In this Cup Adventures we look back at Tottenham’s victory in 1991 and some memories from a few of the people involved. Gary Mabbutt gives his personal reflections on Tottenham’s final victory in 1991. This success had a backdrop of upheaval off the pitch and the club was in financial trouble with some estimates putting us 20 million in the red. There was a takeover of the club by Alan Sugar and Terry Venables with discussions taking place on the eve of the match that Venables had to leave to join up with his team. It had not been a good time for Spurs fans but on the pitch we had something special.
The club had finished the season in 10th place. When he was asked Gary Mabbutt our skipper if all the off-field issues had affected the players. He answered the players had managed to ignore most of the newspaper talk and that the footballing side had moved along without interference. This was the season when the semi finals had moved to Wembley and our victory over Arsenal. This would deny them a Double which made it even sweeter. Gary thinks if anything that win overshadows their victory in the final itself.
It seemed more was written that season about Spurs in the Board room than on the pitch. However The FA Cup seemed to lift us and the year ended in one. Gascoigne appeared to be on a one man crusade with a series of sparkling displays. He was due to leave Tottenham for Lazio that summer. The club could not afford to lose that money even if it meant losing their biggest attraction. We started the run with a win at Blackpool. A goal by their old boy Paul Stewart seeing us through. Gazzamania got going in the fourth round. As we won 4-2 at home to Oxford and he hit two goals. He got both our goals in the next round as we won at Portsmouth. The sixth round brought Notts County to White Hart Lane and again Paul popped up to get the winner while Nayim scored our other goal. Then had come that Semi-final and Gazza striker a free kick when Venables was screaming don’t shoot. The goal leaving the TV commentary saying it was schoolboy stuff. Lineker hit two more for us that day. That brought us to the final.
Gary Mabbutt recalls the day of his second cup final. The first four years earlier had seen his own goal and the only time we have lost in the final game. Nottingham Forest were clear favorites and the peoples choice to win as their manager Brian Clough had never won the trophy and came towards the end of his career. Gary remembers the team had stayed in a hotel overlooking Hyde Park in Central London the night before and he and Gary Lineker (who had previously lost in the final with Everton) going for a relaxing walk in the morning.
Terry Venables led the team out of the tunnel with Cloughy clutching his hand walking alongside him. Had the nerves got to the man many called ‘old big mouth.’
Gary says that walking behind his manager the atmosphere hits you and ‘It was a special moment, that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” It takes about 15 minutes before the game kicks off and you just want to get on with it. He tells the tale how that first half was a disaster.
Everything went wrong for Spurs. Gary says he didn’t see Gascoigne’s first foul tackle when his raised boot and struck one of their players. It seemed Gazza was hyped up to bursting point but Venables said he did not notice it before kick off. Gary said if he had seen that first foul he would of spoken to Paul Gascoigne but he had followed the ball, however one wonders if he would of heard.
Although Gary did wonder if he had would the next step in the drama of played out. Just five minutes later and another bad foul by Gascoigne. From the free kick Mabbutt reckons that a forest played held him and stopped him from jumping and the ball flew into the net. At that moment Gazza went down. In that last tackle he had torn his ligaments and had to be stretched off to hospital. Not only had we lost our ace but his injury would delay his transfer for a year at a time the money was badly needed to keep us afloat. Things got worse as then Lineker had a goal wrongly flagged for off-side. This was followed by their goalie pulling Lineker down as he was about to score. The goalie wasn’t sent off and saved the penalty. Half time arrived and things were looking dark for Spurs. Mabbutt says at that point Venables gave one of his best team talks ever, by hardly saying a word. Just forget it, move on, keep playing.
Into the second half and Paul Stewart pulled us level from the right side. As the ball went into the net. He just kept running off the pitch, hurdling the advertising boards and saluted the fans behind the goal as half of north London went berserk. Just maybe it could be out day after all. There was still so much to do, and Gary says he wasn’t surprised it went to extra time. Tottenham spent a lot of time working on set pieces and we won a corner over on the right. Gary’s role was to create space for the strikers with his movement. He started off being marked by Des Walker (who had been at Spurs as a schoolboy). He ran forward past Linker who moved so Walker couldn’t get close. Mabbutt then turns and heads for the back post when he realizes the ball is coming straight at him. As he jumped thinking he was about to head home Walker recovers enough to try and block him but the ball hits him and flies home. The trophy was won.
When the whistle went the team celebrated then as he led the team up the steps to the Royal Box Gary says he wasn’t sure what to do but the Duchess of Kent handed the trophy over. Gary’s smile when he shows how he was feeling. He reckons the noise from the fans gave him Goosebumps. Claiming it was one of the best moments of his life. After the lap of honour the players had to meet the press. Then finally the team climbed on the coach. The first stop had to be the hospital to see Gazza. They entered the room to a very emotional and heavily bandaged Paul with the trophy and his medal and had to convince to stay in the hospital and not join in the celebrations.
The takeover went ahead and kept the club afloat although there was still a rough road ahead. Gascoigne would take a year to recover before finally moving to Rome. That night in May 1991 apart from a thought for our star player in hospital was one to rejoice.
t- Keith 16024542
f- peter shearman (old non de plume)
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