When Tottenham finally got their man in September 2001, the £8.1m paid for central defender Dean Richards was the highest fee ever paid for a non-international. It had been a gruelling negotiation; Hoddle had left Southampton for Spurs in March of that year, and wanted to re-team with a player he rated highly. Richards had recently signed a new deal at St Mary’s, and the club were extremely reluctant to sell, and still smarting over Hoddle’s departure.
Richards had started his career at home-town Bradford City before joining Wolverhampton Wanderers (despite apparent interest from Manchester United) prior to signing for Southampton. Aggressive in the tackle and formidable in the air, his size and strength could sometimes disguise what a cultured player he was, equally happy to carry the ball out of defence as he was to go full-hearted into a 50/50 challenge.
Richards made a goal-scoring debut for Spurs in an infamous match against Manchester United. Leading 3-0 at half time, we would go on to lose 5-3 and this was to be a sign of the troubled Tottenham career Richards would have.
Richards played often with back pain, and promising defensive partnerships with Anthony Gardner and Ledley King never really came to fruition. Between injuries and changes of manager, Richards never really fulfilled the potential so many believed he had. He played only a few matches during the 2004/05 season due to ear pain, and in March 2005, suffering dizzy spells and headaches he was advised he should retire, aged just 30. He took up a part-time youth coaching role at Bradford City in 2007 but sadly passed away on 26th February 2011, aged just 36.
Richards made 81 appearances for Tottenham, scoring 4 goals. He never made a senior international appearance, but made 4 appearances for the England U21 side, captaining the team at the 1995 Toulon Tournament.
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