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David Ginola
David Ginola
David Ginola played a big part in the FA Premier League Match of the Decade, scoring Newcastle's second goal in the thrilling 4-3 defeat by Liverpool in April 1996. Here, the talented Frenchman recalls that memorable match at Anfield.

What are your memories of the Liverpool-Newcastle game?

"Well obviously there were seven goals in the game, but that's not bad for an English Premier League game. But it was so tight as well.

"We thought at the time when we were 3-2 up that we had done enough. We were playing so well at the time, and scoring three goals at Anfield was our usual weekend job done.

"But unfortunately we did not concentrate until the end of the game and Liverpool pushed so hard to come back.

"With 20 minutes to go they were pushing very hard and we were very confident at the time, but they had some great skills up front with Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore and they managed to score the goals they needed.

"Every time there was a counter-attack, we had Faustino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand and myself - we were so quick and so good with our runs, and we were defending well. I couldn't believe it at the end of the game when we lost."

Was it the most exciting game of football you have ever been involved in? Do you think this match was Match of the Decade?

"There was so much around this game, in terms of suspense, which made it so emotive for the fans in the stands and the people watching on TV.

"If I was supporting either of the teams I would have been jumping to my feet every single second.

"It is what football is all about, it is about making people realise that it is a fantastic game. It was something special.

"The fans said that it was amazing game to watch and it was just great to be there. There was great skill and great emotion in the game.

"To see Liverpool scoring the winning goal was such a frustration for all of us - everyone close to the club."

Why do you think the game was so special?

"It was a very intense game. We were doing so well in the league, but after this game we lost a little bit of confidence which is why we eventually lost the title to Manchester United.

"The Liverpool game was particularly important. Two or three years later I saw the game on Sky, and it was scary. If you look at the first half and the major part of the second one - we had the game in our hands.

"There were not so many chances for Liverpool, of course they were pushing hard. But it was just in the last 10 or 15 minutes that we lost the plot."

If you had won this game do you think Newcastle would have won the League?

"If we had managed to keep the score at 3-2 we would have won the league - definitely. We played so well up until they scored. For us it was such an easy season to be honest - we were scoring goals for fun.

"Les Ferdinand scored 25 Premier League goals and he was player of the year.

"Every single area of the team was very good, we played very attractive football also, and we definitely deserved to win the league.

"Manchester United wouldn't agree with that - they had a strong team too, and they managed to finish the season better than us. They had the experience they needed in the run-in.

"After the first half of the season we thought we were going to win the league.

"If we had won the league this year, Newcastle United would have gone on to win more trophies.

"It's just the first one which is hardest to win. Once you've hit the first target you are more experienced in that you can face every single situation and be more relaxed.

"That's why I think Newcastle have not won anything for many years. They have been very close, twice in a row we finished second and also reached the semi-final of the FA Cup.

"It wasn't enough. We were good, but not good enough to win anything.

"It isn't that we weren't good enough technically or physically. We were not mentally prepared to be at the top.

"That's a job. That's why Manchester United and Arsenal and clubs like that they know what to do when they are at the top."

How did it feel to see your fans so upset at the final whistle?

"The person who was most distraught after the game was Kevin Keegan. He was totally destroyed. Playing a game at Anfield like that, and playing such great football, you think 'how is it possible to lose a game like that?'"

What was it like to be in the dressing room after the match?

"Devastated. We were completely down. That's why I said that it was probably after this game that we lost the 'plus' we had this season.

"When I say the 'plus' I mean how you can face every single game with such confidence. After this one we realised we were not that good. Because if we were very good, we would have kept the result and won the game easily.

"We were a bit too naïve in a way and that's why I think we didn't manage to win the league."

What did the manager say to the players?

"I think he couldn't speak. He was devastated.

"Soon after this game he did his 'I would love it' interview.

"That's what happens when you keep so many things inside. When you have a chance to get things out you shout and you say things you would not normally say in a normal situation.

"But I can understand that. For him, playing at Anfield, with Newcastle having recently come up from the First Division, and having sold Andy Cole to Manchester United, he was under pressure.

"When I signed for Newcastle I didn't think that we could be a challenger for the title. But I realized very quickly that we had a team who could be at the top of the table.

"We played so many games, and we made many of them easy."

The game is often used as an example of why the Premier League is so special. What qualities do you think the Premier League has and how is it different to the Italian and Spanish Leagues?

"The Premiership has something which I don't think any other league will ever have - the pace and the rhythm in the game.

"No matter what team you see on a Saturday afternoon, they will have pace.

"The game is so fast, you don't have time to think about something else. The pace is amazing, I found that very hard at the beginning, going from the front to the back, but you have to do that, or in my case you have to try!"

What are your favourite memories of the Premier League?

"There were many wonderful moments. When I signed for Newcastle in July, by the end of August I was player of the month.

"People were saying that it would be hard for me with my game to face the challenge of the Premier League, but after a few games I was player of the month.

"It proves that when you have qualities, it doesn't matter whether you are in England, Italy or Spain, it is the work you bring on the pitch on a daily basis that makes the difference.

"Also the time I spent at White Hart Lane was quite amazing. Tottenham was like my second home. I played some of my best football there.

"I remember in some games, I couldn't explain, it was like playing in a dream. I had a great time there.

"I spent four fantastic years in Paris with PSG, but my seven years in England were something special.

"Unfortunately my last couple of years in England were quite difficult, but I keep only the good things I had from my time in England and I have to say 'thank-you' for that."

How did the Premier League change over the first decade?

"When I first arrived, there weren't so many foreigners, it was before the Bosman rule.

"But that was the big change in English football - everyone wants to go to play here now.

"There were people like Eric Cantona, Kanchelskis, myself, and at that time we were only allowed to play with three foreigners.

"Now it is different, and you can play with 11 players from another country."

Do you miss playing in the Premier League?

"I miss playing. When you start playing at five years old, and then at 36 you can't forget everything about your life.

"When you are born a football player, even if you stop playing one day, you will always be a footballer - whatever you do."

Who do you think will win the Barclaycard Premiership title?

"A few months ago I thought it would be another season for Arsenal, but now I don't know.

"The 'money time' is when you earn your money and win the titles - the last two or three months in the season. That's when you have to be at the top of your game.

"It doesn't matter if you start well. Manchester United don't often start well, but they come back at Christmas and they finish at the top."





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