A TRIP DOWN WHITE HART LANE: MY FAVOURITE SPURS MEMORIES by PAUL LAIGHT
Audere est Facere: To Dare is to Do!
The new Premier League season is upon us and just to take a break from my usual cinematic blog nonsense I would like to write a bit about my ongoing support for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Spurs have a great history being the first Non-League club to win the FA Cup and the first team to do ‘the Double’ in the 20th century. Since those glory days they have successfully won the FA Cup several times, the Cup Winners Cup, the League Cup and UEFA Cup. They have always prided themselves on playing sweet attractive passing football with a history for flamboyant flair players. In the 1976/77 season they suffered relegation but soon bounced back to the top division. Under Keith Burkinshaw they almost won the league title and enjoyed some league success and further FA Cup glory under Terry Venables stewardship in 1990/91.
Since the 1990s they have had mixed fortune in the league and have flirted with relegation as well as having a bit of an open-door policy when it comes to managers. Of late, Spurs could be classed as a ‘nearly’ club pushing the top four but usually cementing a respectable top six or so position. Under Harry Redknapp they reached the dizzy heights of the Champions’ League quarter-finals and were unlucky not to qualify again BUT Chelsea’s jammy Champions’ League win in 2012 prevented this.
I have followed Spurs since the start of the ‘80s and while I have attended several games down the years , if I’m honest, I could be described as a classic “armchair/watch down the pub” supporter. Having said that I am very passionate about the team and while there are ups and downs I consider it a privilege to follow them as they have always been in the top division trying to challenge despite them not winning the league for some time.
What’s great about supporting Spurs is the unpredictability. They are very much an “Icarus” team. They promise much and occasionally fly high only to somehow burn up spectacularly when they get too close to the sun. The “Lasagne Gate” episode of 2006 is a case in point where Martin Jols’ Spurs were so close to finishing 4th in the Premier League; before an alleged batch of dodgy pasta knocked the team sideways. They would be beaten 2-1 by London rivals West Ham and get pipped to 4th by dreaded North London rivals Arsenal.
Anyway, I thought it nice to take a trip down memory lane and pick out my favourite Spurs moments, goals, matches and people. They are in date order and of course very subjective but I hope fellow Spurs’ supporters enjoy these memories.
GLENN HODDLE – (1975-1987 – 377 apps – 88 goals)
Arguably the greatest ever Spurs player in regard to longevity and sheer entertainment value. So much skill, power and vision and I got to meet him recently at a Spurs’ supporter football event. This YouTube tribute says it all really.
1981 – RICKY VILLA – GOAL AGAINST WOLVES – FA SEMI-FINAL
This is my earliest Spurs’ memory. Our mercurial bearded Argentinian midfielder cutting in from the wing and launching a thunderbolt left foot drive. Sweet!
1981 – FA CUP REPLAY SPURS V MAN CITY – 3-2
This is still one of the greatest games of football I have ever seen. Both teams were up for it and the game was a see-saw classic. Steve Mackenzie’s volley for City was spectacular but Villa’s goal that won it was pure genius. And never forget a great tackle by Graham Roberts which helped set-up the winning goal.
THOSE GLORY GLORY DAYS – FILM (1982)
It would be remiss of me to have a blog piece without mentioning a movie and I loved this film when I was a kid. It concerns a group of schoolgirls who are obsessed with Spurs and the legendary Danny Blanchflower. It’s a sweet, touching and funny coming of age football story with a gender twist.
GARY MABBUTT – (1982-1998 – 477 apps – 27 goals)
If you cut Gary Mabbutt in half he would bleed white and blue and also most likely die. But this is a man who literally put his life on the line for Spurs given he overcame diabetes to become a Spurs legend. Mabbutt was an incredibly consistent defender who led by example and was deservedly capped by his country too.
1984 – TONY PARKS SAVES PENALTY TO WIN UEFA CUP
The UEFA Cup was a big deal then and Spurs had won through some tough rounds including beating Bayern Munich. The final against Anderlecht went to the wire and Tony Parks stepped up to save the last penalty and become a Spurs hero!
1986-87 – CLIVE ALLEN SCORES 49 GOALS IN ONE SEASON
Despite scoring so many goals, and with a midfield including Hoddle, Waddle and Ardiles’, Spurs trophy cupboard was empty at the end of the year. They finished 3rd in the league and lost to Coventry in the FA Cup Final. Yet, Clive Allen, playing up front on his own, had the mother of all purple patches under manager David Pleat scoring a shedload of goals in one season.
1991 – PAUL GASGOIGNE V ARSENAL (FA CUP SEMI-FINAL)
Gazza was one helluva player for Spurs. An electric, skilful and powerhouse of a performer on the pitch. Yet, his Spurs career came to an abrupt end when he lunged at Gary Charles in the 1991 Cup Final. He had some stunning games for Spurs but his legendary free kick against Arsenal is ‘Roy of the Rovers’ stuff; a belting exocet missile which smashed the corner of the net and broke Arsenal hearts. Terry Venables’ led Spurs were outstanding on a day to remember at Wembley.
PETER COOK – (1937-1995)
Peter Cook was one of the funniest people that ever walked the Earth. Satirist, comedian, writer, actor, drunk, raconteur and famed Spurs fan he formed a wonderful double act with Dudley Moore after rising to fame as part of the Cambridge Footlights including Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. His very rude and naughty ‘Derek and Clive’ tapes were essential listening while I was growing up as they took filth to a whole new level of piss-up artistry.
1994 – KLINSMANN CELEBRATORY “DIVE”
Oh, Spurs fans were never more optimistic than this season. We saw Klinsmann, Sheringham, Dumitrescu, Barmby and Anderton going forward; however, we also had Calderwood and Nethercott at the back. So, for all our attacking prowess we could not defend for toffee and struggled under Ardiles. Klinsmann’s celebration was wonderful though; sending up his reputation as a diver gained during the World Cup.
DAVID GINOLA (1997-2000 – 100 apps – 13 goals)
The word mercurial was invented for the likes of Ginola. Spurs were a pretty ordinary team from the mid-90s onwards. One of their shining lights was flashy Frenchmen Ginola who played so well in a struggling team 1999 that he was awarded the Writer’s and Player’s Footballer of the Year. Without him Spurs could’ve gone down. He was outstanding and it was such a pleasure to see him twisting and turning on the Gallic flair for the Lilywhites.
2006 – LEDLEY KING tackle against ARJEN ROBBEN
Loved Ledley King. Loved him. The Lane has seen some great defenders and Ledley was definitely one of the best. Pacy, intelligent and a great tackler, he read the game brilliantly. Sadly his career was blighted by injury but Sven Goran Eriksson rated him so highly he took him to the World Cup even though he only had one working knee. Such a lovely guy too. This tackle on speedster Robben just demonstrates how good he was.
2008 – SPURS BEAT ARSENAL 5-1 in the CARLING CUP
Spurs have kind of closed the gap on Arsenal in the last decade and results like this really brightened up every fans existence. We didn’t just beat them we wiped the floor with them. Of course, Arsenal have got their own back on us since but we don’t remember those.
2008 – SPURS CARLING CUP WIN OVER CHELSEA
Our last bit of silverware was won by with manager Juande Ramos in charge. Alas it turned out to be his one and only glory as he was sacked early into the next season with the team floundering at the bottom of the league. It was a battling performance from the team and a Berbatov penalty and Woodgate header late on sealed it following a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper. Ramos went to Real Madrid temporarily afterwards but then got banished to Siberia or some other godforsaken place.
2009 – ARSENAL 4-4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (2008/09)
Aahh… for every great player Spurs have had they’ve had their fair share of those who have ultimately failed to deliver. David Bentley was one of these. I felt he had SO much potential — as seen in his wonder goal against Arsenal. This was Harry Redknapp’s 2nd game in charge and what a game it was! An 8 goal thriller! In Robert DeNiro’s film The Bronx Tale (1989) one character said, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Sadly Bentley fits into this category but Spurs fans will always have his thunderbolt against the Arse.
GARETH BALE (2007-2013 – 146 APPS – 46 GOALS – many assists)
To think the Welsh wing wizard played 24 games for Spurs before being on the winning team and he almost got loaned out or even sold to Birmingham or Nottingham Forest. Thankfully Spurs persevered with this incredible talent and he went from left-back to left-wing to all-out attacking phenomenon becoming a force majeure for Spurs and one of the most exciting players we have ever had.
Without him the team may have gone out of the 2010 Champions League early doors. Moreover, under Andres Villas-Boas he almost single-handedly dragged us into the 4th place spot just missing out to Arse again. Spurs would get a massive fee from Real Madrid and last season he at times lit up La Liga the way he lit up the Lane.
LEST WE FORGET…
Since supporting Spurs’ from the 1980s we have had so many great players play for us and I haven’t been able to mention them properly in the piece but much kudos goes to:
Ray Clemence, Steve Perryman, Darren Anderton, Teddy Sheringham, Luka Modric, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Allen, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Gary Lineker, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe, Chris Waddle, Garth Crooks, Graham Roberts, Ossie Ardiles and many more. Plus some right jokers who I’d prefer not to mention: Paulo Tramezzani anyone?
2014/2015 – ????
Who knows what the new season will bring? But under Mauricio Pottechino I just hope for some consistency of performance and maybe a bit of flair. A good top six finish and decent cup runs at least is required I would say. If we can build a team around Eriksen and perhaps hang onto our star performers rather than sell them off over the next few years who knows – we could get into the Top Four again. However, misguided it may be I always have blind optimism with regard to Tottenham Hotspur F.C. After all, it is better to aim high and burn in the sun than keep your feet on the ground. Or is it? To dare is to do! To dare is to do!
(At time of writing Spurs are 0-0 away to West Ham…)