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Garry Brooke

Posted on 5 September 2001  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Garry Brooke is arguably one of the most unlucky players to wear the white shirt of Spurs. After joining the club as a 10-year-old and working his way up he initially faced breaking into a midfield containing Ardiles, Hoddle and Villa before a succession of injuries stunted his progress. Then, an almost fatal car crash hastened the end of his playing career at The Lane. But, as NEALE HARVEY discovered, the chirpy cockney remains Spurs to the core...

Garry did not hesitate when asked to recall his best moment in a Spurs shirt. Like many others the 3-2 FA Cup final replay over Manchester City in 1981 will live forever in the memory of a man who joined Spurs as a 10-year-old in 1971 and came through the ranks to make his first team debut against West Bromwich Albion five days after his 20th birthday in November 1980.

Garry helped Spurs along the road to Wembley that season and scored in a 2-0 fourth round home win over Hull City.

He came off the bench to replace Ossie Ardiles and as well as shooting Spurs ahead in the 84th minute, Garry also set up our second for Steve Archibald.

An impressed Ardiles said: "He made the difference. I love the way he plays. He’s a brilliant prospect."

Garry came off the bench to play in the first match of the final against Manchester City, famously replacing a tearful Ricky Villa, but had to be content with warming the bench throughout a dramatic replay. That did not dampen the thrill of winning the Cup, however, as Garry recalled the amazing evening when Villa set North London alight.

"I never got on, but it’s still the greatest night I ever had," enthused Garry, as we chatted in Muswell Hill, where he co-owns the Palace Soccer School and Sports Shop. "It was brilliant for two reasons: one, because we won and two, because of Ricky’s goal after he was so disappointed to be taken off in the first game.

"I was in the melee going mental after he scored and at the end of the game I was the first person in the bath and the last out - drunk, gone! I hadn't even played, but I was shattered and drunk on champagne.

"We went back to the club afterwards and it's the only time I ever danced. I think I danced with Mickey Hazard for three hours - why I'll never know - and we left at 8.30 in the morning.

"As a football-mad youngster in Walthamstow, Garry numbered Eddie Gray and Alan Ball among his boyhood heroes, but says George Best is 'the greatest footballer that's ever been'.

At nine he joined Arsenal and admits "not a lot of people know that". Until now that is, Garry!

He soon saw the light, however, when Spurs scout Dick Walker spotted him playing for Waltham Forest schools and invited him over to training. One session in the company of Double-winning legend Ron Henry was enough to hook the skilful youngster and he chose Spurs despite having the pick of London's clubs, as well as Derby County.

At a time when Keith Burkinshaw was rebuilding the club following relegation in 1977, Gary wasbrought up among a crop of promising youngsters, including best mate Mark Falco (pictured), Mickey Hazard and the maestro himself, Glenn Hoddle.

Although the arrival of Ossie Ardiles and Villa probably delayed the midfielder's progress to the first team his first two matches, as a substitute against West Brom at The Lane and a full homedebut against Southampton in a dramatic match on Boxing Day 1980, stick in the mind for different reasons.

"We were 3-0 down when I went on against West Brom - thanks Keith! I'll never forget it because Steve Perryman scored, which he never did, and the first time I got the ball Bryan Robson whacked me and put me four feet up in the air.

"The 4-4 draw with Southampton was very memorable because even though I scored two goals I couldn't believe how tired I was after the match. You play in the reserves and don't realise how massive the gap is and I missed the easiest chance to win the game late on. I was clean through with Peter Shilton to beat, but I was knackered and hit the worst shot of the game which rolled along the ground to him.

"Garry stayed in the team and appeared two weeks later when two goals by Steve Archibald provided his best memory of beating the Gooners at The Lane and he added: "That was a great day and we were on fire. It's always a big game because of the fans and the atmosphere and we were very comfortable that day."

Despite having played a supporting roll in his first Cup-winning season Gary believed he had made the breakthrough when he started the first four matches of the 1981-82 campaign. Hopes of an extended run were cut short, however, when he sustained a cartilage injury in September that required an operation.

Complications set in and there was a time when Gary feared he might lose his left leg, but by March he recovered sufficiently to play a part in reaching a second successive Cup final, against QPR in 1982. Once again, Gary appeared off the bench, but second time around the memorieswere not so good.

"Anti-climax is probably not the right word, but I'd been a long time getting back fit and was lucky to be on the bench. I was only there because Ossie and Ricky weren't playing because of the Falklands thing.

"I was glad to get on again, but the two Cup finals were awful games and even though we'd won the Cup two years running, because of the Ossie and Ricky scenario it put a damper on it.

"For me, personally, there was not the excitement of the previous year. With Ardiles out of the picture Garry started the 1982-83 season and finally pinned down a first team spot. With eight goals to his name, including a hat-trick in a 4-0 home win over Coventry City, Garry was one of our most consistent performers as we chased Liverpool at the head of the first division.

But following a home victory over Swansea City in February, Garry was involved in a car crash that almost cost him his life and badly affected his career thereafter. Coming home from being best man at a friend's wedding, the Ford Capri he was a passenger in hit black ice at speed and left aroad near Enfield.

His four companions were largely uninjured, but Garry had been sitting in the middle of the back seat and was buffeted with such force he suffered broken ribs, a badly punctured lung and suffered facial and head wounds. Garry, who was left fighting for life in the Royal Chase Hospital, takes up the story.

"It was the season I was beginning to feel I'd play all the time and I played most games until the crash. I was having a really good run and enjoying it but then, as they say, it all came to a very abrupt halt.

"Sunday, February 13, 1983, is a day I remember like yesterday and when people talk about pain, you haven't been in pain until you've broken nine ribs and punctured a lung.

"It happened at 11 o'clock at night and it was horrendous, absolutely horrendous. My mum actually overheard one of the surgeons say I wouldn't make it until morning. Mark (Falco) came over and was there when they gave me my last rites.

"I was in intensive care for 10 days, but was out after 14 and it's only a painful memory now because I was never the same playing football again. Although it didn't affect me mentally, I was never the player I used to be.

"The club were brilliant to my mum and dad and they sent me to Marbella for three weeks. I lost weight and Ally Dick said: 'Cor, you don't half look well', but the first day I came back for training in May I only jogged as far as the old Park Lane stand before collapsing on the floor, like a goldfish trying to get air in. Even now, my lung only operates at 80%."

At 22, Garry's Spurs career continued, but he never fully recovered and after two frustrating years, punctuated by rare, fleeting appearances from the substitutes' bench, he joined Norwich City in July 1985. A year-and-a-half later he fell out with Canaries coach Mel Machin and moved to Dutch outfit Groningen, who were coached by Ronald Koeman's father, Herman.

He played against the likes of Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit and says he loved Holland and didn't want to come back. But after his wife fell pregnant he returned and joined FA Cup-winners Wimbledon in 1988, a move he describes as a 'disaster'.

As injuries took their toll Garry became disenchanted with the game and, following brief spells with Brentford and Reading, retired at the age of 30 in 1991. After a year out of football he gained coaching qualifications and set up the Palace Soccer School with a friend in 1992.

At 40, he now coaches at schools most days, runs 14 Sunday teams under the Palace Youth FC banner and is a regular visitor to The Lane, where he helps Steve Grenfell with our Football in the Community scheme.

As well as his coaching involvement, Garry is a regular performer for Martin Chivers’ Ex-Spurs XI and watches all the matches at The Lane in his capacity as a match reporter for the Press Association.

Although nothing can replace playing, he enjoys visiting his old stamping ground and added: "People have said I was unlucky to be at Spurs during my time because I had so many great players ahead of me.

"Rubbish. It was the best time to be there and it was only after I left I realised how good people like Glenn and Ossie were. I love Ossie, always will, and he's a fabulous man. With people like Stevie P around I learned more in five minutes on the pitch with them than with any coach I've had.

"Now, in the Vets' team it's like being back at the club for the day, with guys like Chiv, Richard Cooke, Tony Galvin and Mickey around. We've got newer ones like Paul Allen, David Kerslake and Paul Price around and it's great - just like the old days, with a wind up all the time.

Neale Harvey was writing for Spurs Monthly