Arise ‘Sir Les’, or Leslie Ferdinand to be exact, a legend of the English game, Premier League era and a real, genuine role model within the game. Ferdinand scored goals for fun across several clubs and was never in the headlines for the wrong reasons! In short, his conduct was always befitting of the ‘Sir Les’ nickname.
Perhaps the best example of what a role model professional Les Ferdinand was is shown by his relationship with his first club, Queens Park Rangers, or QPR, as they are more commonly known. After starting his playing career there, he currently works there as a Director over 20 years later!
Starting out as a player at QPR, Les was always seen as a promising youngster and making just 3 first team appearances in 2 seasons (86-87 and 87-88) meant he was keen for first team action. QPR did not want to sell Les, seeing his potential and he was loaned to Besiktas in Turkey for the 1988-89 season. In Turkey, Ferdinand really started to show his potential, netting 14 goals in just 24 appearances. A star was born.
Upon returning to QPR at the start of the 1989-1990 season following the successful loan spell, his progress slowed somewhat as he made just 9 first team appearances that season, scoring twice. But, from that point on, his career took a consistently upward trajectory scoring 78 goals in 151 appearances, becoming a bonafide first team regular and club legend in the process.
The last 3 seasons of that spell, from 1992 to 1995, saw him notching goalscoring ratios of the highest order, as he scored 20, 16 and 24 goals in successive seasons and also saw him recognised as one of the leading strikers in the newly formed Premier League.
The result of this form was that Newcastle United were willing to pay £6,000,000 for his services at the start of the 1995-96 season. Whilst on Tyneside, Ferdinand arguably hit the heights of his career, nothing 25 goals and 16 goals in the two seasons as he formed an exciting partnership with Geordie and English legend, Alan Shearer. Ferdinand would leave Tyneside empty handed however, in somewhat agonising fashion, as the exciting Newcastle team finished runners up in the Premier League in both of his years in the North East. They famously blew a 12 point lead over Manchester United in the 1996-97 season, with Keegan’s post match ‘I’d love it’ rant still the stuff of legends today.
Ferdinand would move on from Newcastle to Tottenham in 1997; whilst he was so fondly thought of on Tyneside, Tottenham were his boyhood club and the lure of their £6,000,000 offer was too much to turn down.
Unfortunately, Ferdinand’s career trajectory didn’t continue the seemingly unstoppable rise that he was on……injuries disrupted his first season and despite some solid performances throughout his six seasons sporting the lily-white colours of Tottenham Hotspur, he never managed more than 10 goals in a single season.
However, Ferdinand did lift the only major trophy of his career whilst playing for Tottenham Hotspur; the 1999 League Cup.. Ferdinand started that game, but couldn’t get on the score sheet – it took an injury-time winner from the head of Alan Nielsen to separate Tottenham from their opponents on the day, Leicester. A second League Cup Final appearance in 2001 wouldn’t end so well – Ferdinand’s efforts at goal were thwarted several times by the Blackburn and US legend goalkeeper, Brad Friedel – as Tottenham went down 2-1.
Following his spell at Tottenham, Ferdinand’s career ran out in quite nomadic fashion. Les enjoyed spells at several clubs starting at West Ham, then Leicester City, Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League, before dropping down to finish at Reading and Watford in the Championship.
Les’ period at Leicester, in particular, was memorable; despite being aged 37, he enjoyed an injury-free spell and scored 12 Premier League goals.
Internationally, Les was capped by England 17 times (5 goals) and despite making the squads for major championships in both 1996 and 1998, never managed to quite crack a regular starting spot at International Level.
With 149 goals in the Premier League to his name, Sir Les is an impressive 8th on the all-time Premier League goalscorers list.