fool backs

This article originally appeared in MEHSTG Volume 2 Issue 26 -  April 2002


In early March former full-back Justin Edinburgh announced his retirement from Professional Football because of injury problems. Although he was not everybody’s favourite player no one can deny his commitment to the cause of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club during the years of 1990 to 2000. The only way to really describe “Ricky!” or “Wingnut” is to say that he was the best shit full back we had at the club during the 1990’s. The full-back area had always been the problem position at Spurs since the end of the Chris Hughton and Danny Thomas partnership. In this article I’d like to celebrate some of these shit full-backs as a kind of tribute to Justin to make us remember that, hey, he wasn’t that bad… 

The qualities a Spurs full back needed from the late 1980’s onwards was not only to be shit but to be clumsy, lack concentration, give away needless free-kicks and, above all, provide nothing in the goals “for” column. Just to set a perspective Chris Hughton played 318 games for Spurs whilst scoring 19 goals during 11 years at the club, Danny Thomas played 116 and scored only the once during his 4 years. Unlike Hughton, Danny set the tone for the scoring feats of our future full-backs. 

With poor Danny’s career cut short and Hughton having age against him Spurs did not have a settled full-back partnership until the Fenwick and Van Den Hauwe combo. Crowd favourite Fenwick  (please note the sarcasm intended) was more of a converted full-back so I shall give him a break for once and not focus on him. It was his injury in the pre-match warm up at Portsmouth in the FA Cup 5th Round that prompted Edinburgh’s promotion to the first team. Pat Van Den Hauwe adjusted from left-back to right to accommodate young Justin and proved his worth by being equally as willing to play on either side. Pat was bought from a successful Everton side and went on to play for us 145 times and scoring no goals surprisingly. He had the reputation of being a hard man but I can only recall his red card at home to Luton in 1990 that suggested that this may be so. Maybe it was the photos of him dressed up as a nurse that was published in the papers that tarnished this reputation? Notable things about Pat were that he played in the ’91 cup winning side and, more famously, he married Mandy Smith. Certainly not a player to tell your grandchildren about. 

Edinburgh had enjoyed a great start to his Spurs career, in his first full season he had won the FA Cup and scored an excellent goal away at Sheffield United. Perhaps Spurs had bought a player good enough to take over from Hughton. Justin was soon joined by right-back Dean Austin,  who came from his former club, Southend. Like Edinburgh, Austin had a good first season. Despite not winning the FA Cup in ‘93, Austin was one of our best performers in the run and he certainly made people sit up and take notice of him. His style in this season was to go forward and take people on whilst being quite hard in the tackle. On a personal note, and try not to laugh, it was Austin who inspired me to play in the right-back position for my school team. The turning point in Deano’s time at Spurs occurred early on in the 93/94 season when he broke his leg in a home fixture, against Oldham I think. From returning from this injury as well as not living up to his early promise, Deano had become shit. His distribution frequently drew groans from the crowd, he was muscled out of challenges and he was often out paced by the opposing wingers. After 150 games and 0 goals he dropped down to, I suppose, his natural level at Crystal Palace where he plays more centrally in the defence. In the meantime Edinburgh had seen off Van Den Hauwe for the first choice left-back spot but worried people with his rash challenges. 

Austin fought for his place in the Spurs side with David Kerslake, a converted winger from Leeds who was remembered for scoring the “through Bobby Mimms’ legs” goal at Loftus Road. Surely he would provide some additions to the scoring chart? Kerslake played 44 games and scored none. An attacking full-back, Kerslake was an Ardiles favourite and wasn’t a bad crosser of the ball. Defensively he was suspect. I could never decide who I thought was the best out of David and Deano, bearing in mind that the term “best” is being used loosely. In between the Kerslake and Austin era on the right, a young Stephen Carr made his debut away at Burnley in the League Cup. This and an appearance away at Ipswich were to be his only games until both the bumbling right-backs had been despatched. He’d probably grow up to be a useless, goal-less full-back too! The competition on left side of defence for Justin came in the form of none other than Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell. Straight from the youth team, Campbell was blooded into the team at left-back and immediately looked a far better option than Edinburgh. Campbell was awkward and inexperienced but was still preferred to the reckless “Ricky.” Justin dug in deep and forced his way back into the team while Campbell plied his trade in a number of different positions including centre forward until nailing down a spot as centre-back. After that I can’t remember whatever happened to Sulzeer ?!? 

Justin soon found himself back out of the team again as Gerry Francis snapped up Clive Wilson on a free. I didn’t think that Clive was a bad player, the only problem was his age. He was 33 when he signed. Clive’s control was excellent, his distribution was useful and he read the game well. He perhaps lacked pace and strength but was certainly better than Edinburgh. Wilson was QPR’s regular penalty taker so it wouldn’t have been unjustified to expect a few goals from him. He scored 2 in 86 games. Not a great goal return from Clive considering that he played a fair number of games in midfield too. It was on such an occasion when Edinburgh dropped one of his biggest clangers in his Spurs career. The game in question has since been labelled “the Nayim on the Jumbotron match” against Bolton. With Spurs 2-0 up and heading for second place in the league, Justin’s suspect concentration let him down again and allowed Bolton to grab one back. One turned into two and we never did reach the dizzy heights of second. To blame Nayim’s big screen appearance for throwing away the game is cobblers, such poor play from Justin had become a far too regular occurrence.  

With Francis out Christian Gross identified the left-back area as one of the many huge weaknesses in the side. Carr by now had made the right-back slot his own and Gross bought unknown Italian left-back Paolo Tramezzani. Does anyone remember Tramezzani’s first touch in a Spurs shirt ?  It was away at Wimbledon on the first day of the 98/99 season, his first touch was a foul throw.  I fail to see how a Professional Football can take a foul throw. That was as good as it got for Paolo! Seven games and no goals was his record.  Mauricio Taricco was the next full-back to be brought to Spurs, this time by Goonersaurus Graham.  Initial injury problems for Tano (what a crap nick-name) limited his early appearances while the likes of Andy Sinton and Allan Nielsen covered.  Now currently a regular in our line-up, Taricco has played around 100 games and is one goal behind Justin’s haul.  I think he may have overtaken his red-card amount though !  Under Graham, Edinburgh came back from the dead once again and claimed the left-back spot back.  He went on to feature in our League Cup winning side of ’99 and earned the utmost respect, although not at the time (!!), for giving Robbie Savage the good slap he deserved.  The red card for this was to be Justin’s last major contribution at Spurs. 

His time at the Lane began promisingly with a Cup winner’s medal at Wembley and ended the same way.  The bit in between was the problem !  Edinburgh played 276 games in a decade and managed only the one goal. He set the benchmark for the 90’s Spurs full-back and, as you can see, most of them surpassed him in terms of incompetence.  He outlived his pretenders to the throne and with his recent retirement he deserves some nice words to be said in his honour.  He never gave anything less than 100%, was always clearly up for the games against the Gooners, never shirked a challenge and his persistence was remarkable.  With the age of wing-backs the likes of Edinburgh are rarer, even though our very own Ben Thatcher does a passable impression.  The likes of Christian Ziege and Carr are more attack orientated and know where the goal is.  In closing, I would like to wish Justin Edinburgh the best of luck for the future. 



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