Darren Anderton has suggested that pressure from former Tottenham Hotspur chairman Alan Sugar saw him play a game in 1997 while injured, something he believes contributed to the well-documented injury troubles he faced during his career.
The former Spurs winger often faced plenty criticism for his supposed inability to stay fit for entire seasons, earning the nickname 'sicknote' as a result. Anderton has challenged those claims, though, highlighting one game where Sugar forced manager Gerry Francis to stick him on as a substitute.
Having missed the entire start of the 1997/98 Premier League season through injury, Anderton returned in October during a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. He claims he wasn't ready to play, but that didn't stop him entering the pitch as a sub.
“When I’d been out injured for about three months, he asked me to sit on the bench, to give the crowd a lift,” Anderton tells FourFourTwo. “I needed to be held back, but he said that if I gave the crowd a lift, I wouldn’t be required anyway.
"We were 3-0 up at half-time and he came in smiling as if to say, ‘Look at me; look what I’ve done’. Then, with 10 minutes to go, it was 3-2 and Gerry Francis brought me on. I was scared s**tless to use my right foot.”
Francis has often been scapegoated for failing to manage Anderton's recurring injuries, too, which resulted in the winger only appearing in eight games in the 1995/96 season and 17 games in 1996/97.
However, a previous interview conducted by FFT highlights that Anderton doesn't believe this to be the case.
"Gerry Francis and others had great faith in me," Anderton previously said. "I think Alan Sugar was pretty annoyed because he wanted me to justify being Spurs’ top earner. He was very frustrated, which I can understand, but it put pressure on the physio to get me fit, which led to the wrong diagnosis. Now physios are stronger.
"Nowadays you see some players stretchered off on a Saturday and back in training the following Tuesday. There can’t be much wrong with them. I played for 30 minutes with a strained knee ligament, but still finished the game.
"I don’t think that’s being a sicknote. I was thinking: ‘If I don’t play today, I’m going to get slaughtered.’ It made things worse. Football’s better set up now. Chairmen realise there’s no point paying someone millions of pounds if they aren’t going to be cared for in the right way."
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.