90′s Time Tunnel – Euro 2012 Special: John Jensen
With the Euro 2012 final on the horizon, The 90′s Time Tunnel is back! In this week’s installment, let’s go back to the very first European Championships of the 90′s. Let’s go back to Euro 92, and a man that scored in the final – but is remembered for not scoring for a long, long time. That man is John Jensen.
He began his career in his native Denmark in 1986, at Brondby IF. He was an important part of the dominant Brondby side that won several Danish titles in the lates 1980′s – capped off with the Danish player of the year award and a call up to the Denmark side in 1987. He secured a move to German giants Hamburg in 1988, but that move was shortlived, as he was back at Brondby in 1990, being a part of the side that got to the UEFA cup semi-finals in 1991.
Then came Euro 92.
If you don’t know this story – I will explain it for you the best I can. Denmark did not qualify for the tournament in Sweden that year, falling short in their qualifiying group. Yugoslavia then became embroiled in a civil war and due to international sanctions, Yugoslavia were thrown out of the tournament. Ten days before it was meant to start. Denmark finished second in Yugoslavia’s qualifying group, so they were given the vacant space. The Danish team were on the beach at the time, but now they were in the European Championships in Sweden.
Having only one friendly match before the tournament against the C.I.S team (former soviet states, great read if you wanna look into it), not being focused for a major tournament at all, it must of been an absolute disaster for the Danish side, right? Wrong.
They got their way through group (England finished bottom of this group), they then beat the defending champions Holland on penalties in the semi-final and then got to the final against Germany, the world champions. Enter John Jensen. His powerful shot opened the scoring in Denmark’s 2-0 win, which won them the European Championships. The team that weren’t even in the tourney, won the whole thing.
This lead to Jensen signing for Premier League side Arsenal in 1992, where George Graham was looking for a replacement for Leeds United-bound David Rocastle. He won a number of trophies whilst at Arsenal, winning the FA Cup and League Cup in his first season (where they faced Sheffield Wednesday in both finals, that doesn’t happen nearly as enough as it should), the European Cup Winners Cup the following season, and runners-up in the same final the next season. But that’s not why he is remembered so fondly by Arsenal fans.
He played 132 times for the Gunners, but ‘Faxe’, as he is affectionately known, became a cult hero at the club because no matter how hard he tried (and for a defensive midfielder, he did try REALLY hard), he just could not score. By 1994, everytime he got the ball the crowd would shout ‘shooot’ and people would sing that they would be there when Jensen scores. They knew his day would come. And it did.
John Jensen’s curling effort against QPR on New Year’s Eve 1994 was his first and only goal for the club, and his first goal after 97 games for the club. His name was then sung the entire night, even though they lost, and to this day people still wear shirts saying ‘I was there when Jensen scored’. An all-round feel good moment.
He was then an unwitting part of an unsavoury moment where his transfer was investigated for potential ‘bungs’ being done by manager George Graham. He was the club until 1996, where he went back to his old club Brondby for the third time, until 1999 where he finished his career at Herfolge BK as player/manager.
Herfolge, a small club, were transformed under Jensen – winning them the Danish Superliga on his first attempt. The transformation was short-lived, as they were relegated in 2001. He then became an assistant manager at Brondby under Michael Laudrup. He then followed Laudrup to spanish side Getafe, where they both only stayed for one season. Jensen then branched out on his own once again, becoming manager of another Danish side Randers. He was only there for a few months, before being sacked after some poor results.
In 2011, he became Steve Kean’s assistant at Premier League club Blackburn Rovers. He did not last long there either, leaving in September of the same year.
If there is a ‘feel-good’ player, Jensen is that man. He was a part of one of the most unlikely winners of the European Championship ever. He became a cult hero at Arsenal for never giving up, and then even after finishing playing, lead a tiny Danish club to their first ever title. A career anyone would be proud to have.
And it gives me an excuse to put this up to. My favourite ‘Phoenix From the Flames’ episode.