Santos looks to come back from the brink
A FEW months ago Georges Santos thought he was heading for the footballing scrapheap, writes Derek Davis.Released by Sheffield United after an eventful time at Bramall Lane, which included a career-threatening facial injury and a red card for exacting revenge on the perpetrator, things looked bleak for the Frenchman who at more than 30-years-old was struggling to find a club.
A FEW months ago Georges Santos thought he was heading for the footballing scrapheap, writes Derek Davis.
Released by Sheffield United after an eventful time at Bramall Lane, which included a career-threatening facial injury and a red card for exacting revenge on the perpetrator, things looked bleak for the Frenchman who at more than 30-years-old was struggling to find a club.
Salvation came in the form of The Mariners as Grimsby took him on to try to save them from relegation, but a hamstring injury ruined part of his season.
Relegation was almost inevitable for Grimsby but they dearly wanted to keep the out-of contract midfielder come central defender.
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Santos though had other ideas and now, rather than Second Division football or returning to France, he is using the three-month contract Blues boss Joe Royle has given him as a springboard to achieve his ultimate ambition – playing in the Premiership.
An articulate, quietly-spoken but confident and engaging talker, Santos has more the look of a professor with his wire-rimmed glasses and intelligent, almost laconic manner, rather than the beast he has been labelled on the pitch.
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Marcus Bent, who knows him well from their days at Sheffield United together and on opposing sides before and since, calls him BFG, the Big Friendly Giant, and has nothing but praise and respect for him as a man and a player.
Some opponents and officials have not been so enamoured by his physical presence and he has shown in the past he is not someone to be messed with.
Andy Johnson of West Brom made a mistake when he elbowed Santos in the face, cracking his cheekbone and eye socket.
The Frenchman feared he would lose the sight in one eye and at one stage it was only 50/50 that he would play again.
He did and justice was dished out when he went on as a substitute and was red-carded within two minutes while with Sheffield United against West Brom and Johnson was left in no doubt about who was going to have the last word.
Santos arrived in England after spending his formative years playing in France – Drissa Diallo was a foe for years – and he regrets not coming to England earlier.
He arrived at Tranmere Rovers in 1998 and was an instant hit, playing alongside John McGreal for a season before McGreal's successful move south to Portman Road.
Santos then moved to West Brom, which didn't really work out, Sheffield United, where he was worshipped, and then Grimsby who still want him back.
Santos said: "I love playing in England. I love playing every three days and in front of full houses.
"The fans are brilliant, they are always happy and get behind you. I have no desire to go back to France. I enjoy the English attitude which suits my style."
But not everyone admires Santos' style, in particular referees, who seem to have a problem with his wholehearted approach.
He said: "Yes, referees seem a bit worried but I just get on with my physical type of game. Sometimes it is not easy for the referee but it does seem they are looking for Georges Santos.
"I'm 6'2'' so when I take the ball sometimes the man goes too but I'm not going to hold back just because they want to book me for tackling.
"I'm not a nasty player at all, I always try to win the ball fairly."
His presence, along with Diallo, will add much-needed steel in the Town make-up and although he has impressed already in pre-season his future is by no means guaranteed.
He said: "I just have a three-month contract at the moment but I'm already determined to try and win a longer term deal.
"Ipswich have given me a chance to play in the First Division and I want to take that opportunity. I would love to play in the Premiership before I retire.
"I have three months to show the manager what I can do and I want to be here when we go up next season."
The Frenchman is relishing the prospect of playing at the more enjoyable end of the division but knows getting off to a good start is imperative and the silly mistakes from last year can not be repeated.
He added: "We need to concentrate for every minute of every game. That is one reason why Ipswich did not go up, because they allowed to many games to go away from them when they should have won.
"Now we have a team that can score plenty of goals all we need to do now is be tighter at the back and keep clean sheets.
"It is important to get off to a good start and that begins with Reading on August 9 and I can't wait."