Les Ferdinand has revealed that the biggest regret of his career was leaving Newcastle United too soon.
Sir Les departed after just two years on Tyneside, but despite the Londoner’s stay being short-lived, he is regarded as a real hero at United.
This is the only club that I come back to
And in a revealing interview, he says that it is for that reason why he keeps coming back.
In fact, he says United is the only club he ever returns to, apart from the one he works for, of course.
“Of all of the clubs that I have been at and I’ve been to a few in the end, it’s the only one that I come back to,” said former Besiktas, Brentford, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Leicester City, Bolton Wanderers and Reading frontman, who now works for QPR as Director of Football.
“Obviously I work at QPR now so I have to attend the fans forums and stuff like that but this is the only club that I come back to, simply because of the reception and it always makes me realise that I left here too early.”
Between 1995 and 1997 Ferdinand netted a remarkable 50 goals in just 83 appearances for United.
His goalscoring ratio is only bettered at the club by five men, one of which is Magpies great Hughie Gallacher.
Looking at those stats, coupled with the fact he was a key member of Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers side, it is easy to see why he is loved.
Ferdinand was a high-profile casualty of Kenny Dalglish’s early days at United, following Keegan’s departure, leaving for Spurs in the summer of 97.
But he was very close to remaining on Tyneside.
And he has revealed that a phone call, as he was about to put pen to paper at White Hart Lane, almost changed the course of history forever.
“I didn’t want to leave,” said Ferdinand.
“But he [Dalglish] had made it clear to me that there was going to be changes and I’ve got to be honest, we went to Maiden Castle, on the day that I was leaving to go for my medical at Tottenham and he shook my hand and said ‘I hope the medical falls through’.
“He had told me what his intentions were for the season and I said, look, all I want to do is play football.
“Then Tottenham came in and I said you have got an opportunity to sell me, if you want to do that. Do it. Don’t bother fighting for me if I’m not going to play.
“So, that was the case and then I went down to London, did my medical and then I was sat in a restaurant and the waiter comes up and says ‘there’s a call for you’.
“I said nobody knows that I’m here and he said ‘obviously someone does because you’ve got a call.
“It was an agent at the time and he said, Alan Shearer has broken his ankle, Newcastle want you to come back but I spoke to Alan on the phone, wished him all the best and he said, ‘I totally understand why you would leave now’.”
Famously in the summer of 96 Newcastle broke the world transfer record to sign Shearer in £15m deal from Blackburn.
Many thought that would spell the end of Ferdinand, but we all know it didn’t.
One thing it did bring to an end, though, was the striker’s affinity with the famous No 9 shirt.
“Keegan said ‘Alan has asked for the No 9’,” said Ferdinand about the day he handed it over to Shearer.
“So I said, ‘well what did you say?’ he said, ‘I said I’d ask Les, Alan has worn it all of his career’ and I just said ‘well I’ve worn it all of my career but the fact that you are asking me means that you want Alan to have it.’
“So I had a couple of minutes to think about it and it dawned on me that he wanted Alan to have it, the majority of the Geordie supporters would want Alan to have it, with it being their boy coming home, number nine shirt and what it means.”