Ketsbaia inspires Khizanisvili to try his luck with Newcastle
WHEN Temuri Ketsbaia threw his Newcastle United shirt into the crowd and attacked an advertising board having scored in a routine win over Bolton more than 11 years ago, he did not know his antics would live long in the memory. Not just on Tyneside, but in the city of Tblisi too. Zurab Khizanisvili, born and brought up in the Georgian capital, was just 16 at the time and playing for Ketsbaias former club, Dinamo Tblisi, when one of his countrys most famous exports was making a name for himself in the English Premier League. Ketsbaias three years on Tyneside raised Newcastles profile in Georgia and led to black and white shirts being worn in the former Soviet Union state, with Khizanishvili among those to have taken a huge interest in life at St James Park. That is why the Blackburn defender, on loan from Ewood Park until mid-December, did not have to think twice about moving to the North-East to play in the Championship and turn his back on topflight football. In fact, he would have come for longer, and he feels privileged to play for such a big club. However, he is not thinking about celebrating in Ketsbaia fashion if he breaks his scoring duck for the Magpies. I remember it well. I will keep my clothes on and not kick anything and just celebrate with my team-mates if I do, said Khizanisvili. Temuri is my good friend, one of my best football friends in Georgia. He became one of my best friends when we played together at Dundee. He was in Scotland for maybe six months. When I was 17, I started in the national team so we played five or six years together for Georgia. I am really happy to be following him here because I know he is a big name in Newcastle. He is a nice guy, a nice player, a very tough guy. When I first arrived, every single person in the town mentioned him because they know I am from Georgia. They all ask me how is Temuri When he was at Newcastle, I used to watch the games on TV like so many more people did in Georgia. It was a dream for him to play in the Premier League, especially for a club like Newcastle. It is such memories and such respect for Newcastle that quickly convinced Khizanishvili to drop down to the Championship and try to help Newcastle back into the top-flight. It does not feel like a Championship club, said the 27-year-old, likely to retain his place for todays visit of Bristol City to St James Park. Newcastle are a great club and it really matters which club you play for. Maybe I would not have played for any other Championship club. Yes, you miss seeing faces like Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard every week because they are in the Premier League, but when you are at the training ground here, or the stadium, it makes you think Yes, I am still in the Premier League. That is what it feels like here. There is more than a hint of irony that the man responsible for moving Khizanishvili to Newcastle for a threemonth loan is Sam Allardyce, the clubs former manager. Allardyce, now at Blackburn, quickly made up his mind that the versatile defender did not fit into his plans at Ewood Park. Maybe my style did not suit Sam Allardyce, he said. I know Sam likes different players. I knew from his time at Bolton where he was a long time, he likes more athletic players, bigger than me, stronger than me. Not necessarily more intelligent players but more physical, stronger players. To be honest, we talked about Newcastle and he said there is no question it is an unbelievable club, a massive club. He said really good things. Having moved over to Britain in 2001 to play for Dundee, Khizanishvili has gone on to play for Rangers and Blackburn, having successfully fulfilled a dream to play in the Premier League. His father, Nodar, is a former defender for the Soviet Union and was part of the great Dinamo Tblisi team that won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1981 by defeating East Germanys FC Carl Zeiss Jena. European glory may be out of the equation for Khizanishvili at this stage of his career, but there is every chance he will be able to claim his first piece of English football silverware by claiming a Championship medal.
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