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View from...a legend

Posted on 11 September 2009  - 12:00

It's 30 years ago since one of the most loyal of all Spurs men made his debut against Manchester United.

View from...a legend

Chris Hughton chuckles down the telephone.

"Time has flown by," he says. "I doesn't seem like yesterday, but certainly not that long ago."

The time we're talking about is 30 years ago or, to be precise, August 29, 1979 - the start of one of the most distinguished playing careers in the club's history.

As is often the case in football, opportunity knocked for Chris following another player's misfortune.

That player was Gordon Smith, a full-back signed from Aston Villa in February, 1979. He had started the first two games of the season but picked up a hamstring injury in the third, a 3-1 defeat at Stoke.

That ruled him out of the League Cup second round, first leg tie against Manchester United at the Lane, Chris's debut and the start of a playing and coaching career at Spurs that would take in the next four decades.

Typical of the man, Chris thinks immediately of his former team-mate. "The frustrating thing from Gordon's point of view - and I've talked to him about it since - was that he was only expected to be out for a couple of games but I did well on my debut and that was the start of a run that saw me play the rest of the games that season.

"No-one knew at the time how I would do but that game catapulted my career."

Chris, 1979

Eleven years later and Chris had racked up 398 appearances in all competitions, won two FA Cups, the UEFA Cup and played in the 1987 FA Cup Final.

He sits proudly in 12th in the club's all-time appearance chart, just ahead of the great Danny Blanchflower.

And he remembers that debut well.

"When you make your debut you can be full of nerves but I was actually very calm about it, maybe because I expected to play after Gordon's injury.

"The two things I remember when I knew I was going to play was one, I was playing Manchester United and two, I was going to come up against Steve Coppell, a real favourite of mine.

"He was an England international, a big-name player and you have to remember this was before the likes of Sky TV came in, so the only time you would see these players was on England duty or on Match of the Day. Players weren't as instantly recognisable as they are now so the bigger players, the internationals, always stood out."

The game itself will always be remembered for a stunning goal from Glenn Hoddle, the famous high-flying volley from Ossie Ardiles' flick that rattled into the top corner of Gary Bailey's net. John Pratt also scored in a 2-1 win but we went out after losing 3-1 at Old Trafford.

Chris, 2006

Chris reflected: "I remember being happy with my performance. I remember the goals - Glenn's volley, who could forget that? - but not a lot else about the game. Some people can tell you from the first minute to the last, but I couldn't. I was so focused on my own performance and wanting to do well on my debut.

"I couldn't have timed it any better. It was the start of a wonderful era for the club, playing in the cup finals and being able to play with the likes of Glenn, Ossie, Ricky, Garth Crooks, Stevie Archibald, so many fantastic players.

"As I said, it doesn't seem like 30 years ago but where I was also fortunate is that most of those 30 years were at the club, and I'll always be grateful for that."