In the run-up to the release of Issue Seven on 3rd December, we will be offering you a sneak peek at a couple of excerpts of articles from the forthcoming issue. First up is Blizzard debutant Paolo Bandini, on the story of how former Spurs keeper Espen Baardsen left behind his career in football to pursue one in finance.
Every now and then, Espen Baardsen gets a reminder of his former life. “One of the guys in the office will come in and say they were channel-surfing and saw Premiership Years,” he says. “It’s a TV show where they have the save of the season, the goal of the season, all sorts of stuff for a particular year. And I guess I had the save of the season [for Tottenham] against Bolton in 1998.”
It was indeed a remarkable stop, Baardsen uncoiling the full length of his 6’5” frame to tip away Jimmy Phillips’s right-footed strike as it arced towards the corner of the net. For Bolton it was also a pivotal moment, the save condemning them to a 1-0 defeat in the closing weeks of a season that would finish with them being relegated on goal-difference.
For Baardsen and Tottenham, however, it was a false dawn. The player, then just 20 years old, would go on to enjoy a fantastic year — representing Norway and being named as goalkeeper of the tournament at the European Under-21 Championships, then making his senior international debut in September. Yet despite such achievements he could never hold down the first-team job at Spurs and was sold to Watford in the summer of 2000.
Three years later, Baardsen retired. Aged just 25, he had suffered no critical injury, nor had he been discarded by the game. His form and career trajectory had undeniably taken a dip and he found himself temporarily without a club following a short-term contract at Everton, yet he still had his suitors. The thought of carrying on, though, simply did not appeal. Baardsen had, in the classic sporting parlance, ‘fallen out of love with the game’.
If that can be a difficult concept to grasp for the many supporters who have lost countless hours daydreaming of how it might be to play for a living the sport they love, then Baardsen had identified a path that he believed he would find altogether more fulfilling. Rather than football, he wanted to work in finance.
Time has borne out that judgement. When I meet him at the west London offices of Eclectica, the asset management fund where he is now a partner, Baardsen is not only happy but in remarkably good shape. Despite having retired from football nearly a decade ago, he — seven years younger than Tottenham’s present goalkeeper, Brad Friedel — claims to be in better physical condition now than at the end of his playing career.
Simply put, giving up football was the best decision Espen Baardsen ever made.