The FA Cup Final day was an epic day for fans and players across the country in 1987, which was when I played my first of two finals for Spurs. We lost the first 3-2 to Coventry City (above), but we won the next against Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in 1991.
Back then, you didn’t have 24/7 coverage of football like we do now, and during my years growing up, it was probably the only live game of club football that was shown during the season. And it wasn’t just a game of football. The coverage started at ten in the morning and there was a Cup Final Mastermind quiz show, The Road to Wembley coverage where the finalists’ previous fixtures were relived; the breakfast and lunches of both teams had the cameras present, as did the buses as they drove the players to Wembley. It was a massive occasion. Ask any youngster dreaming of a career in the game what their ambitions would be and they’d all say scoring the winner in an FA Cup Final.
My goal wasn’t as decisive as that – the own goal I scored in extra time was, sadly – but it’s something I’ll never forget. Just before halftime, a free kick was whipped into the Coventry box. Their keeper, Steve Ogrizovic came to get it, but he missed the ball. I was being marked by City centre half, Brian ‘Killer’ Kilcline and as we both threw ourselves at the ball – him to clear it, me to kick it in – our legs got tangled up. I got the biggest connection and the ball went into the back of the net.
“Ask any youngster dreaming of a career in the game what their ambitions would be and they’d all say scoring the winner in an FA Cup Final.”
I scored 38 goals in 619 appearances for Spurs, but scoring at Wembley in the Cup Final was a dream I’d had ever since I was a kid. The excitement was huge. I grew up in an environment whereby football was always on our list of priorities of things to do. My older brother and I used to play Subbuteo on the lounge floor and he always used to beat me. One day we had the Subbuteo FA Cup Final and I managed to win. I still remember running around the house and garden with this tiny little plastic FA Cup held above my head.
It was important to Spurs too. They are one of the biggest clubs in the world and the FA Cup was very special to them – they had never lost in a final, and they were the leading winners in the competition at the time. There was a real history and I was part of it. My goal had happened just before half time, so when we walked back down the Wembley tunnel I looked up at the scoreboard. My name was up there in lights as a goalscorer. That dream I’d had as a youngster? I was now living it. But it was important to stay calm, there was plenty more work to be done.