Today is my birthday. As a man in my (now) mid 30s, the timing of my life in conjunction with the fortunes of Spurs has not been kind.
We used to be THE club for the FA Cup. It was our cup. When we last won it in 1991, no one had held the famous trophy aloft more times than Tottenham Hotspur.
We had won it 8 times and the years are indelibly etched onto my brain – 1901, 1921, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1981, 1982 and 1991. Before I was born we had never lost an FA Cup final. 7 out of 7. However, in 1987 we suffered that fate to lowly Coventry City and since then we’ve only reached the final once in 30 years. That was way back in 1991, when we beat Nottingham Forest in extra time courtesy of a Des Walker own goal.
For me, the climax to that 1991 Cup win formed my first memories of Spurs – that semi against Woolwich and the final. Although in truth I have no idea how much I remember from the time, and how much I recall from the many times I’ve seen the subsequent footage. My dad used to record all of our big games on the old VHS player and keep the glorious wins for posterity.
The Barry Davies commentary of that incredible semi final win will live with me forever – from Gazza’s free kick: “Is he gonna have a crack? He is you know! Oh I say! That is just Schoolboys’ Own stuff!” and Lineker wrapping up the 3-1 win: “Nayim to the left, Samways ahead. Lineker uses him by not using him…”.
I remember the joy that FA Cup run brought my family but, as a kid just starting to form my bonds with the club, it wasn’t too significant for me at the time. As the barren years have passed though, I have found myself become enslaved to the memory of 1991 – I have dreamt of experiencing a piece of FA Cup history for myself. It has become somewhat of a holy grail for me.
So many times since we have got to the semi final but then fallen at the last hurdle.
- The revenge semi against the scum in 1993;
- Klinsmann et al losing to Everton in 1995;
- Shearer’s piledriver for Newcastle in 1999;
- Another semi final defeat to Woolwich in 2001 in what was Judas’s last game;
- Pompey in 2010; and
- Mata’s “ghost goal” for Chelsea against us in 2012.
Will it be seventh time lucky and will we exact our own slice of revenge on Chelsea for all the pain they have inflicted on us in recent years?
1991 is now a distant memory and, in the current world of HD and Ultra HD, the grainy images looks increasingly outdated every time I see them. 26 years is a long time. Most people have never wanted anything for that long. To adapt an excerpt from Fever Pitch (ignoring that it was originally about the wrong team):
“Do you know what you wanted 26 years ago? Or 20? Or 10? Or 5? I doubt it. I’d doubt if you wanted anything for that long.”
I have. I’ve wanted to see Tottenham Hotspur in an FA Cup final. I’ve wanted to stand on the Wembley terraces with my chest pumped out in pride, singing “Abide With Me”. I’ve wanted to see us write a new chapter in our love affair with the FA Cup. I’ve wanted to see us lift that famous trophy and parade it down Tottenham High Road.
I’m welling up just thinking about it.
Yes, we’ve won the League Cup a couple of times but there is just something more special about the FA Cup. The history, the tradition, the inextricable link between our club and the competition… People say that the FA Cup has lost it’s appeal; that it’s a second rate competition nowadays. And maybe to some degree there is some truth in that. But if we win it this season, it will be the greatest thing I have seen my club achieve in over 25 years (if you put that ahead of finishing 3rd or 4th in the league). As Danny Blanchflower once said, “the game is about glory”.
With the current crop of players and Pochettino spearheading us, this time it feels closer than ever. Forget about what ramifications tomorrow might have on the title race. Let’s just get to the FA Cup final. Please Tottenham… this year the only birthday present I want is the one I’ve been longing for since I was 8 years old.