Player Profile: Willem Korsten

When mentioning the name Willem Korsten to Spurs supporters you are likely to garner one of two reactions:

  1. A blank stare
  2. A misty eyed recollection of a 3-1 mauling of Man United on the last day of the 2000/2001 season

Korsten made his Premier League debut for Leeds whilst on loan from Vitesse Arnhem, and the left-footed Dutch winger quickly turned heads in the top flight with several impressive displays in the seven matches he played for the Yorkshire club. It looked certain that Leeds would turn the loan signing into a permanent one. Tottenham, however, had other ideas and also made a bid for the highly rated forward, ultimately Korsten decided he’d be happier in navy blue shorts than white ones, putting pen to paper on a permanent contract with Spurs. Even for the time the fee was a modest £1.5 million.

He was supposedly signed as a replacement for David Ginola, metaphorically probably the largest boots he could ever be expected to fill, as the flamboyant Frenchman had gifted Spurs fans with some of the few genuinely bright moments in a predominantly dark period for the club. Unfortunately for both Korsten and Spurs, the form he showed in his early days at Leeds was rarely replicated in north London.

After impressing in the 2000/2001 pre-season Korsten picked up an injury, side-lining him for a large portion of his first full season at Spurs. On his return to fitness he showed glimmers of the player Tottenham hoped he would become, scoring his first goal for the club in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool. Despite eventually finding fitness and what seemed to be a semi-permanent place in Tottenham’s starting eleven Korsten was again side-lined, this time by suspension, after receiving a red card in a 3-0 loss to Chelsea for two bookings within the space of 10 minutes. Korsten returned from suspension just in time for the last match of the season – Manchester United’s visit to White Hart Lane.

The clash was meaningless in the sense that neither team had anything to play for – Tottenham were languishing in lower mid-table obscurity and United had already been crowned champions, but this match will remain in the memory of many a Spurs fan, largely due to the outstanding performance of Korsten.

Due to the unavailability of other striking options Korsten started in a more advanced, attacking position than usual, playing just off the evergreen Les Ferdinand. And it only took 17 minutes for his finest footballing moment to begin. Raimond van der Gouw punched a Simon Davies corner to the edge of the United area where Korsten was waiting, he deftly took the ball on his chest and proceeded to hit a sublime, dipping, left-foot volley beyond the United keeper, a goal even the great Ginola would have been proud of.

United equalised soon after through Paul Scholes, but this day belonged to Korsten, as he doubled his tally and fired Spurs back into the lead with 67 minutes played, this time with his right foot in a less spectacular, but still impressive fashion, finishing low into the bottom corner of the United net.
Les Ferdinand rounded off the victory, and indeed the season for Spurs with the third goal leaving the score at 3-1. A rare win for Spurs against United.

Spurs fans left the Lane that afternoon full of talk about what magic they could see in the future from Korsten and whether Tottenham had found the next, Ginola, Gascoigne, or maybe even Hoddle.

Unfortunately, those fans would never get to find out. A recurring hip injury meant that he would never take to the field in Spurs colours again, sadly forcing his retirement from professional football in October of 2001 at the young age of 26.

He may have only played 23 league games for Tottenham Hotspur and will never be considered a Spurs legend, but if you’re only as good as your last game he must’ve been alright.

Owen Brand has two turntables and a microphone and can be found on Twitter.

Tags: Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur

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Tom 2 November 2012 at 11:11am

I loved Willem Korsten and I remember his goals against Utd. Keep the golden age Spurs profiles coming – how about Mauricio Taricco? He never got the fame he deserved.

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