to be by far the best English centre-forward of at least the last forty-years. He had everything. The little things, holding balls up, flick ons, crossing, free-kicks, every finish in the book, great in the air and pace pre injuries.

  • Martin Rooney

    An Absolute star great player great bloke.

  • Jonas

    didn’t want you to leave either you absolute legend.

    Remember him scoring against us at SJP for Leicester and Newcastle fans not just applauding it politely by giving it a standing ovation and virtually cheering as it went in.