He Played For Them Too: Chelsea - Jason Cundy
Cundy had a fairly long, yet short career, if that makes any sense? Long in as much as it saw him play as a professional for some 12-13-years or so, but in this time he made less than 150 league appearances - so this averages at roughly less than 13 league appearances per season, maybe an omen as to later stages, 13 being an unlucky number for some of course!
The beginning - Chelsea
His career started in the late 80s. I am not quite sure if it was the 87/88 or 88/89 season, either way it was with this weeks opponents Chelsea, when they very much were Chelsea. Those days were very much the pre 'Chelski days', days that were not even the minuscule of thoughts in many, if any Chelsea fans mind - they were the old Division Two days under Ken Bates, although the Stamford Bridge outfit would be in Division One before long. Bates had purchased the club for a mere £1 in the early 1980s but went on to sell it to Roman Abramovich a few years back for a whopping £140m!
I believe that despite not making his 1st team breakthrough, at least failing to make a league appearance, the defender was voted as Chelsea's Young Player of the Year in his first season. Despite this accolade it was not until 90/91 season that he made his league bow in Division One, a season that saw him go on to make 29 league appearances, chipping in with a solitary goal. The following season the England u21 defender was again in the side but before that 91/92 season was out he would be on the move, firstly on loan, before moving across London to a fierce and local rival...
On the move - to a rival!
Terry Venables, a man who would latterly go onto have a 'helping hand' in Pompey's downfall and near on financial ruin, was the then Spurs chief executive and he along with Peter Shreeves liked the look of Cundy and managed to lure him across London for a loan spell with Spurs and before the 91/92 season was through this move was turned into a permanent one to White Hart Lane with Sir Alan Sugar shelling out £750,000 for him at the end of March 1992 - pocket change by today's standards, and although not a fortune even then it still was not chicken feed, remember, 'footballing life had not began, as the invent of the Premiership was not quite there!'
The following season would see his football limited, but he would be involved in a moment that has gone down in footballing history, making him something of an 'iconic figure' of the modern game...
'Football in England finally landed in 1992', sky got their claws into the English game and the Premiership was born, the place to be and as time went on the 'only place' to be... Well in this season, the 92/93 one, the sky cameras were at the game to capture Cundy's amazing goal, or should that be freak' goal! More the latter for sure!
I do remember this when it happened, I did not have sky at the time but did watch the game somewhere and saw the first 'Beckham moment' that I had witnessed - although to be fair it was hardly a Beckham moment was it, the former England captain knew all to well what he was doing when he scored against Wimbledon for Manyoo from the halfway line in the mid 90s, Cundy was merely trying to clear the danger when he scored from a similar, well, and again to be fair to Beckham, closer distance.
Cundy swept in to make a tackle and with the wind being especially strong that day, with Spurs playing with this aiding them the ball flew towards goal and in beyond a helpless Ipswich keeper Craig Forrest - who would actually also suffer testicular cancer later in his career, but this would sadly end his playing days in 2002...
Limited football, time to move on again... eventually
The 93/94-96/97 seasons saw Cundy limited to just 1 league game for Spurs, clearly this was not enough for him and in order to get some 1st team football again he moved to another London side Palace for a one-month loan spell in the 95/96 season, going out on loan again the following season to spent a month with Bristol City. The latter loan spell with the Division Two side did not go unnoticed and Ipswich, by then again a Division One side, swooped in to take him to Portman Road on loan firstly and then at the end of October 96 permanently for £200,000. That number '13' would be the amount of league games he would play for Ipswich that season.
Battle with Cancer
Cundy was finally getting regular 1st team football, he was one of the first names on the team sheet and looked to be staying that way - but his, and his families worlds would come crashing down. I would imagine that 'priorities were put in order' when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997...
No one is 'immune' to anything, footballers do not get special dispensation from career, strike that, life-threatening injuries/illness and Cundy was proof of this. Thankfully he managed to overcome this, not only overcoming this, but overcoming this to return to playing professional football again and his return enabled him to make 4 league appearances in the 98/99 season for Ipswich.
Onwards and upward, erm, onward anyway to Pompey...
Cundy, who at 29 had a wealth of experience behind him, and having overcome a potentially life threatening illness was the kind of player that Pompey, as always a struggling side in Division One, needed.
The late, great Alan Ball bought him to Fratton in the summer of 99, making him the first signing that summer - his first signing of his second spell altogether? Injuries limited him to just 9 league outings in the 99/2000 season - a season that saw Pompey managed by 3 different people. Bally was sacked December, so this meant Bob McNabb came in on a temporary basis until January 2000. Tony Pulis was then installed into the hot seat, of course he did not last long into the 2000/01 season did he...
I really cannot remember much about Cundy and his performances in a Pompey shirt, do not get me wrong I am not saying they were bad, but there were so few of them I cannot recall them. Either way Cundy was all but done, the chances of him recovering and playing for Pompey again were limited, and despite being registered as a player for the 2000/01 season he announced his retirement from the game at the age of 30. I am not sure if Pulis was still the manager or if Stevie Claridge had taken over as player-manager by then?
We had a terrible record with players picking up career ending, or at least career hampering, which may as well have been career threatening in the early 000s, with Cundy being just one of them. Of course Rory Allen, who became our then record signing for a little over £1m had to eventually retire due to injury, Mark Burchill picked up a serious injury that just about finished him, the same goes for Vincent Pericard and of course home grown talent Luke Nightingale to name but a few. The club was 'a jinx' for players in the early stages of the 000s - someone up their certainly was not liking us over those years were they, or had we made a deal with someone to save the club from extinction, which came at a price...
So, Pompey, a struggling Division One side had lost a player who had rarely played for them due to a career ending injury - the last thing we needed! Although, of course insurance would have paid out, it appears this paid out very well... Listening to TalkSport the other day they were doing a 'worst transfers ever' theme, and some bright spark recommended Jason Cundy for Pompey! His retort to that was that Pompey actually did well out of him. They got him on a free and got a few games out of him and received a tasty payout due to his insurance coverage - so they were not left out of pocket.
After the game
As mentioned above, Cundy is of course now working on TalkSport - a station on which he was once announced as having died in a prank that went wrong. Some fans of Chelski, they had become Chelski by then, thought this true so they laid flowers at Stamford Bridge! As well as this radio work he also works on Chelsea TV, you often see him talking on sky sports as well if there is something going on at the Bridge.
Along with this media work he is also part of a company known as Sporting Experience, a company that he created with another former Chelsea footballer, and legendary figure of the lower league and non-league scene as a veteran Clive Walker. Sporting Experience allows people to 'make a day of it', you and friends meet up, have the chance to play a game against some former professionals, get the whole package of team photo and all, do a Q&A with the pros you then go to a professional game, have drinks and the like. By the sounds of it, a fine day out - although I would suspect a pretty pricey day out too, but well worth it if you are a Chelski fan and you have the cash I guess...
I am pretty sure that Cundy also worked as a youth coach at Spurs for a while, or this might have been at Chelsea, maybe even both at various points - maybe he still does. To be honest with you, finding out much about Cundy is a task, as there is not a lot to be found, even though in theory there really should!
The memories of Jason Cundy will clearly vary between Chelsea and Pompey, no one can ever come and play for Pompey without having fond memories of the club - and at his time with the club the fans were in the height of passion, even more so than they are now due to the financial plight at the time. Clearly his time with Chelsea will mean more to him, he started his career with the club and is still closely linked to them now, but despite his injury problems during his limited time on the South Coast he still played around a quarter of the amount of game for us in this time as he did Chelsea over a what, a 4-year period...
As said my memories are not very vivid of him in a Pompey shirt, but I do not recall him being a bad player for us, and had injury not finished his career I think he 'could' have been a big part of our moves forward into the top-flight, maybe, even though he would have been a veteran at that stage, he could have even been a part of the side that did make it into 'the promised land?'
PLAY UP POMPEY!
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