The leading goalscorer in Premier League history without ever scoring a penalty, Les Ferdinand established himself as one of English football’s most feared marksmen during the nineties.
However, facing stiff competition from the likes of Alan Shearer, Andrew Cole, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Teddy Sheringham, Ian Wright and Matt Le Tissier throughout the decade, the forward was restricted to limited opportunities on the international stage.
Starting his senior career with QPR following goal-laden stints with non-league sides Southall and Hayes, Ferdinand took his time to make his mark at Loftus Road.
Enjoying temporary stints with both Brentford and Besiktas, it wasn’t until the formation of the Premiership in 1992 that he really established himself as a potent finisher.
Netting 20 goals during its inaugural season, second only to Sheringham, Ferdinand’s form did not go unnoticed as Graham Taylor handed him his Three Lions debut, with the forward making a goalscoring start in England’s 6-0 1994 World Cup qualifying victory over San Marino.
Continuing to impress at club level, he featured in a further four qualifiers and was again on the scoresheet against Poland and San Marino as England failed to qualify.
Moving to Newcastle United in 1995 after scoring 24 goals in his final season with QPR, the forward netted a career best 25 in 1995/96 during his first year on Tyneside, behind only Shearer and Fowler in both campaigns, as Kevin Keegan’s side finished as Premiership runners-up.
Despite having found his international game-time limited following the appointment of Terry Venables, Ferdinand was included in his finals squad as England hosted Euro 1996.
But with Shearer and Sheringham firmly established as the Three Lions’ first-choice strike partnership, he was to remain unused throughout the tournament.
Instead, Nicky Barmby and Fowler were utilised as the attacking options from the substitutes’ bench with the forward’s lack of credentials from the penalty spot costing him potential involvement.
Remaining unbeaten throughout the group-stages with an opening draw against Switzerland before beating Scotland and the Netherlands, Ferdinand watched on as England overcame Spain on spot-kicks before bowing out to Germany by the same method in the semi-finals.
Newcastle signed Shearer following the tournament, with the duo impressing together for both club and country during Glenn Hoddle’s opening months as Three Lions manager, with Ferdinand netting his final international goal in a 1998 World Cup qualifier against Georgia.
After seeing Newcastle again finish as Premiership runners-up, the forward joined boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur in 1997, helping the club avoid relegation in his first year in North London though injuries would disrupt his time at White Hart Lane.
Despite this, Ferdinand was included in England’s squad for the 1998 World Cup in France after featuring in their three final warm-up matches in the King Hassan II tournament, though he would miss a decisive penalty in their shootout defeat to Belgium in what would prove to be his final cap.
Remaining unused as Sheringham initially partnered Shearer before being usurped by Owen as the tournament progressed, penalties once again proved to be England’s undoing as they were knocked out by Argentina in the second round.
Although still troubled by injuries, Ferdinand helped Tottenham win the League Cup in 1999, beating Leicester City at Wembley, before reaching the final again in 2002.
Partnering Sheringham in attack in his final years with the club, he also reached double figures in both 2000/01 and 2001/02, including the Premier League’s 10,000th goal, before moving on to West Ham United in January 2003.
He enjoyed an Indian summer with Leicester City in 2003/04 as he netted 12 goals, before joining Bolton Wanderers at the end of the year following the Foxes’ relegation to the Championship.
Spending just half a season at the Reebok Stadium, the forward memorably scored against Manchester United with what would prove to be his last top-flight goal, before finishing his playing career with stints at Reading and Watford.
Initially embarking on a coaching career with Tottenham, Ferdinand returned to Queens Park Rangers as Head of Football Operations in October 2014, before being appointed as the club’s Director of Football the following February.