Football

/ Rewind to

Powered by ESPNfc
  • Rewind to 1991

Spurs' glory overshadowed by Gazza's pain

ESPN staff
March 15, 2012
Paul Gascoigne's FA Cup final was cruelly ended after just 17 minutes © PA Photos
Enlarge

Tottenham take on Bolton this weekend, just two matches away from their first FA Cup final in over 20 years. When Spurs last lifted the trophy, it was for a then-record eighth time - and sealed with victory over Nottingham Forest.

We rewind to that day in 1991, when Des Walker's own goal in extra time handed Tottenham a 2-1 triumph at Wembley, denying Brian Clough the only trophy he never won. But perhaps the match is most remembered for Paul Gascoigne's moment of madness that threatened to leave his career in tatters.

In the year after his eventful Italia '90, the mercurial Gascoigne was already a national treasure. With Tottenham teetering on the brink of going out of business, the lively midfielder had played through injury and injections to lead his club into the final.

Playing in his last game for Spurs before an £8.5 million move to Lazio, the stage was set for Gascoigne to sign off on a high - and he undoubtedly had the ability, as he had demonstrated in the semi-final win over Arsenal.

Gascoigne had been rushed back from a double hernia operation and the gamble paid off almost instantly as the Gunners found themselves 2-0 down after just 10 minutes, thanks to a superb free-kick from Gascoigne and an assist to set up Gary Lineker, simultaneously securing Spurs' return trip to Wembley and destroying Arsenal's Double dream.

But he was unable to repeat the feat in the final. Despite having been prescribed valium the night before by the club doctor to calm him down, Gascoigne was a bundle of nervous energy, and he tore into the match like a Tasmanian devil.

Forest midfielder Ian Woan recalled the scene in the tunnel: "You're stood there for quite a while and it's fair to say he was pretty pumped up. He was the best player in the country at that stage of his career, and one of the top two or three players in the world."

While Gascoigne channeled his adrenaline positively against Arsenal, this time he struggled to contain his nervous energy, and was fortunate to still be on the pitch after a chest-high challenge on Garry Parker in the opening minutes. He escaped with a lecture from referee Roger Milford, but just moments later he was at it again, clattering Gary Charles as the Forest defender cut across the face of the Spurs penalty area.

"I remember Charles coming down the right," Gascoigne later recalled. "His touch brought him inside and I was off balance. I tried to get a good challenge on him to let him know he was in a game."

But it was a disastrous move - both for Tottenham and for Gascoigne. Not only did Stuart Pearce score from the ensuing free-kick, but Spurs were left without their best player.

Tottenham's 1991 FA Cup win would prove to be their last © PA Photos
Enlarge

"I got up and knew I wasn't feeling right," Gascoigne told the BBC. "I got back in the wall and Pearce scored but I wasn't bothered about that. All I was thinking about was my injury."

Seconds after the restart, Gascoigne collapsed to the floor in agony and was stretchered off in tears - a ruptured cruciate ligament ending his participation in the Wembley final - and, facing at least nine months on the sidelines, his move to Serie A was in tatters.

As Gascoigne was whisked to hospital, it looked like it was not going to be Spurs' day. Lineker had a goal disallowed for offside after 25 minutes, and then saw his penalty saved by Mark Crossley.

However, Tottenham were back on level terms ten minutes after the restart courtesy of Paul Stewart's equaliser, but the match was destined for extra-time. Nayim, who came off the bench to replace Gascoigne in the first-half, swung in a corner, which was flicked on at the near post by Stewart before Walker diverted the ball into his own net.

As captain Gary Mabbutt lifted the trophy, Gascoigne lay in a hospital bed in tears. "The minute I started crying was the minute they started walking up the steps," he said. "That was my dream. I still get a lump in my throat when I talk about it. I wasn't bothered with lifting the trophy; I just wanted to walk up those steps."

What happened next?
Gascoigne's move to Lazio still went through, albeit 12 months later and for £3 million less than the original transfer fee, but despite flashes of brilliance, Gascoigne's career was blighted by injury, alcoholism and tabloid scandals. Tottenham's record eighth win was later surpassed by both Arsenal and Manchester United, and despite two League Cup victories, they have failed to lift the FA Cup since, while former European Cup winners Forest dropped as low as the third tier of English football.

Tottenham's bid to win a ninth FA Cup crown continues on Saturday as they play host to Bolton live on ESPN. Click here to subscribe

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Close