GOAL Jurgen Klinsmann
THE Showgrounds in Sligo. That’s where I saw my first ever Spurs game in the flesh. Paul Gascoigne had just left for Lazio, but we were FA Cup holders and the team still included the likes of Paul Stewart and Gary Lineker. Spurs won 4-0, but from my vantage point behind the goal, the moment I best remember is goalkeeper Erik Thorsvedt responding positively to pleas from the crowd to ‘give us a wave’.
Three years later, I watched Jürgen Klinsmann score his first ever Spurs goal – against Shelbourne in Tolka Park. It wasn’t quite as famous as the one he got against Sheffield Wednesday soon after, producing the famous ‘dive’ celebration which was replicated in many schoolyards.
Trips to White Hart Lane followed in adulthood, after the establishment of the Mayo Supporters’ Club in Westport. I’ve gone to at least two games per season since then, although I’ve yet to set foot in the swanky new stadium.
Being a Spurs fan always marked me out as different, even if I was following in the footsteps of my older brother. Explaining his choice to follow the Lilywhites, comedian David O’Doherty told the Second Captains podcast last Friday that he “didn’t like red things” as a child. That applied to tomatoes, strawberries and Muppets character Elmo, but it also ruled out following Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Unlike O’Doherty, I’m not old enough to remember Spurs’ previous European success, in the 1984 Uefa Cup. But I have vivid memories of the FA Cup finals of 1987 (Gary Mabbutt’s own goal – boo!) and 1991 (Des Walker’s own goal – hurrah!)
That seems like a world away now. It was impossible to buy a replica Spurs jersey in Ireland during my childhood. When I was ten, I got one for my birthday, specially delivered from the UK. A year later, I can remember the excitement of buying funky THFC shorts in Enniskillen, hard border and British army checkpoints notwithstanding.
The second legs of the recent Champions League quarter-final and semi-final were extraordinary. Seeing Raheem Sterling’s goal disallowed means that no matter what happens, I can never say a bad word about VAR. And I’d virtually given up the ghost against Ajax before Lucas Moura turned into Diego Maradona.
There’s something rather surreal about Spurs being in a Champions League final. It was, in fact, so off my radar that I now have a ticket I can’t use for a concert on Dun Laoghaire pier next Saturday. Does anybody want to go see The Lightning Seeds and Madness?
Since the European Cup final moved to Saturdays, I’ve watched the showpiece in places like The Shamrock in Breaffy and The Borderline in Ballindine … depending on what club championship match I was covering for The Mayo News that evening. I’m now based in Dublin, so my mission for the week is to find a pub here where Spurs fans won’t be overrun by our Liverpool counterparts.
Does such a place exist? We’ll find out. Come on you Spurs!