|At a time
when Spurs are suffering in midfield, with a search for a defensive
midfielder about to start, Isaac Gregory looks back at the sort
of player we might be looking for to replace Steffen Freund.
The blond head of Allan Nielsen was often
likened to that of a chicken without one by unkind Spurs fans.
The nature of his play made him one of those players in
Tottenhamís history that bore the brunt of the crowdís wrath, much
of which was probably undeserved. By
definition, he would not be a Hoddle or an Ardiles, but more of a
Perryman or Pratt. Someone
who had to do the dirty work of grafting between the boxes and not
allowed the luxury of spraying passes hither and thither, catching the
eye and heart of the Tottenham faithful.
The prolonged signing of Dane Allan
Nielsen came after he starred for his country in the 1996 World Cup.
He was a Gerry Francis special.
A midfielder who the Spurs manager had been watching for what
seemed like an eternity and had bought, but then he couldnít join up
with Tottenham because of his clubís participation in the Champions
League. Coming to Spurs
from Brondby, Nielsen had featured in a startling rise and then fall
before arriving in England.
starting his career at Esjberg, he was snapped up as a teenager by crack
Bundesliga side Bayern Munich. He was one who they had high hopes for, but he failed to make
the impact that the Germans had hoped for and he made only one
appearance before returning to Denmark with OB Odense.
Nielsen remained with the side for three seasons, moved onto FC
Copenhagen for two more campaigns, then had three seasons with Brondby,
with whom he won the Danish Championship.
The side did not make too many waves in the Champions League, but
enough to make Francis sit up and take notice. That and his worth to the
developing Danish team made him a player that Francis was willing to
shell out Sugarís cash on. And it was £1.65 million that brought him
to White Hart Lane.
During his time at Spurs, his work often
went unappreciated, as other midfield grafters like him had.
Never the greatest tackler, he always got himself back in front
of an opponent and was often the one who won a ball after a team-mate
had lost it. However, it is
not a glamorous part of the teamís performance, but then someone has
to do it !! There are
players who add to the game and people who work at it.
Nielsen definitely fitted into the latter group, but his
contributions should not be forgotten.
Six goals in his first season was a reasonable return, especially
when you consider that one of them was in the 1-7 defeat at Newcastle,
when he appeared to be one of the few who kept going until the end and
it did stop us suffering our record domestic defeat in the top flight !!
The next season featured a North London
derby goal at the Lane to earn a draw and the now Tottenham defender Ben
Thatcher almost cutting him in half in the 6-2 win at Selhurst that
virtually ensured our survival under Gross.
Having lost the manager who brought him to the club, Allan
plugged away, despite Saib and Berti being brought into the midfield by
the new boss. Nielsenís
dogged determination in that Wimbledon match was overshadowed by
Klinsmannís four goals, but again, the contribution was important.
The 1998-9 season was one he will
remember and one that Spurs fans will remember him for.
Out of all the games he played, it will be his last minute diving
header past now Spurs keeper Kasey Keller at Wembley that won Tottenham
the Worthington Cup in a forgettable game.
A battle fought out in midfield and with Spurs having to fend off
the Foxes with ten men, Nielsen found the legs to catch up with Iversen
and be on the spot when the ball popped up off the keeperís hand.
Nielsen also must have angered now Spurs keeper Neil Sullivan in
the FA Cup Fourth round replay, when he slid in to challenge Euell and
the Donís midfielderís clearance smacked off the Daneís knee and
straight past Sully !! Finding
a place in the side firstly under Pleat and then Graham, following
Grossí departure, he had a good run and found the net regularly.
His confidence seemed to grow when he knew that he would be in
the side and the former Gooner manager, who knew exactly what he would
get from him, appreciated his attitude.
However, towards the end of the season, Freund had replaced him
as the destroyer in midfield and Nielsen missed out on the last few
With Oyvind Leonhardsen being signed on
the dawn of the new 1999-2000 season as the Scandinavian midfielder
whose job it was to buzz around, Nielsen began the campaign out of the
first team squad. Due to
injuries, he eventually got back in as sub here and there and then, just
before Christmas, had a three match run.
As soon as Leo and Sherwood were fit, the man who GG hadnít
brought to the club was out again. It was a harsh way to treat a competent if not spectacular
player, who worked hard for the side.
Nielsen went on loan to Wolverhampton
Wanderers in March 2000 and enjoyed a successful spell in the old gold
midfield. He was well liked
by the fans at Molineux and proved to be a useful addition to the team,
as they tried to push on for a promotion play-off place.
On his return to Tottenham, it appeared that he was not going to
be in the frame to feature in George Grahamís team and at the start of
the 2000-2001 season, he left for newly relegated Watford, along with
keeper Espen Baardsen, having played his last game in February of the
previous season at Leeds. Despite
the fact that he was not in the first team on a regular basis and was
now 29, he earned a fee of £2.25 million for Spurs.
The transfer fee is still a record paid by the Hertfordshire
club. Admittedly, this was
during the time of Gianluca Vialliís spend, spend, spend honeymoon at
Vicarage Road, but it was a good deal for Spurs and also for Nielsen,
who was unhappy at not being given a role in the first team.
Unfortunately, the way that things have
gone at Watford, Nielsen was one of the players they were trying to
shift off their wage bill. His
performances still are of a high standard, with his contribution to
their rise being unspectacular, but effective.
The unaccustomed red card (although sometimes harshly given) have
found their way into his repertoire, but he is still getting into the
box, just as he did at the Lane. Watching
him on Sky recently against Norwich, he looked the most likely to score
in the first half Ö and for all the shortcomings the fans had about
his play, that is not something you often say about Steffen Freund !!