Whatever happened to Temuri Ketsbaia?

When the name Temuri Ketsbaia is mentioned most English football fans will best remember him not for his powerful shot or his brilliant dribbling skills, but for his wild celebration in 1998 after scoring for Newcastle United. They will remember the Georgian flinging his black and white striped shirt into the St James’ Park crowd and, after an aborted attempt to remove one of his football boots, violently kicking out at the nearby advertising boards, whilst actively pushing away team mate Phillipe Albert in order to get enough of a run-up for his next almighty blow.

A strange choice of ritual after scoring a last minute winner you may think? Well the hot-head merely stated after the game in question, which was against Bolton Wanderers, that he “was just happy to score”. But the real reason for his angry reaction was because of his manager’s decision to use him, more often than not, from the substitute’s bench. Kenny Daglish was not convinced by the attacking player’s inconsistency so, despite Ketsbaia’s popularity with the Toon army, he took on the role of ‘super sub’. And this game proved that status as he had only appeared from the sidelines in the 79th minute. But was he happy that this had sent his manager enough of a message? Not in the slightest. So, after the restart, while under no pressure from the opposition, he promptly smashed the ball out of play. Not happy with your boss? That’s the way to show him! Anyway – enough story telling – whatever happened to Temuri Ketsbaia?

The Gali-born forward started his career in his homeland of Georgia with Dinamo Sukhumi, before shortly moving to the country’s largest club, Dinamo Tbilisi. Good performances here, which included winning the Georgian league title, earned him a move to the Cyprus club, Anorthosis Famagusta, in 1992. Two years later, Greece, and AEK Athens, beckoned for Ketsbaia, where he won the Greek Cup in his three-year spell. More goals resulted in English scouts taking an interest and in 1997 he was at Newcastle after joining on a free transfer. Shortly after his arrival he scored the extra-time goal that secured the Magpies a place in the Champions League for the first time in their history. He appeared in the 1998 and 1999 FA Cup finals for the North East club and, despite losing on both occasions to Arsenal and Manchester United, these were some of Ketsbaia’s most successful times as a player. In both matches at Wembley he played alongside Alan Shearer in a striker’s role.

After leaving St James’ Park his stay in England wasn’t over as he secured a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were then in Division One. He scored on his league debut for Wolves, with a trademark free-kick, in a 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at Molineux. But the Georgian spent just a year in the West Midlands and headed north of the border in 2001 to play for Dundee. This was another short-lived move and a year later he was back at the Cypriot club Anorthosis Famagusta – this time as player-coach and he soon became manager. He stayed in this position for the next five years, winning two league titles in the process and taking his team to the group stages of the Champions League – the first Cypriot club to do so. This was a marvellous achievement and despite only finishing in fourth place in their group they collected an impressive 3-3 draw at home to Inter Milan. Stepping down as manager in April 2009 came about after the club’s chairman was forced to resign due to financial irregularities.

The 41-year-old then took the managerial reins at Olympiacos but he lasted just three months at the Greek club after supporters voiced their concerns, despite not conceding a goal during the Georgian’s tenure. November 2009 saw him return to his home country to manage his national side – and he remains in this position currently. A year earlier he had been linked to the vacant managerial position at Newcastle but a return to the Magpies did not materialise. English football will have to wait for the return of the advertising board-hating Georgian.