Ink & A Stick

The ramblings of a man who should know better.

My Favourite Goal

This piece first appeared on 14.01.2001 as part of GhostGoal’s My Favourite Goal series.

“What team do you support?”

“Erm, Tottenham?”

It’s 1987, I’m nine years old and I’ve just moved to a new school. Oh, and I’m not particularly interested in football.

It’s a defence mechanism innate in most kids. Say what you think people like to hear and they’ll generally leave you alone. The kid asking me had the shortest hair I’d ever seen and it was a time when the word Skinhead still provoked a fearful reaction from  a lot of people. If I’d known that the boy in question was a bit of a wet blanket and ate beetroot sandwiches for lunch every day, (and I do mean EVERY day) rather than being a fully paid up member of the NF, (not as common as you might think in rural Northants) then I might not have committed myself but I did and it stuck. Tottenham ’til I die.

Supporting Spurs has given me a number of things over the years. Sore feet from queueing at White Hart Lane station, a footballing inferiority complex and a few moments of utter, unspeakable delight. And my favourite goal.

When asked ‘what’s your favourite goal?’ a few possibilities come up. Nelinho’s 1978 curler against Italy in the World Cup. I’d never before seen anyone swerve a ball like that when I first saw it on video. I was quite a fan of Mark Hughes’ tight finish in the ’91 CWC Final against Barcelona too but when it comes to my favourite there is only one.

“Is Gascoigne going to have a crack? He is you know. Oh, I say! Brilliant!”

For an awful lot of Spurs fans of my age this will be their favourite goal.  Too young to appreciate Chivers’ rocket against Wolves in the UEFA Cup Final and Villa’s slalom past Manchester City at Wembley. Gascoigne’s ’91 FA Cup semi-final thunderbolt free kick into the top corner against Arsenal was ‘our’ moment.

I didn’t actually see the goal on the day it happened. Some childhood indiscretion on my part meant that I wasn’t allowed to watch television on the day of the game and whilst I got very excited listening to it on the radio it only became clear how good that goal was when I got to see it a few days later.

One of the things that makes it my favourite is what the goal represents as much as the quality of the strike itself. It was Spurs distilled into a split second. The genius of Gascoigne is almost a logical progression from Arthur Rowe’s push and run team, Bill Nicholson’s double winners, the teams that won 2 UEFA cups. This is what Spurs did and to do it against the then boring, boring Arsenal made it all the sweeter. The drab mediocrity of the years that followed served only to heighten the enjoyment of watching moments like that. I still get a buzz when I watch the clip now. It’s tinged with a little sadness when you look at how life turned out for Gascoigne but rightly or wrongly for a lot of us he’ll be that prodigiously talented young man sprinting away in delight forever.

Schoolboys Own stuff indeed.

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