Moving from Glasgow Rangers to Kansas City Wizards in 1997, just a year after Major League Soccer (MLS) had been established, Richard Gough became one of British football’s first ‘exports’ to the United States’ premier football division. Such was impression the defender made in his 17 league appearances for the Wizards that year, he was included in the MLS Best XI come the end of the campaign.
“When I first went to the States, the style of football wasn’t very athletic or as tactically astute as in Europe, but it was still of a very decent standard,” says Gough. “The development (of the MLS) has continued apace ever since it was established in 1996 and it really is turning into a top, top league now. You only have to see the kind of players going there now, like David Villa, to see realise that. On top of that, the US national team are going from strength to strength, playing in their seventh consecutive World Cup this summer.”
After a season in Kansas, then-Rangers manager Walter Smith appealed for him to come back to Ibrox for the 1997-98 season to cover the long-term injuries of Lorenzo Amoruso and Alan McLaren. He went back to the States thereafter, making 19 league appearances and scoring two goals for San Jose Clash. When he hung up his boots in 2001, having also played for Nottingham Forest (loan) and Everton in the later stages of his career, he moved to America permanently and today lives in San Diego.
“San Diego is absolutely beautiful,” he smiles. “I have easy access to the coast and there are also mountains for skiing no less. It’s been my home since 2003, although I managed Livingston in 2004-2005. I returned to America once again after seven months with Livingstone, having kept them in the Scottish Premier League.”
Although born in Stockholm, Sweden and raised in South Africa, Richard followed his Scottish father’s roots and opted to play for the Scotland national team during his professional career. After playing at Wits University in Johannesburg, he signed for Charlton Athletic (who his dad Charlie had also played for) in 1979, making three league appearances. He became a real favourite at Dundee United, where he played 165 league games and scored 23 goals before moving south of the border to sign for us in 1986.
“I spent 14 fantastic months at White Hart Lane and it was a fantastic period in my career. We had a great team there and I feel I settled in fairly quickly following my move from Dundee United. I built a good understanding with Gary Mabbutt in central defence, who was a great defender. All across the team there was quality, from Ray Clemence in goal, Danny and Mitchell Thomas in the full-back positions and a midfield with the likes of Chris Waddle, Ossie Ardiles, Glenn Hoddle, Paul Allen and Tony Galvin and of course Clive (Allen) up front.
“A memory that instantly springs to mind is my Tottenham debut away at Aston Villa (August 23, 1986) on the opening day of the season. We won 3-0 at Villa Park, with Clive Allen scoring a hat-trick. I think Clive touched the ball about four times that game!! That was very much a case of setting the scene for the season as he went on to get 49 goals in a single campaign - a feat I don’t ever see being beaten now.”
Below: Richard chased by another ex-Spur, Jurgen Klinsmann, in action for Scotland against Germany
Gough played all but two games of our 1986-87 season that saw us finish third in the old Division One (now Barclays Premier League), get to the FA Cup Final against Coventry City and the semi final of the League Cup against old rivals Arsenal. In all, he played 65 league matches for us between 1986 and 1987.
“The only disappointment that (1986-87) season was to play so well, get so far in competitions but not have any silverware to show for it,” adds Gough. “We got to the League Cup semi-final and had been 1-0 up against Arsenal from the first leg, then leading on aggregate for much of the return leg at White Hart Lane only to lose ultimately over three games.
“I’ve watched the 1987 FA Cup Final back on one occasion. It was a very hard watch. Taking the lead so early on, we were straight in the ascendency. Suddenly though, it what seems like a complete blur, we’re 3-2 down and we’ve lost. You think back and ask yourself, ‘how did that one get away?!’”
Gough himself became ‘the one that got away’ in the eyes of Spurs fans, when he opted to move back to Scotland in the Autumn of 1987, playing his last match for us away at Manchester United on September 26, 1987. He is keen to stress that his move to Glasgow Rangers was for personal reasons, with his wife at the time having just lost her father and the couple suffering with homesickness.
“Of course my time at Glasgow Rangers was during a fantastic period in the club’s history, winning 18 major honours while I was there,” adds the former player, who also won 61 caps for Scotland between 1983 and 1993. “There were great players at Rangers and what a time it was for us all to be associated with that club during that period.”
Even though the time he spent at White Hart Lane was relatively brief, Richard Gough regularly features in our fans’ E-Hotspur submissions of their all-time best Spurs XI teams. Our former players Glenn Hoddle and Greame Souness also named him their Greatest XI - #OnetoEleven on Sky Sports’ Fantasy Football Show recently, showing what appreciation there is for the ex-defender throughout the game.
Returning the admiration, Richard - who these days works as a property developer – says he continues to look out for our results and is keen on another trip back to White Hart Lane soon, having attended a home game with Liverpool a few seasons back. He will also be an interested television spectator when we play three matches in on our tour of North America this summer.
“Those three clubs (Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC and Chicago Fire) all have great stadiums and good players who will be match sharp as they’ll be in their MLS season,” says Gough. “With the weather, the facilities and the level of opposition, the North America tour is the ideal pre-season preparation for Spurs ahead of the 2014-15 Barclays Premier League campaign in my opinion.”
By Andy Greeves