Marton Fulop's disastrous game for West Brom against Arsenal on the final day of last season effectively cost Spurs Champions League football. But now the former Manchester City, Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Leicester City and Stoke stopper is leading Greek minnows Asteras Tripoli to European football
Ever heard of the side Asteras Tripoli? No that seems fair enough.
Have you ever heard of a Hungarian goalkeeper by the name of Marton Fulop? Ahh yes now that probably rings a bell; especially if you are a Tottenham Hotspur fan.
Not only did the stopper spend a rather uneventful three years at White Hart Lane between 2004 and 2007 but he will also be remembered less fondly in the role he played in Spurs failing to qualify for the Champions League last season.
On the final day of the campaign not much separated North London rivals Spurs and Arsenal from third and fourth place in the Premier League which in a normal season would not matter; but this was no normal season.
Chelsea decided to throw a spanner in the works by underperforming in the league while excelling in Europe. So while they finished sixth behind Newcastle United in the league they were also famously triumphant over Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final.
So while neither side knew it at the time they certainly knew that finishing fourth was no guarantee of Champions League football in 2012-13.
On the final day of the season Spurs faced off with Fulham at home while Arsenal travelled to The Hawthorns to take on West Brom. Tottenham did their job by beating Fulham 2-0 via goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe so they were just relying on West Brom to do them a favour against The Gunners.
It was a mad day for The Baggies as they prepared to say goodbye to Roy Hodgson who was ready to embark on a new adventure with the England national team and his team selection was slightly thrown out of joint when Ben Foster pulled a groin in training. Fulop was therefore asked to play his first Premier League game of the season in game 38.
The journeyman keeper who had previously played for Sunderland, Ipswich, Leicester and Manchester City since his time in North London then went on to have a game he would rather forget.
West Brom lost the game 3-2 but all three of Arsenal’s goals were preventable. First he misjudged the run of the ball and allowed Yossi Benayoun to score an open goal before allowing Andre Santos’s shot to squirm under him but he was not yet done. The piece de la resistance was his flappy punch at a corner which allowed Laurent Koscielny to score the goal that come May 19th confirmed Spurs’ absence from the Champions League the next season.
Fulop recently spoke about that game in the English press and said:
“I've never watched the Arsenal game again, I'm not a masochist. It was a nightmare and it took me a long time to get over. I had not thought about the consequences for Tottenham, but afterwards I did and that made it harder. I was a Spurs fan as a boy and then I joined the club, so they are very close to my heart. I watched the Champions League final praying Bayern Munich would win because I wanted Tottenham to qualify. Obviously, I was upset it didn't happen.”
Now those memories are being eased as his career finally takes off in a very unlikely destination; Tripoli.
No not that unlikely but rather the Tripoli in Greece where his solid performances in goal including 12 clean sheets have seen his side Asteras Tripoli climb to second in the Greek Super League behind runaway leaders Olympiakos.
The side have capitalised on the financial crisis in the country that has seen the likes of Panathinaikos, AEK Athens and Aris struggle with a superb season that sees them almost assured of a spot in the Champions League play-offs at the end of the season.
It could be that one year on from costing his beloved Spurs a Champions League spot he might just earn his new club a place alongside them next season.
Here is one of the howlers from the infamous game against Arsenal; Marton if you are reading look away now…
image: © katdodd