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Catching up with... Anderton, Mabbutt and Mullery on the derby

Posted on 17 November 2017  - 18:45

Our latest ‘catching up with…’ is a derby special as Gary Mabbutt, Alan Mullery and Darren Anderton - 1,342 Spurs appearances between them - talk all things Arsenal ahead of the first north London derby of the season on Saturday.


Gary Mabbutt - 611 appearances 1982-1998 - captain, UEFA Cup, FA Cup winner
Alan Mullery - 373 appearances 1964-1972 - FA Cup, UEFA Cup, League Cup winner
Darren Anderton - 358 appearances, 1992-2004 – League Cup winner, Club record Premier League appearances (299)

Alan: “We always had a team meeting and Bill Nicholson would come in every time we were playing Arsenal and say ‘we only need to win two games - and they are both against Arsenal’. He once said ‘I don’t want any losers in here, or you’re out’ and walked out. We thought ‘wow, what’s going on here?’ The rivalry was immense, 60,000 in the stadium, the same at Highbury. Frank McLintock (former Arsenal captain) is a good friend of mine - outside of football. In those games, we’d kick lumps out of each other! That’s what it was like in those days.”

Below: Alan warms-up at Highbury, 1970


Gary: “What Mullers is saying is exactly right. I joined in 1982 and the first time the Arsenal game was approaching, it was made clear to me that it was the most important game of the season and no matter what we did for the rest of the season, if we beat Arsenal, the fans would always forgive us. The thing was, any other game, the build-up would start two, three days before the game. For this one, the build-up would start two weeks before. It was one of the most highly-pressured games and I was lucky to play in 30-odd north London derbies during in my career, and some were dire, but you didn’t care what you did, how well you played, how well the team played - you had to win that game, no matter what.”

Alan: “Once you had the fixture list you’d look immediately for the Arsenal games, no-one else, just Arsenal.”

Darren: “I remember scoring at Highbury from a Micky Hazard through ball! I also remember giving it a bit afterwards in front of the North Bank! I knew how important it was. I can remember my first north London derby - it was the 1993 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. I knew all about what had happened two years earlier (we’d won the FA Cup semi-final 3-1) and having come up from the south coast and Portsmouth-Southampton, I knew about rivalries, but nothing like this. This was ridiculous. That was the one game that probably hurt me the most throughout my career here. I got the rivalry straight away. I’m normally fairly placid but that was one game that really got me.”

Below: Darren on target at Highbury, 2003


Alan: “Darren is talking about feeling awful after that semi-final, I played when we got beat 1-0 on a Monday night at White Hart Lane and that gave them the league title (old Division One, 1971). A few days later, they were due to play Liverpool in the FA Cup Final. They won the first part of that double against us. We couldn’t live that down. I’m just glad it was the end of the season because we could get away from it for a couple of months!”

Darren: “I played at the Lane and at Highbury but never got the chance to play at the Emirates. These are just different days, different atmospheres but now, as a fan, it’s still the game I look forward to.”

Gary: “This game never changes. Okay, it used to be at the Lane and at Highbury but I don’t care where it’s played, it could be on Hackney Marshes, it would still be exactly the same. I remember all the games against Arsenal and you would do everything you could to win those games. The fans always used to talk to me about the Arsenal players and say ‘you must really want to get stuck into them’ and yes, in those games, you did everything you could to win, no matter what, but if we played at White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon, sometimes, that same evening, we’d all meet up in the England squad! We’d meet up at Bisham Abbey and there would be Seaman, Dixon, Adams and on Wednesday, we’d be team-mates for England! So yes, it’s intense but once you come off the field, it’s different. On the field, the result is all that counts.”

Below: Magic moments - Gazza's goal at Wembley, 1991


Gary: “Obviously the one that stands out for me is the 1991 semi-final, the first semi-final to be played at Wembley, the first-ever semi-final between Spurs and Arsenal. Arsenal had already won the title and they were odds-on favourites. They’d had a great season, we were mid-table and all the money was on Arsenal. We came to Wembley and completely outplayed them.”

Alan: “Fantastic!”

Darren: “I remember watching that one.”

To finish, what do you think when you think ‘Arsenal’?

Darren: “It’s the buzz. When Spurs play Arsenal it’s the buzz game, the game that gets you going as a player or a fan.”

Alan: “You just wanted to play as well as you could for the Club and you played for the supporters. We all know what the fans had to go through, going back to work on Monday morning and having the bragging rights over the Arsenal fans, and vice-versa. Winning those two games was so important to us.”

Below: Gary takes on Alan Smith at the Lane, 1990


Gary: “I always found the build up to the games amazing and driving into Highbury…it was something else just getting into the stadium! When you got in, the dressing rooms had windows that would swing open into the street and you’d look out and just see all these Arsenal fans growling at you! I used to love that. One thing I used to love when we played at Highbury as captain was we’d go onto the pitch when we got there, look at the pitch, wave to our fans and then go back in. However, during my time as captain, I’d always go to the other end, walk slowly across the pitch, smiling and the stick I’d get! I used to love that. It was just to show everyone ‘we’re on a football pitch, there is nothing to worry about here’. That whole thing really lifted me. It was and still is the biggest game of the season.”