Kinkladze and Ketsbaia: Georgia's Premier League cult heroes

Ireland's opponents have produced two of the more memorable players from the '90s

Temuri Ketsbaia, Newcastle

Temuri Ketsbaia of Newcastle United gives a thumbs up to the fans at the end of the match. Picture by: Chris Turvey / EMPICS Sport

Wine is one of the products that Georgia is famed for producing.

But the country of 3.7 million people has also provided as many Premier League cult heros per capita as any other nation (granted this is not a verifiable statistic and may be highly inaccurate).

The most obvious example is Georgi Kinkladze, who is still spoken of today, particularly thanks to his exploits at Manchester City.

He moved to England in 1995, at a time when English clubs were only beginning to start the influx of foreign players to their shores.

So settling in could be more difficult and homesickness was an issue for him initially, although his mother had the perfect solution by arriving in Manchester in Christmas of 1995.

City might have got relegated in 1995-96 but on an individual level the man who had moved from Dinamo Tbilisi in his homeland made an impact and thrived.

And with many cult heroes of that era, wonder goals played a part.

This one against Southampton during the 1995-96 season isn't bad is it?

Nope. Not bad at all.

It almost makes Dimitri Payet's mazy run and goal for West Ham against Middlesbrough look ordinary.

Speaking of 'Boro, who had a cult hero of their own in Brazilian Juninho, Kinkladze had another magical dribble in him during a 4-1 defeat.

Significantly though, despite City's relegation from the top flight in 1996, he stayed with the club for a couple more years in the lower divisions. 

Having left in 1998, he would return after the turn of the Millennium to play for Derby County.

Around the time that he was absent in between his City and Derby spells, another Georgian had arrived in England.

He is not as well remembered overall but former Newcastle midfielder Temuri Ketsbaia, who later managed his country between 2009 and 2014 including against Ireland, once scored a goal against Bolton in 1998.

But it was what he did next which earned him cult hero status.

Flinging his shirt into the crowd, he then proceeded to repeatedly kick the advertising hoardings and also sear his name into memory as a result.

And if you think Ketsbaia did not indulge in Kinkladze-esque dribbles and goals, think again.