A flamboyant winger whose slouched stance belied his pace and ability, Chris Waddle was a most un-English player in his style and the football he produced. After initially suffering some reaction from the Spurs crowd, Chris quickly became a cult figure in a side at the time that played to his flair.
Arriving at Tottenham in 1985, having made a name for himself at Newcastle United and having impressed in a 1-5 defeat at the Lane, Spurs paid £600,000 to bring him into a team that featured Clive and Paul Allen, Glenn Hoddle and Steve Perryman.
.There seems to exist in the English footballing psyche an inherent distrust of the 'luxury player'; Steve McManaman and Matt Le Tissier saw their international careers suffer as a result of their reputations as players who wished to go only towards the opposition goal and not in reverse, towards their own.
Before those two however, came Chris Waddle. A veritable superstar in France with Olympique Marseille, his impact on the domestic game in his homeland has always been understated.
Here was a man who played in a European Cup final with OM but could not force his way into an agricultural England side managed by the pragmatic Graham Taylor. Waddle embodied the dichotomy that existed
between the English methodologies and those espoused on the continent.
With his mullet hair-style and his languid style, Waddle had the ability to thrill and draw praise. A trademark of his was cutting in from the right side onto his favoured left-foot to strike on goal, and he also developed and maintained an immense reputation as a provider.
A player who exuded joy in his game, Waddle was,
perhaps, not suited to the England of the mid-to-late
eighties and early 90s. Bucking the stay-at-home trend
prevalent at the time, Waddle took to life on the
continent like a duck to water, but could never eclipse
his Marseille form in the national shirt.
The young Chris Waddle kicked around the regional leagues before joining Tow Law Town in the summer of 1978. There he stayed until the summer of 1980. He famously worked in a sausage factory at the same time, until Newcastle United, who once turned down Waddle as a trialist, came calling again. After coming on board for a fee of £1,000, the winger quickly established himself as a key member of the side, earning promotion to the top-flight of English football in 1984. The Newcastle team of the day contained an array of attacking talent, with Kevin Keegan and Peter Beardsley completing an all-international trio at the apex.
Waddle's spell with the Geordies was fruitful and he beat the path to London in 1985, joining Tottenham Hotspur for £590,000. At Spurs, Waddle began his streak as a serial runner-up, becoming a losing finalist in the FA Cup in 1987.
While at White Hart Lane, Waddle also established himself in the England set up, having made his debut in 1985. He was part of the England team that was beaten in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals by Argentina. Waddle watched from the bench as Diego Maradona cut a swathe through the Three Lions to score one of the greatest individual goals of all time.
Of the moment, he reflected in a 2001 interview, "I went on as a sub against Argentina in '86 but, by then, Maradona had already worked his magic. I'll always remember his second goal when he ran right through our defence to score and John Barnes and me, sitting on the bench, just sat there with our mouths open. Ray Wilkins stood up and said 'you won't see a better goal than that...ever'. I wanted to applaud - I couldn't, of course, but I bloody well wanted to."
Following England's disastrous exit from the European Championships in 1988, when they did not win a game, Spurs went on to finish sixth in the top-flight; from there, Waddle made the transition to Olympique Marseille for the third highest transfer fee of all time - £4.5 million. English clubs were still excluded from European competition at that time as a result of the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985, but an Englishman would be competing in the final of the European Cup within two seasons.
Waddle was one of the key men in a hugely successful OM side, playing alongside Jean Pierre Papin, Jean Tigana and Abedi Pele. The 1990-91 season saw the French team make the European Cup final in Bari, where they were ousted on penalty kicks against a star-studded Red Star Belgrade. Despite taking a starring role in an outfit that achieved three championships in three seasons, Waddle's interventions went largely unnoticed in Britain. Indeed, he is more infamous than famous in his homeland for his football during this period, having missed a crucial penalty in the World Cup semi-final against West Germany in 1990. However, that did not prevent him being in the running for the Ballon d'Or in 1991 or becoming Marseille's second-best player of the 20th century - a poll that was won by Papin.
Return From Exile
Waddle was renowned for a carefree style on the field, thrilling the Velodrome faithful with his repertoire of trickery. However, the then England manager Graham Taylor was not a fan. Despite returning to England with Sheffield Wednesday in 1992, Waddle garnered only one cap under Taylor. His guile was missed in particular at the European Championship in 1992 when a one-paced England were dispatched from the tournament unceremoniously at the group stage.
His perplexity was best surmised by this quote, given in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2001, "It's curious I was considered a luxury player until I went to France. I was never expected to defend at Marseille; my role was make goals for Papin and entertain. I was playing in the European Cup final against Red Star Belgrade but I couldn't get in the England team under Graham Taylor. But Michel Platini went on record as saying that if [Glenn] Hoddle and Waddle were French, he'd pick us tomorrow."
In his first season back in the English top-flight, Waddle helped Wednesday to a pair of cup finals, the FA Cup and League Cup, where again he suffered the ignominy of a runners-up spot in both. Nonetheless, Waddle had done enough to turn the heads of the critics, winning the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year award in 1993.
Jumping The Shark
Waddle's impact at Hillborough deteriorated along with his physical capabilities and he was eventually released early in the 1996/97 season.
Few since have 'jumped the shark' quite as spectacularly as Chris Waddle. From World Cup semi-finals and European Cup finals, the one-time mulleted maestro eventually sought appearances on a far more modest scale.
A brief spell at Scottish side, Falkirk, preceded a few months with Bradford City. The highlight of his time with the Bantams was a stunning FA Cup goal against Everton in February 1997. The same month, he completed a dream move to boyhood idols, Sunderland, who were relegated in the same season.
An ill-fated player-manager stint at Burnley left that club on the brink of relegation before Waddle again packed his trunk for Torquay and then Worksop Town. Glapwell followed and even today, you can catch one of England's greatest talents pounding around the Sheffield Imperial League with the Devonshire Arms.
Waddle continues to provide co-commentary for England international fixtures and also writes columns for the national press.
French Championship (1990, 1991, 1992)
PFA Player of the Year (1993)
DID YOU KNOW... that Chris Waddle, along with Glenn Hoddle, scored a Top 20 chart hit with the song, Diamond Lights, in 1987? And, Waddle reprised his pop career while at Marseille, collaborating with Basile Boli for the tune, We've Got a Feeling.
His son Jack signed for Chesterfield in 2011.