The FA Cup used to be synonymous with Spurs, however, this year we have to sit back and watch our rivals taking part in the fourth round weekend. Jon Blum looks at what the cup means to him, and what it should mean to every Spurs fan.
Spurs don’t have a game this weekend. It’s the FA Cup fourth round and we’re not in it thanks to our disappointing loss at the Emirates. It’s one of the more depressing feelings in football when the fourth round weekend comes along and your team is already out. Everyone’s at a party you weren’t invited to and you’re stuck at home on your own.
Before the Woolwich match some supporters were suggesting we play a weakened team in order to concentrate on the league. This attitude depressed me. Any game against our neighbours matters, but more importantly the FA Cup matters; it’s a special competition and Spurs fans should know that more than anyone.
Tottenham’s FA Cup history is long and filled with glory. Eight-time winners, we were the last non-league team to win back in 1901. There’s the famous league and cup double in 1961 and back to back victories at the start of the 60s and 80s. When we became the first British team to lift European silverware in 1963 it was by winning the Cup Winners Cup – the cup you got into by winning THE cup.
In fact Spurs used to be described as a “cup team”. This was partly a euphemism for our lack of league success but it also spoke of a long love affair with the knock-out form of the game. I spent my childhood explaining to anyone who questioned me about Spurs’ right to be described as a “big club” that we had won the FA Cup multiple times and that this was as important as winning the league.
[authquoteleft text=”the FA Cup matters; it’s a special competition and Spurs fans should know that more than anyone[/linequote]
Following our 1991 victory we stood top of the pile with 8 wins, the most of any team. Looking back almost a quarter of a century later it seems impossible that that was our last success.
I remember that year well. Paul Gascoigne had been imperious all season, scoring several wonder goals as we made our inexorable path towards a semi-final meeting with Woolwich. It was the first at Wembley before the experience was cheapened by regularity. I had to settle for watching on TV (I was “lucky” enough to attend the less successful repeat two years later). Beating our North London rivals in the cup at the home of English football, could things get any better?
After that historic victory we almost threw it away in the final against Nottingham Forest. Early on we were a goal down, a pumped up Gascoigne had been stretchered off and the ultra-dependable Gary Lineker had missed from the penalty spot. Thankfully the luck changed and a Des Walker own goal meant it was Gary Mabbutt who lifted the trophy. I still remember the excitement.
There has been only disappointment since. Six semi-finals, six defeats. From a team that never used to lose semi-finals, now that’s all we do. They say it’s the worst round to go out – at least the losing finalist gets the cup final day out.
Last year I had two very different but very enjoyable FA Cup experiences. The first was at our third round tie against Coventry.
For once when buying tickets to a game at White Hart Lane, I found it easy to get good seats and at a reasonable price. It was just after Christmas and there was a very positive atmosphere in the ground which only got better as Spurs raced into a deserved lead. Even the Coventry supporters seemed to be having fun, a brief respite from the realities of League One and administration. Talk before the game centred on the 1987 final and there was the feeling that this was some small piece of revenge.
[authquoteright text=”Six semi-finals, six defeats. From a team that never used to lose semi-finals, now that’s all we do[/linequote]
The second experience did not involve Tottenham at all. Last year I was lucky enough to go to Wembley for the final. The occasion was spectacular, the noise, the colour, 90,000 people waving flags and cheering on their team. As the crowd sung “Abide with me” the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
Like most neutrals I was hoping for a Wigan victory and in the last minute of normal time they scored. The sheer joy of their supporters overwhelmed me. This was what football should be about.
Afterwards, Roberto Martinez and the players paraded the cup in front of jubilant fans, their adulation unwavering for a manager who had taken them to the verge of relegation – the cardinal sin in modern football. They knew the meaning of the FA Cup.
[author name=”Jon Blum” avatar=”https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/425617155439079424/W-RnR7rW_bigger.jpeg” website=”http://anythingbutpenalties.com” twitter=”ABPens[/linequote]