Sunday, 27 March 2011

The ten greatest moments of my Spurs supporting life - No. 3








3) Spurs 2 Nottingham Fores 1 (aet)
FA Cup Final
Spurs scorers: Stewart, Walker (og)

This should, logically, be number one:

It's the biggest trophy we've won in the 25 year qualification period for this list; it was a great game at the end of an astonishing campaign; I was there; I was at every game in the cup run, in fact, from Blackpool to Wembley via Portsmouth and White Hart Lane; it was an amazing incident-packed day that started with a fry-up and ended with a trip to the police station. Perfect.

But here it is at number three.

I remember thinking that all Paul Gascoigne had to do was make some sort of contribution to us winning and it would go down as The Gascoigne Final, simply because the story of our cup run had been all about him. He took the free kick that lead to our winner in the third round and had scored in every tie since then. Actually, he'd pretty much single-handedly won every tie since then.

So, all he had to do was stay on the pitch, play at something like his capability and it would be The Gascoigne Final. The only precedents were The Matthews Final and The White Horse Final - and one of those doesn't really count because, well because it's a horse. Our greatest player was about to make history.

And he kind of did, didn't he?

He was fucking wired, completely out of control. Even in the warm up you could tell all wasn't well.

Actually I remember him deliberately kicking a ball right into the middle of the marching band, causing havoc in their ranks, which was pretty funny.

Then he kissed Princess Di's hand for some weird reason. It was clearly all too much for him and he just didn't know how to behave. It was sensory overload for a guy who was mentally fragile at the best of times.

His first 'tackle' saw his studs go into Garry Parker's chest. He should have been sent off, but Roger Milford was the world's first and last Hippy Ref, and he just mumbled something about bad vibes and let him off.

Then he... well, it's a very schoolboy phrase, but he just sort of hacked down Gary Charles, who was dribbling sideways and quite harmlessly just outside our box. Again, it was a definite red card, but again Milford just offered him a drag on his jazz woodbine and told him to mellow out.

He just about remembered to award a free kick. From it, Stuart Pearce scored an absolute belter - although a Forest player very clearly drags Gary Mabbut out of the wall, so it should have been disallowed. Milford was too busy listening to The Allman Brothers Live At Filmore East so he missed it.

We kicked off. Gascoigne collapsed. Suddenly there was a stretcher on the pitch and Nayim was standing on the touchline ready to come on.

It was all a bit surreal. This couldn't be happening. We were supposed to win and Gascoigne was going to be carried round Wembley on his grateful team mates' shoulders. Not carried out of Wembley on a stretcher.

In two minutes, the script had been torn up and our world had caved in.

Lineker had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside (he was genuinely at least a yard on) and then missed a penalty.

In the second half Paul Stewart scored a pretty damn good equaliser, drilling it low across the keeper and into the far corner right in front of us. In extra time Des Walker's own goal put us 2-1 up and we hung on.

We deserved to win, I don't think there's any doubt about that, although Forest fans still argue, with plenty of justification, that had Gascoigne been sent off rather than being substituted, it would have been a different story.

For us it was important, impressive and yet at the same time hugely disappointing to win it without Gazza. We had become incredibly reliant on him and when he crumpled to the floor and waved to the bench for assistance, we looked deflated, shocked and a little bit lost.

He'd become our "magic feather". Thankfully, after an initial panic, we pulled out of the dive and learned to fly under our own steam. Not sure that analogy quite works, but I have just been looking at a picture of Lineker and for some reason I started thinking of Dumbo...

We left Wembley and headed back to meet some ticketless friends who'd watched it in a pub in the High Road. They were the drunkest people I'd ever seen. We tried catching up but it just couldn't be done.

It was quite a night. All the pubs were packed. I remember trying to steal a stuffed bear out of one.

I also remember someone spitting at the screen when Irving Scholar's face came on during BBC's highlights. These were strange, dramatic times in N17.

After midnight the police wanted to clear the streets and so made the odd dart into the crowd to arrest the drunkest revelers. Our friends were obvious targets. A couple of hours later we met them outside the police station. I think the original plan had been to detain them till they sobered up, until the office in charge realised that this could constitute a sentence of something like 15 to life, which seemed a bit harsh, so they just gave up.

For me the jubilation was tinged ever so slightly by a mixture of sadness and frustration at just what a fucking idiot our star player had been. It should have been Gascoigne's Final. Instead it was, to some extent, Gascoigne's finale.

Because, of course, he would never be the same again. Or play for us again. The first thing we did without him was come from 1-0 down to win the FA Cup. Sadly, for a very long time, that was as good as it got...

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