When Jermain Defoe rejoined Tottenham yesterday, he became the newest member of an extremely unique club that has seen it’s membership dwindle over the last few seasons. Very few players rejoin a club they used to play for whilst at the peak of their powers but Defoe returns to Tottenham with his best years ahead of him to join up with Redknapp for the 3rd time in his career. Some players usually return to the home of former glories to wind down their careers but Defoe is not the first player to come back when he still has the skills and the abilities to continue adding to his goalscoring record. To say Spurs fans are happy to see the striker return would be an understatement and I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t start and score on his second Tottenham debut against Wigan Athletic on Sunday. As a long suffering Spurs fan, I never wanted the lad to leave and I’m delighted to have him back at White Hart Lane. It’s not something that is that common these days but as soon as the deal materialised, I began to think about other notable returns in top flight football and two names jumped out straight away.
Ian Rush was the first player that I came across as fan who made the jump back to the club that had sold him when he left Juventus after just over 12 months to rejoin Liverpool in 1988. Rush’s time at Juventus is often not given the credence it deserves, with people viewing it as some kind of failure but whilst he only notched 7 goals in 29 appearances, at the time Serie A was easily the best league in the world and the concentration on the art of defending meant that many a great striker had trouble scoring double figures. As one of the three great top goal poachers playing the First Division back in the 1980’s, Rushie’s status as one of the greats was never in jeopardy on Anfield, but to return and continue scoring goals cemented his place in Anfield folklore.
The other returning hero was Mark Hughes, who left Manchester United to join Barcelona in 1986 but his spell at the Camp Nou was a major disappointment playing alongside Gary Lineker and after Venables was sacked, Hughes was shipped out on loan to Bayern Munich the following season and regained the form that had seen Barca pay £2 million for him at the time with 6 goals in 18 games. The Summer of 1988 saw Alex Ferguson re-sign Hughes for £1.8 million and Sparky won the PFA player of the year award in the 1988-89 season. Hughes’ reputation for United was probably built on his performances after his return from the continent and his performance against Barcelona in the 1991 Cup Winners Cup Final, scoring both of United’s goals in a 2-1 win, would have laid more than just footballing ghosts to rest.
Of course another notable member of the club is David Unsworth, but more for comedy value than anything else. Unsworth had been with Everton before leaving the side to join West Ham United in 1997, but after only one season Unsworth left for Aston Villa and that’s when the problems began. His family had missed being near Merseyside during his spell with the Hammers so wanted to move further North to be closer to their nearest and dearest. Unfortunately, Unsworth declared that he thought Birmingham was 10 minutes away from Liverpool and his unhappy wife kept throwing his dinner in the bin when he got stuck in traffic jams on the drive back up the M6 to their Liverpool home. Within a month of joining Villa, Everton came to his rescue with a £3 million bid to bring him home to warm meals and a happy family. The fact that the day he joined Villa, he found out Everton wanted to re-sign him obviously had nothing to do with the scenes of domestic strife that Unsworth painted to Aston Villa.
Ironically, we’ll finish with a connection to where we started with Harry Redknapp. You may never have heard of a player called Joey Beauchamp, but Redknapp and fans of West Ham United, Swindon Town and Oxford United certainly have. Most Football League players dream of a Premiership move, with the exception of one Joey Beauchamp. Redknapp signed the tricky winger from Oxford United in 1994 for £1.2 million and great things were expected of the player but it all went a little bit surreal when Beauchamp declared he was homesick after two months in London without kicking a ball. The distance of 63 miles or a drive of 1 hour 40 minutes was far too intense for this young man, he requested a transfer to be nearer home and 58 days later the Hammers sold him for £800,000 and defender Adrian Whitbread to Swindon Town, a mere 30 miles away from his beloved Oxford. 12 months later Beauchamp finally made his return to Oxford United for a measly £75,000, a massive loss of investment for Swindon Town and face for Mr Beauchamp. Beauchamp is still playing non-league football for Abington Town who play in the Hellenic League and hopefully the travelling won’t be too much for him.
So Defoe joins an elite club, but is there anyone I’ve missed? Obviously Robbie Fowler springs to mind but he took 5 years and two clubs to return to Anfield, Steve Staunton spent 5 years at Liverpool, left to join Aston Villa for 7 seasons, went back to Anfield for 2 seasons before returning to Villa for another 3 years and goalkeeper John Lukic matched the achievement by leaving Leeds United to join Arsenal in 1983, returned 7 years later to Elland Road before finishing his career at the Gunners from 1996 to 2001. Yet none of these players can match Scottish striker and well known party animal Frank McAvennie who played for all three of St Mirren, West Ham and Celtic in two separate spells in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.