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Where Are They Now? 20 Cult Premier League Footballers of the 90s

Laura GreeneFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 13, 2017

Where Are They Now? 20 Cult Premier League Footballers of the 90s

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    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Bad hair, exciting foreign imports, the birth of the Premier League—the '90s was a memorable time for English football.

    It was also a period rich in its variety of cult footballers—from Francis Benali to Shaun Goater, from Eric Cantona to Duncan Ferguson, there was a wealth of idiosyncratic characters in the game.

    But what elevates a player into the realms of being known as a "cult footballer," forever revered by fans of their club?

    There is no secret formula. 

    Quite often, this is not achieved by being the best player on a team. It's far more likely to be gained through off-the-field eccentricities, a hard-man image, scoring an important goal or remaining a one-club man.

    It could even be achieved through having a bad haircut, getting a club tattoo or failing to find the back of the net for years at a time. 

    Perhaps, like Cantona, the player achieves mythical status from exiting football at the peak of their game, causing you to wonder, where are they now?

    Over the following slides, which are assembled in no particular order, we look at 20 of the Premier League's iconic figures from the 1990s and discuss what happened when they hung up their boots. 

     

Georgi Kinkladze: Manchester City

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Georgi Kinkladze was a bright light in an otherwise gloomy period in Manchester City's history. 

    It was the mid-'90s, City were trying to fight off relegation while, across town, Manchester United were enjoying the start of many glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson.

    However, during this time, Kinkladze or "Kinky" provided much-needed escapism for fans of the club with his trademark dribbles and sensational goals. 

    He may have been inconsistent, but Lionel Messi-esque strikes such as this, scored against Southampton, is just one example of what the Georgian could do.

    Kinkladze cemented his position as a cult hero for the club when he stuck by them during their relegation in 1996.

    He saw five managers come and go during the 1996/97 season, where he was named the club's Player of the Year for the second season in a row.

    City spent two years in Division One and were relegated for a second time in three years in 1997/98. Kinkladze had fallen down the pecking order under new manager Joe Royle, who sold the midfielder to Ajax in 1998.

    Spells at Derby County, Anorthosis Famagusta and Rubin Kazan followed, and he racked up 57 games for Georgia until Kinky retired in 2007 but never rediscovered the form he had shown in Manchester.

    He went on to work as sporting director at Anorthosis for a 10-month spell before becoming a FIFA licensed agent, as seen on Goal.com.

     

John Jensen: Arsenal

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    Bad hair, classic '90s moustache, nicknamed "Faxe" after a strong Danish beer and with just one goal in 98 Premiership appearances for Arsenal—John Jensen had all the makings of a cult hero.

    Signed by George Graham in 1992, the Denmark international was fresh from winning the European Championships, in which he'd scored in the final against Germany.

    Try as he might, it took quite some time before Jensen found his scoring boots again.

    In 1994, against Queens Park Rangers, Jensen scored his first goal for the Gunners. To mark the occasion, T-shirts were made, asking: "Where were you when Jensen scored?"

    The Dane made 132 appearances in total for the North London club before moving to Brondby in 1996. Herfolge Boldklub was his final destination as a player and he also stepped into management with the club. He lasted just 11 games before getting the boot.

    He went on to assistant managerial roles with Brondby and Getafe before managing Danish Superliga side Randers.

    In 2011, he took an assistant manager's job at Blackburn Rovers, where he remained for nine months.

    Jensen is currently back at Brondby, where he is a consultant.

     

Juninho Paulista: Middlesbrough

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    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    These days, it's easy to be rather blase about foreign players signing for Premier League sides. In 1995, when Juninho Paulista came to England's top flight, it was huge.

    The 5'5" Brazilian created a stir when he signed for Middlesbrough—Bryan Robson's side having only just been promoted to the top division.

    It was an exciting time to be a football fan in England, as an influx of overseas players began trickling into in the league. Suddenly, names such as Juninho and Ravanelli were appearing on the same team sheet as the likes of Robbie Mustoe and Craig Hignett.

    These were heady days on Teesside.

    Juninho's diminutive stature, effectiveness on the pitch and tales of him playing street football with local children saw him catapulted into the hearts of Boro fans. 

    He cried on the pitch when his side were relegated in 1997. During the same campaign, Boro lost out in the League Cup and FA Cup final.

    No-one could deny Juninho a move, as he wanted to make it into the Brazilian national team, and he left the Riverside in 1997 bound for Atletico Madrid.

    Juninho was loaned back to Boro, then officially re-signed for the club in 2002. If he wasn't already popular enough, he claimed that winning the 2004 League Cup meant more than winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, as reported by the BBC (via Gazettelive.co.uk).

    Cult status, complete.

    Juninho went on to play for Celtic, Palmeiras, Flamengo, Sydney FC and Ituano before hanging up his boots in 2010.

    As reported on FIFA.com in March 2013, Juninho is general manager at Ituano—the Sao Paulo club where he started his career.

Barry Horne: Everton

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    Barry Horne is one of many players to achieve cult status at Everton. 

    He did so by scoring on the final day of the 1993/94 season against Wimbledon. The Toffees needed a win to stay in the top flight and Horne brought the scores level at 2-2 with a 30-yard screamer before Graham Stuart scored to give Everton the win.

    Not known for his goalscoring abilities, Horne chose his moment well and his impressive equaliser won him a place in Everton hearts for life.

    After leaving Goodison Park in 1996, Horne played for a number of clubs including Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town, and also made 59 appearances for Wales.

    He retired from the game in 2002 and now works as a chemistry teacher and head of football at King's School in Chester. He also has a football column in the Liverpool Echo.

     

Eric Cantona: Manchester United

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    Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

    If anyone has the exact blend of characteristics required of a cult hero, it's Eric Cantona.

    The unpredictable and wildly talented footballer spent five years at Old Trafford before hanging up his boots permanently in 1997.

    When he retired, Cantona was just 30 and he, like so many great icons, will be remembered at the peak of his game, with no gradual decline to mar the memory.

    His rap sheet, although lengthy, is far outweighed by what he could do on the pitch.

    The impact of his arrival at Old Trafford cannot be underestimated—arriving halfway through the 1992/93 season, Manchester United won the league title for the first time since 1967. A huge part of that is down to Cantona, who went on to win three more Premier League crowns with United.

    Over the years, as they became a dominant force in English football, United's No. 7 was assuming legendary status among United fans, who loved his unique brand of collar-up arrogance.

    His infamous kung-fu kick, subsequent ban from the game and triumphant return only added to the enigma that was Cantona.

    He didn't toe the party line when it came to being a footballer—he enjoyed poetry and philosophy, he painted expressionist art and frequented all of Manchester's museums. He also, brilliantly, grew up in a cave.

    After retiring, Cantona delved into beach football—where he became captain, and later manager, of the French team. He also adopted the role of director of soccer with the New York Cosmos in 2011, as seen on the BBC Sport website.

    He has also carved out a good on-screen career, appearing in many films including Elizabeth and Looking for Eric.

    Most recently, Cantona has been reported to be starring in an erotic comedy film, cast as "The Stallion," according to the Mirror's Joe Mewis.

    Like the best of cult heroes, life is never boring with Eric Cantona. 

     

     

     

Neville Southall: Everton

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    Neville Southall was a binman and hod carrier in his teens, he sported a big moustache, had a propensity for putting on weight and was known to eschew a FA Cup winners' party in favour of spending the night with his wife.

    He had all the credentials of a cult hero.

    He was also a fantastic goalkeeper who spent 17 years with Everton, where he racked up 578 performances and won titles including the European Cup Winners' Cup, two First Division titles and two FA Cups.

    Southall retired from football in 2002, his final club being Dagenham and Redbridge. 

    The Welshman went on to a caretaker manager's role with Wales and stints in charge of Dover Athletic, Hastings United and Margate.

    Now the former keeper teaches "Neets" with Kent County Council. The programme—targeted at "young people not in education, employment or training," as seen in the Guardianaims to offer apprenticeships to excluded teenagers through sport.

    Even after retiring, Southall continues to have an iconic status in the game. His autobiography, titled The Binman Chronicles, was in the top 10 selling football biographies of 2012. 

Duncan Ferguson: Everton

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Somewhere, deep in the unwritten rules of what makes a cult hero, are the laws of the "hard man."

    The Premier League has had its fair share of them and most have been elevated to cult status.

    Duncan Ferguson is no exception.

    Nicknamed "Big Dunc" and "Duncan Disorderly," the former Everton man makes Joey Barton look about as threatening as Michael Owen.

    Ferguson's misdemeanours include not only bans from football but several counts of assault, one of which landed him a three-month prison sentence, as seen in the Independent.

    The Scot initially came to Goodison Park on loan but was signed up by Joe Royle as soon as he became manager. If there was one surefire way to gain entry into Everton fans' hearts, it was by scoring on his debut against none other than Merseyside rivals, Liverpool.

    Injuries and indiscipline were scattered through the years he spent at the club, but his fierce determination and passion ensured he was a crowd favourite.

    For those who were not sure, an Everton tattoo revealed after he scored against Liverpool during his second stint at the club won him even more fans.

    Hospitalising an intruder who broke into his house in 2001 served only to add to the player's hard-man reputation, as seen on the BBC News website.

    Upon retiring, Ferguson moved to Majorca before embarking on a coaching career with Everton's youth academy. He currently coaches the U18s and has been tipped to manage the club one day.

Julian Dicks: West Ham

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    Another of the Premier League's famous hard men, ferocious, goalscoring defender Julian Dicks achieved cult status at West Ham.

    Nicknamed "Terminator," Dicks had two spells with the Hammers, where he was voted player of the season four times as he captained them en route to Premier League promotion in 1993.

    Sandwiched between his two spells at Upton Park, Dicks spent a season at Liverpool. Signed by Graeme Souness, he was dropped amid criticism for being overweight and unfit under new boss Roy Evans. He went back to West Ham for the following campaign.

    Dicks played a key role in his second stint at West Ham. He won Hammer of the Year in 1996 and scored crucial goals to keep his side clear of relegation.

    Injuries forced him out of football in 2002. In his testimonial match, against Athletic Bilbao, there was a 17-man brawl. 

    Dicks tried his hand at many things after retiring from football; he played professional golf, opened a pub, and set up professional kennels, as seen in this 2005 interview in FourFourTwo.

    He returned to football in 2009 when he managed Wivenhoe Town. A two-year spell at Grays Athletic followed. Most recently, the 45-year-old has been linked with a manger's role at Market Drayton Town, as seen in the Shropshire Star.

     

Paul McGrath: Aston Villa

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    Image from avfc.co.uk
    Image from avfc.co.uk

    If your supporters start to call you "God," it's fair to assume that you have achieved legendary status.

    Paul McGrath, who spent seven years at Aston Villa, still has his name sung by the club's supporters. 

    Although his career was hampered by injury and a long-running battle with alcoholism, McGrath was still one of the best defenders in the early days of the Premier League.

    After being bought for £400,000 from Manchester United in 1989, the Ireland international made an instant impact on his side, helping them to a runners-up spot in the then-First Division. The following season he was named the PFA's Player of the Year and, in the first year of the Premier League, Villa finished second behind Manchester United.

    Renowned for not being able to train properly with the side, due to a chronic knee problem and reported drinking habits, McGrath made an extraordinary 322 appearances for the Villans, where he won two League Cups. The defender had brief spells with Derby County and Sheffield United before retiring in 1998.

    According to reports like this in the Irish Examiner, McGrath continues to be troubled by his battles with alcohol. 

    The 53-year-old also launched a singing career in 2011, when he released his debut album Goin' Back.

     

     

Gianfranco Zola: Chelsea

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    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    It's hard for fans of any club not to warm to Gianfranco Zola. Like Juninho, his diminutive stature, big smile and incredible skill endeared him to all in the '90s.

    Zola signed for Chelsea in 1996 and quickly became a key player for Ruud Gullit's side. Without playing a full season for his new team, he was voted FWA Player of the Year—the first Chelsea player to win the accolade.

    It was still years before Roman Abramovich's wealth came to Stamford Bridge when the Italian was helping Chelsea to a win in the League Cup, a second FA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

    In his seven seasons at the club, Zola scored 80 goals and was twice named as player of the year. He was also voted as the side's greatest-ever player in 2003, via the club's official website and Chelsea have unofficially retired his No. 25 shirt.

    Zola's Chelsea career came to an end in 2003, the forward signing for Italian side Cagliari.

    He began a coaching career in 2008 with West Ham, who dismissed the Italy international two years after he'd taken the job. He has been at Championship side Watford since 2012. In his first season with the Hornets, they narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League.

     

Vinnie Jones: Wimbledon

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    Sion Touhig/Getty Images

    Vinnie Jones achieved cult status in England during the '90s. His hard-man image meant that he wasn't universally loved, but he always wore his heart on his sleeve and he was one of the most instantly recognisable characters of the era.

    Sent off 12 times throughout his career, Jones was a classic anti-hero. You may not have liked him, but you always wanted to watch him to see what he was going to do next.

    Between 1986 and 1999, Jones played almost 400 games for Wimbledon, Leeds United, Sheffield United and Chelsea combined. He also made nine appearances for Wales.

    An integral member of Wimbledon's "Crazy Gang," Jones was also a popular figure at Leeds, where he got the club's crest tattooed on his leg.

    Queens Park Rangers was his last destination as a footballer, but he soon found a new career in acting, making his acting debut in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

    Often cast as a thug, hooligan or violent criminal, Jones has been in a string of Hollywood feature films since.

     

Paolo Di Canio: Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Long before he was a controversial manager, Paolo Di Canio was a controversial player.

    And supporters loved him for it.

    Like Vinnie Jones, Di Canio assumed cult status by treading the path of the pantomime villain. He complained, he got sent off, he'd brawl, infamously he pushed a referee over and he was one of the biggest characters in the game.

    After playing for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan and Celtic, he signed for Sheffield Wednesday in 1997, scoring 12 goals in his first season at the club.

    Following the referee incident, Di Canio was banned for 11 matches, as seen on the BBC News website, and his Wednesday career never really got back on track. He was sold to West Ham in 1999.

    At Upton Park, he became a crowd favourite through his explosive personality, some incredible goals including this volley against Wimbledon in 1998/99. The same year he was voted the club's player of the season.

    Di Canio scored 48 goals in 118 top-flight appearances with the Hammers and his reputation as a troublemaker was restored somewhat after an incident at Everton in 2000/01 when he caught the ball to allow Toffees keeper Paul Gerrard to get medical attention.

    This gesture led to him being given the FIFA Fair Play award.

    The Italian, who has proclaimed himself as "a fascist," as seen in the Telegraph, moved into management after his playing days came to an end, guiding Swindon Town to League One promotion in 2011/12.

    He resigned from the post in 2013 and was soon snapped up by Premier League side Sunderland. Di Canio kept the club in the top flight at the end of last season, but after only 13 games in charge, he was fired by the Wearside club.

     

     

Roland Nilsson: Sheffield Wednesday

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    Mike Finn-Kelcey/Getty Images

    To this day, Sheffield Wednesday fans love Roland Nilsson.

    He was relegated in his first season at the club but stayed and helped the Owls back into the then-First Division.

    As the Premier League era rumbled into life, Wednesday enjoyed a revival, finishing as runners-up in the League and FA Cup in 1993, regularly finishing in the top half of the table and even playing in Europe for the first time in 30 years.

    The Swedish international went about his business quietly and he was never in the spotlight. Admired as much for what he didn't do as what he did, his efficient defending saw him become a true cult hero.

    Despite having no experience, Nilsson became player/manager of Coventry City in 2001. After being replaced in 2002, he moved back to Sweden where he managed GAIS, taking them into the Allsvenskan in 2005. Managerial posts at Malmo and FC Copenhagen followed before he was sacked in January 2012.

    Most recently, Nilsson claimed that he was approached by West Bromwich Albion in 2012 before the club decided on Steve Clarke, as seen in the Birmingham Mail.

Tony Yeboah: Leeds United

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    Tony Yeboah played for Leeds United for two years, but he left his mark on the club for life.

    The Ghanaian striker, who professed his love for Yorkshire puddings while at Elland Road, signed for Leeds in 1995.

    He joined the club from Eintracht Frankfurt, where he had scored 75 goals in 141 appearances. Over the next three seasons, he would score 33 goals in 62 games for Leeds, including three hat-tricks.

    However, it's not the number of goals that made Yeboah a cult hero. It's how he scored them. 

    Etched in the memory are the forward's strikes against Liverpool and Wimbledon in the Premier League—volleys hit with such precision and such ferocity, grazing the crossbar before crashing into the back of the net. They were iconic.

    Yeboah's strikes were a regular feature on Match of the Day's "Goal of the Month" competition and, even now, he is the only player to win it in successive months, in September and October 1995.

    A change of manager in 1996 saw Yeboah fall out of favour at Elland Road and he was sold to Hamburg, where he stayed for four years.

    He finished his career in Qatar, with Al Ittihad,  before moving back to Ghana.

    Now, Yeboah owns a football club called "Yegoala FC" and a string of hotels in his homeland. He recently told ESPNfc.com:

    I set up hotels as I wanted to provide employment opportunities. It makes things easier when it's 'Tony Yeboah's hotel' -- people like to come and visit and I speak to them, show some pictures, share my memories. It's fun.

Gary McAllister: Liverpool

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Gary McAllister was a true great at Leicester City, Leeds and Coventry City, where he amassed more than 500 games between the three clubs.

    Yet his cult-hero status was earned at Liverpool where he played just 87 times.

    McAllister was 35 when he signed for the Reds and his free transfer raised several eyebrows among the Anfield support.

    Within weeks, any doubts vanished. The Scotland international proved instrumental in Liverpool's treble-winning 2000/01 season.

    One of the most consistent players of the early Premier League era, McAllister is held in high regard at all the clubs he played at in the '90s and beyond.

    The former midfielder went on to manage at Coventry and Leeds, later taking on an assistant's role at Aston Villa.

    McAllister is now a pundit on BT Sport.

     

Steffen Freund: Tottenham Hotspur

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    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    Steffen Freund played in 102 Premier League games for Tottenham Hotspur after joining the club in 1998.

    He never scored a goal, he wasn't an exceptional player, but he is adored at White Hart Lane.

    His effort was never less than 100 per cent—he looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself and when he hung up his boots, he became a ticket-paying supporter of the club.

    Freund was even inducted into the Tottenham hall of fame in 2009, alongside Darren Anderton.

    These days, Freund can be found back at Spurs. The German was appointed as assistant head coach in 2012, nine years after leaving the club. 

     

Faustino Asprilla: Newcastle United

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    Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

    Faustino "Tino" Asprilla is blamed by some Newcastle United fans for costing them the title in 1995/96, but to many others he will always be a hero at St James' Park.

    The Colombian striker was signed by Kevin Keegan in 1996 and made an instant impact in his first game, a 2-1 win against local rivals Middlesbrough.

    However, the forward with the seemingly elasticised legs made his name in Newcastle with this hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League. They were to be his last goals for the club.

    Off the pitch, Tino was famed for having a playboy lifestyle. However, the following comments in FourFourTwo magazine only added to his appeal as a cult player: "The women were divine. I had...well, I don't know how many girlfriends I had in Newcastle. At the beginning I didn't even understand what they said."

    Asprilla was sold to Parma by Newcastle in 1998 and he went on to wind down his career with a string of South American sides, including Palmeiras, Fluminense and Universidad de Chile.

    In 2008, the former Colombian international, was arrested after accusations of going on "a machine-gun shooting spree," as reported in the Independent.

    More recently, the unpredictable figure made the news when it was reported that he'd been offered a part in a porn film in Colombia, seen here in John Drayton's article for the Daily Mail.

     

David May: Manchester United

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    Image from youtube.com
    Image from youtube.com

    David May became a cult hero at Manchester United for very specific reasons—most notably the silverware he won in 1999 and the celebrations that accompanied it.

    May had signed for United in 1994 and began to establish himself in Alex Ferguson's team over the next two seasons before injuries started to keep him out of the side.

    He was never the most talented player, so when Jaap Stam came into the frame at Old Trafford, May was relegated to the bench.

    When United faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, May was a substitute and was unused for the duration of the game. 

    However, when Ferguson's side celebrated their 2-1 win, May unashamedly led the celebrations—the focal point of many of the pictures taken that night in Camp Nou.

    He made 118 appearances for United in total, winning a haul of silverware before departing for Burnley in 2003.

    He may not be up there among United's greatest players, but he will always be remembered for that night in Barcelona.

    These days, as seen on the BBC Sport website, May now runs a wine-importing business. 

     

Lucas Radebe: Leeds United

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Sometimes cult heroes are created through their loyalty to a certain club. For Leeds, that player is Lucas Radebe.

    The South African, once called "my hero" by Nelson Mandela, has a beer named after him in Yorkshire. Leeds' team mascot and an entrance at Elland Road also bear his name.

    Signed by Howard Wilkinson in 1994, Radebe went on to make more than 200 appearances in 11 years with the club.

    Initially, he'd been brought in to help seal a deal to sign Phil Masinga, but Radebe went on to eclipse his countryman, fast becoming a lynchpin in a side that made it to the Champions League semi-finals in 2001.

    In a career often hampered by injury, Radebe always gave his all—returning after each setback full of conviction, seemingly bigger and stronger than before.

    The fact that Radebe turned down an offer to join fierce rivals Manchester United, as reported in the Telegraph, only endeared him to Leeds fans even more—the club's fans still smarting from the loss of Eric Cantona to United years earlier.

    Since retiring from football in 2005, Radebe has become known for his charity work and, in 2011, launched the Lucas Radebe U-17 Football Festival tournament to encourage and identify young talent.

     

     

     

Francis Benali: Southampton

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    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    Francis Benali—a player as famous for his luxuriant moustache as he was for his football.

    If that wasn't reason enough alone, Benali achieved cult status at Southampton for being a one-club man. 

    Born and bred in Southampton, he racked up 389 appearances in his time with the Saints, scoring just one goal.

    Not the most naturally gifted of players, Benali was a player whose hard work and determination won the crowd over.

    He played for his hometown club for more than 16 years before a loan spell with Nottingham Forest in 2001 and a two-year stint at non-league side Eastleigh.

    Benali took on a coaching role at Southampton in 2003 and spent time working as a youth coach at Romsey Town.

    These days he can be found in Southampton where he co-owns a Thai restaurant, as seen on thisishampshire.net.

     

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