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Catching up with...Paul Allen

Posted on 15 November 2017  - 18:10

How about this for a quiz question? Who scored the winner in the first north London derby of the Premier League era? For the record, it’s approaching 25 years ago and the player wasn’t aware of this slice of history himself.

Paul photographed in 2015Paul with cousin Clive Allen at the Lane

That says a lot about Paul Allen, who struck down Arsenal that day, just as he did as part of the famous 1991 FA Cup semi-final winning team 18 months earlier.

For this midfielder and Hall of Famer, it was all about the team - and beating our rivals from down Seven Sisters Road.

“I remember someone saying after that game ‘do you realise to score the only goal in a derby, that’s history?’ but you don’t think too much about it at the time because it’s all about the team,” said Paul, now 55, who went on to lift the FA Cup in 1991 and made 370 appearances for us between 1985-1993.

“I remember the sheer excitement when I think about the derby games. The first emotion was always about what was at stake, not wanting to let anyone down, being determined to play well and win. If you did win, it was an incredible feeling.

“Then as an individual…to think I scored that goal…I didn’t realise it was the first in a Premier League derby and that means a lot to me. It’s a proud moment and then you think of everyone else, how the fans must have felt, all those emotions. Fantastic memories!”

Below: Paul celebrates a goal against Forest with Gary Lineker in 1990

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The goal itself was a gem, a classic counter-attack that went, literally, from one end of the pitch to the other. Erik Thorstvedt looked in a bit of trouble as Gary Mabbutt fired a back-pass to him but he managed to shake off the attentions of both Ian Wright and Kevin Campbell and calmly pass the ball back to the skipper on the edge of the box. ‘Mabbsy’ picked out Paul, who brilliantly turned away from Nigel Winterburn flying in and we were away. Paul went wide right to Gordon Durie and sprinted through the middle, Durie’s pass was intercepted by Pal Lydersen, but a heavy touch rolled it into the path of Paul, still running and he made no mistake to slot past David Seaman. Scenes at the Lane!

Paul recalled: “I remember it was a break and Gordon Durie’s pass from my right, the defender coming across, the ball coming off him and there I was, one-on-one against David Seaman and I placed it past him.

“White Hart Lane was rocking that day. What an atmosphere! You live for days like that.”

Below: Paul (front row, second from left) with our FA Cup winning team of 1991

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The 1-0 win at the Lane was sandwiched between two famous FA Cup semi-finals between the teams at Wembley in 1991 and 1993. Of course, everyone remembers 1991, less so 1993!

The magical memories and emotions are flowing as Paul describes the 1991 semi-final - Gazza’s free-kick and Gary Lineker’s goals halted Arsenal’s charge towards the double.

“It was unprecedented at the time to play at Wembley in the semi-final, that made it even more special,” he said. “We all knew what it meant to the fans and to us as players and our families as well. We just knew we couldn’t lose this game. There was so much at stake.

“The most pleasing thing was the way we played on the day. We were exceptional. Those moments are what you play for, to celebrate with team-mates, staff and the fans.

“It was an amazing day, one of my best moments, beating Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley will live with me forever.”

Below: Paul typically all-action in the 1987 FA Cup semi-final Watford

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Of course, as Paul explained, it was vitally important we went on to win the trophy and we did so with a 2-1 victory against Nottingham Forest.

“You can’t describe the feeling, the excitement of when that final whistle goes and you’ve won, then going up the steps to get the medal, coming down and seeing the reaction of the fans,” said Paul. “That’s when it starts to sink in.

“That’s what you start out for, days like that. When I was growing up, the FA Cup was the competition. To think as a young boy I watched it all and then I was part of it. Great days.”