April 14, 1991. It’s a date that has gone down in Spurs folklore. FA Cup semi-final. Wembley. Arsenal. Gazza. Gary Lineker. Barry Davies.
Say the words ‘is Gascoigne going to have a crack? He is, you know…’ and Spurs fans of a certain age will know exactly what you are talking about.
Indeed, they will most likely finish Davies’ famous commentary for you. “Oh I say! Brilliant! That is Schoolboy’s Own stuff.”
It was the first time Wembley had hosted an FA Cup semi-final. Arsenal
were chasing the double, yet Terry Venables’ team were simply
irresistible from the first whistle.
Often voted the Club’s best-ever goal, Gazza’s 35-yarder laid the foundation for a memorable 3-1 win to book a place back in the final against Forest.
It was soon 2-0. A sharp one-touch move again involving Gazza ended with Paul Allen whipping in a cross and Lineker pouncing from close range - only 10 minutes on the clock.
Alan Smith pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time but it was our day and victory assured when Gary Mabbutt released Lineker, who used Vinny Samways’ run across Arsenal’s famed back line to open space and beat David Seaman with 12 minutes remaining.
What was it like to play in one of the Club’s all-time great matches?
Here’s what Mabbsy, Paul Allen and David Howells remember, 25 years on…
Captain and centre-half, went on to lift the FA Cup after beating Forest in May, 1991
Played in all six FA Cup ties, scored once
Played 47 of 50 matches in 1990-91
Third in our all-time list of appearances with 611 between 1982-1998
“It’s funny, whenever I speak to Spurs fans, they always remember more about the semi-final than the final! It was the first-ever FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. Arsenal had dominated the league that season and they were going for the double. We hadn’t had a particularly good season and we were clearly underdogs going into the game.
"But we knew what we had to do.
“I remember myself and Gary Lineker telling everyone beforehand that we’d heard that Arsenal had already made their FA Cup Final song and that the players had already had their suits fitted, just to get the lads wound up!
“Gazza had just come back from an operation. Was he fully fit? Well, that free-kick was one of the best ever seen at Wembley. When we got the free-kick I thought it was a bit too far out for him. I talk to Paul about this quite often. He has a photograph, as he runs up to take the free-kick, I’m standing to the right of him, just outside the box. I was marked by Alan Smith, who is a lot taller than me. I was going to make a decoy run across the box to take Alan Smith away from the area where Paul was aiming. As I made my run across the box, I looked, Paul’s hit the ball and it’s coming straight for my head. I ducked, the ball went straight over my head and into the top corner. Gazza has a photo of me ducking and the ball going just over my head. I’m claiming an assist for that one!
“We completely outplayed Arsenal on the day. Everyone was on top form, everything clicked. When the final whistle went it was one of those moments when you look around the stadium. It wasn’t expected that we’d go through that day but it wasn’t through good fortune, we went through because we completely outplayed the champions and we stopped Arsenal doing the double.
“It was one of those occasions you want to savour. The support was amazing. The look on the fans’ faces, that jubilation. No-one wanted to go back in! We wanted to celebrate as long as possible. We were underdogs, hadn’t been playing that well, hadn’t had a great season but on this day, it was an outstanding team performance. It’s 25 years ago. 25 years! If people asked me ‘when did you win the cup?’ I’d say ’10 years ago’. “
Midfielder, came back from injury to play against Arsenal
Played in the final against Forest in May, 1991
Played 39 of 50 matches in 1990-91, some at centre-half
Made 335 appearances for us between 1986-98
“I’d been injured. We had a midweek game at Norwich, Gazza played on his first game back after a hernia and I played as well. That was used as a test to see if we were going to be fit for the Sunday and we both came through okay.
“It was all a bit surreal. It was a 12 o’clock kick-off on a Sunday, so there was no-one around but then we got to Wembley and it was absolutely heaving.
“We knew how much it meant to everyone. We’d played Arsenal twice in the league and we actually gave them a bit of a chasing at White Hart Lane, a game that ended 0-0, Seaman was unbelievable that day. We knew we could beat them. They had only lost a couple of times but we knew we had the beating of them.
“We played exceptionally well. In the first half-hour, that was as good a performance as I was involved in, especially considering the quality of the opposition and how good they were defensively, we pulled them around all over the place. They couldn’t cope with us.
“You knew how much it meant to everyone and that’s why it was so special. We had a good time afterwards. I remember getting into the dressing room and asking Terry (Venables) if we could go back to celebrate more with the fans. It felt that good, so we went back out!”
Set-up the second goal for Gary Lineker
Played in all six FA Cup ties including final against Forest
Played in 48 of our 50 matches in 1990-91
Made 370 appearances for us between 1985-93, in our all-time top 20
“It was unprecedented at the time to play at Wembley in the semi-final, that made it even more special. We all knew what it meant to the fan, to us as players and our families as well. We just knew we couldn’t lose this game. There was so much at stake. It stopped them winning the double.
“The most pleasing thing was the way we played on the day. We were exceptional. It was a typical performance for that side. When we played well, when it clicked and we got it right, we were a match for anyone as that proved.
“Those moments are what you play for, you win a game of that importance to be in the dressing room with your team-mates to celebrate with the 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.”