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Premier League cult heroes - Tugay

Monday 21st August 2017
Once, Blackburn Rovers were a top half team that could never quite break the top four stronghold. In that era, Tugay Kerimoglu made the game appear simple.

Rovers were stunningly crowned Premier League champions in 1995. They never threatened again but remained largely competitive until relegated to the Championship in 2012. There were some interesting players at the club during that time. Morten Gamst Pedersen may be best remembered. This is the story of another.

In 2001 Blackburn manager Graeme Souness recruited a Turkish midfielder by the name of Tugay Rangers. As the pair had previously worked together at Galatasaray, the Scot believed the Turk was the ideal player in the centre of the pitch for his side.

Tugay arrived at 30, with a wealth of club and international experience. With nearly 60 caps for country and a dozen years playing for Galatasaray, he was no stranger to the game. His pedigree showed throughout his eight-year spell in the Premier League.
Ewood Park fans soon realised they had a player who could use his knowledge and vision to control the game. More famously, he could score from distance with some sensational efforts.

Tugay was the type of player teammates love. He wouldn't win a game on his own. Rather, his intelligent play made life so much easier for everyone. He was his era's prototypical holding midfielder, purposefully dictating tempo, pulling the strings.

His ability and performance earned the highest praise. It was difficult to believe any fan or professional had a bad word to say about him. Mark Hughes, his manager from 2004-2008, was once asked if he wished the Turkish international were 10 years younger. Despite the prospect of a youthful Tugay, Hughes counted himself blessed, suggesting the younger version would be at Barcelona, not Blackburn.

Tugay regularly gifted Rovers faithful with stunning goals. Goals he had no right to even think of attempting. Whether a strike from distance that bent around the goalkeeper or his trademark volleys into the top corner, he regularly ended the campaign with at least one goal of the season contender. That alone was enough to brand him a cult hero.
His goal repertoire is sufficient to rival many greats. His thumping volley against Tottenham in 2006 was a prime example of the incredibly striking ability he possessed. It offers an insight into the moments Blackburns fans enjoyed for eight years and why Tugay was named Rovers 2004 Player of the Year.

He hung up his boots in May, 2009, at Ewood Park before a packed out stadium, against West Brom. In an emotional farewell, the Turk received a standing ovation when substituted late on, the entire crowd saddened to see him leave. He still remains a firm favourite at the club. If Blackburn had been able to discover another Tugay Kerimoglu, they may not now find themselves mired in League One.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.


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