Niko Kranjcar: I played for Spurs, Rangers, Dynamo Kiev and QPR, but my heart will always be with Portsmouth - the most enjoyable time of my career
Niko Kranjcar has revealed Pompey represents his most enjoyable time in football – and gave him his finest club achievement.
The cultured Croat featured for Spurs, Dynamo Kiev, QPR, Hajduk Split, New York Cosmos, Rangers and Dinamo Zagreb during a career which also yielded 81 international caps.
While he regards claiming the 2008 FA Cup with the Blues as the ‘biggest achievement of my career club-wise’.
‘Pompey are one of the rare clubs which has been saved by supporters, a fantastic achievement which shows their passion, commitment and determination,’ he told Played Up Pompey Three.
‘This is one story which will remain through history – the supporters helped get that club back on its feet. I have so much respect for Pompey fans, I cannot emphasise that enough.
‘It was the time I enjoyed playing football the most, especially that 2007-08 season. I always say that, it’s not just me talking to you because you are writing a book about Pompey, I genuinely enjoyed it.
‘The club gets to you, it’s the passion of the fans, the tradition of their ground, it serves as a piece of romanticism about how football was played before this era.
‘It’s a club which has a special place in my heart. We all want to play for Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United, but I never saw Pompey as just a stepping stone, it was somewhere I could evolve as a player.
‘Football today is dictated by money – and the teams which have the most are successful because they can attract better players.
‘For that reason, what we achieved at Pompey was even more special. Yes, the owner spent a lot on players, but it was still less than the top-six clubs – and what we achieved as a result will forever stay in Pompey’s history.
‘The biggest achievement of my career club-wise was winning that FA Cup with Pompey.
‘If you play with Chelsea or Arsenal you’re expected to achieve success – but surely not with Pompey.
‘In Croatia during that era, the FA Cup was viewed as the greatest club trophy in the world and I would always watch it.
‘I can recall seeing my countryman, Silvio Maric, becoming the first Croatian to appear in an FA Cup final, when he entered as a substitute for Newcastle United against Manchester United. That May 1999 final ended with the Red Devils winning 2-0.
‘With other countries, you would watch their seasons, but not the cup games – yet the FA Cup was different, you’d always sit down to see those fixtures, especially the semi-finals and final.
‘It had history, it had tradition, and I managed to win it, with my family present.’
After leaving Pompey in September 2009, Kranjcar went on to 72 appearances for Spurs, scoring 11 goals.
He also spent time at Dynamo Kiev, before reuniting with Harry Redknapp at QPR and later ending his career during an injury-ravaged spell with Rangers in Scotland.
He added: ‘That 2007-08 season represented my best in domestic football.
‘My first campaign at Tottenham Hotspur was special too, securing Champions League football for the first time in the club’s history, while finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
‘As FA Cup holders and having also finished eighth, representing Pompey’s highest placing for more than half a century, we were hoping to continue our success in 2008-09, but a lot of things changed off the pitch, as everybody knows.
‘We were aware of what was happening, everyone knows what’s going on off the pitch. We had heard things and that brings with it a certain level of instability to the group itself.
‘Of course, that included Harry leaving for Spurs in October 2008.’
Niko Kranjcar made 100 appearances for Pompey and scored 12 times from August 2006 until September 2009.
Played Up Pompey (paperback) and Pompey: The Island City With A Football Club For A Heart are also on sale from the above.
Alternatively, contact [email protected] for copies autographed by those featured in the books, including the signatures of Michael Doyle and Benjani.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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