Pascal Chimbonda & 24 Other Classic Premier League Players You'd Forgotten: No. 15 - Teemu Tainio

08 June 2018 11:56

Born: 27 November 1979, Tornio, Finland

Age: 38

Age in 2005: 25

Premier League Clubs: ​Tottenham Hotspur (2005-08), ​Sunderland (2008-10), ​Birmingham City (2009-10)

Position: Defensive Midfielder

When Teemu Tainio first kicked a ball in the third tier of Finnish football, it was blindingly obvious that he would one day: play for a handful of mid-table English teams, have a largely unsuccessful stint at a Dutch side, move to America in the twilight of his career and end up back in Finland before retiring between the ages of 33-34. You could tell. From the freshness of his face to the nobbliness of his knees, Teemu was destined for semi-greatness. 

But it would be a while before he first burst onto the scene of British football. He would, of course, initially spend the best years of his life living in a place called Auxerre, playing for a club called Auxerre and making bi-monthly visits to the Abbey of Saint-Germain d'Auxerre with his Auxerrian girlfriend. Amongst other things, Tainio seemed to enjoy the fact that nobody knew who he was amongst the city's 92,000-strong population, a trait that he carried forward with him for the remainder of his career. 

Michael Owen and Teemu Tainio

(Above: the Teemster does his best to get out the way of Michael Owen in a UEFA Cup encounter)

Yet eight years and one ankle injury later, T2 decided that he would quite like to not be known by anyone in London and signed for Tottenham Hotspur on a free, because he'd always ​supported the club and because they were offering literally van loads of money. 

Incredibly, he was handed a seven-year contract, which is virtually unheard of for Finnish players who have played for Auxerre. Yet, Martin Jol knew what he was doing when it came to transfers, as the signing of £4.5m flop Timothée Atouba had proven the season before. 

Following Atouba's prompt departure, There's No 'I' In Teemu secured his position first at right back, then in central midfield, before finally settling for his signature spot on the subs' bench, putting in some star performances from the latter position against ​West Ham, Blackburn and Wigan Athletic. Nevertheless, his highlight surely came in the 2008 League Cup final when he was prised off the bench in the 75th minute and contributed a yellow card for time-wasting during a throw-in. The score at the time was 1-1.

(Above: What Teemu lacked in footballing talent he more than made up for with his air-guitar-on-an-oar skills)

Not surprisingly, Sunderland decided they'd like a go with the Finn, and went and signed him in 2008 for an undisclosed fee of not very much. 

However, despite previous suggestions of loyalty towards Spurs, Tainio must have supported the team from the northeast too, as in one ​interview he correctly identified that ​Newcastle United were their principal rivals, and that therefore a match between the two clubs was a derby. 

During this time with the club, the Finnish man did so well he earned himself a loan move to Birmingham City, where his debut came against ​Aston Villa in a less familiar role on the actual pitch itself. 

Yet Sunderland must've heard the news of the player's antics in the West Midlands as they duly terminated his contract at the end of the 2010 season. A stint with Ajax under transfer guru Martin Jol, who had also just re-signed Timothée Atouba, was mostly unsuccessful, yielding just two appearances all season. A brief spell in America with New York Red Bulls followed, prior to the Teemu's retirement back where it all started: somewhere in Finland.

Teemu Tainio Of The New York Red Bulls Visits The Empire State Building

(Above: Teeny Tainio looks forlorn after forgetting to bring change for the binoculars)

Where is he now?

After featuring in a very cool interview in which he wore a bright red baseball cap backwards, Tainio was last seen scouting for Tottenham Hotspur where his keen eye for talent has seen him scout far-flung players, such as his son. 

What did he say?

"Nobody can beat me at throwing javelins" 

Source: 90min