Cast your minds back to July 1995. ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’ by the Outhere Brothers was top of the charts, John Major had just won his battle to remain leader of the Conservative Party and Newcastle United had just signed one of the most stylish footballers to ever grace the English top-flight, David Ginola.
The fact that Ginola’s Wikipedia bio opens with “David Désiré Marc Ginola is a French former international football player who has also worked as an actor, model and football pundit” should say a lot about the man.
The long-haired dreamboat signed for the Toon from PSG for a bargain £2.5m (To quote the L’Oreal adverts he used to star in, he was “worth it”) and in his two years at St. James’ Park, he shone brightly during Kevin Keegan’s “Entertainers” era.
It was one hell of a coup for The Magpies at the time; Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich had all courted the winger before he decided upon the North-East of England and joined fellow new-boy Les Ferdinand as the club’s top-earner on £15,000 per-week.
Before moving to England, Ginola had already transcended the world of football by featuring in advertising campaigns for the Morgan clothing company and appearing on the catwalk for Cerruti and he quickly established himself as the suavest man in the league.
When he was introduced to the rest of his squad, he quickly made an impression. Speaking in FourFourTwo, former-Newcastle teammate Warren Barton said:
“I remember being in the hotel with Les Ferdinand when he was first introduced to the players at Newcastle. He came in with a little touch of grey hair - it’s white now, obviously - a white linen shirt, some nice linen trousers, a pair of sunglasses and a few beads.
"Now, Les is a good-looking man but we both went, ‘Jesus, we don’t want to be stood next to him in the team photo.’ He was very charming too.
We both dropped our knives and forks while we were trying to eat our eggs and bacon, and there was him gliding gracefully into the room. He was like a god, we were both in awe of him - and we still laugh about that now.
This weekend Newcastle travel to Tottenham Hotspur, another of David Ginola’s former-clubs, whom he joined for another £2.5m fee in 1997, alongside Ferdinand (he did the announcement of his signing topless, of course).
Ironically, Ginola, one of the nineties’ most exciting players, played some of his best football at Spurs under the management of George Graham, one of the Premier League’s least glamorous coaches.
Graham wasn’t always impressed with the Frenchman’s strike-rate in front of goal either:
“In training, as soon as he started, head down, beating legs, I’d stop everything and say, ‘David, oh, no, no, no’. Simplicity is genius. I said to him, ‘David, I want an end product to your play. You’ve got too much talent to be an entertainer. If I want to watch tricks, I’ll go to a circus’. Some of his crossing this season has been magnificent. But he’s got to score more goals.”
When all was said and done, Ginola’s time in England was always quality over quantity and despite only scoring an average of three goals a season across his spells with Spurs and Newcastle, Ginola is remembered with such fondness among both sets of fans and is regarded by both clubs as one of their greatest ever foreign imports.
Nowadays, Ginola is still as effortlessly cool as ever, although in his older years he has started to morph into something like a Gallic Paul Hollywood.
In 2016, while playing in a charity match, Ginola suffered a cardiac arrest which led him to fall into a coma. Fortunately, he survived but the outpouring of support towards the fallen Frenchman, not just from Newcastle and Spurs fans, extended to any football fan lucky enough to witness him flying down the wing with such flair in the mid-nineties to early-noughties.
He might not have set the goal charts alight, but we might never see a player as graceful as David Ginola ply their trade in the Premier League again.