October 1993 (Oh what a night)
Lest we forget, in the autumn of ’93 we were a third-tier side, managed by Jimmy Mullen. Although new recruits, David Eyres and ‘Rooster’ Russell brought extra fluency to the midfield and greater sting in attack, the elegance of fluid home victories was often undermined by abject defeats on the road, with our midfield over-run and our detached front runners left to hunt down desperate hoofs from our beleaguered defenders. A schizoid pattern was established. Win at home, lose away. Nevertheless, we were in eighth spot as we came to White Hart Lane for a second-leg League Cup tie.
Premier League Spurs were then managed by Ossie Ardiles. His style of play guaranteed entertainment, with copious space given to both sides. Surprisingly, the first leg, played on a balmy Turf Moor evening, didn’t produce a single goal despite a memorable display of fluent end-to-end football. Here, Ian Walker’s leg fortuitously denied Randall, while a phenomenal tackle by Mabbutt denied Heath. Although Rooster’s effort found goal it was ruled out for offside. Burnley didn’t have a monopoly of chances, though. Sheringham, who oozed international class in both legs, was unlucky when his chipped shot hit the left-hand post and rolled along our goal line. In fairness, neither side deserved to lose such a splendid contest, but such a sentiment belongs with the neutrals, and judging by the volume of noise generated by the 17,000 Turf Moor crowd, there were few there that night. The Longside was on top form, ceaselessly roaring their support at shuddering volume.
The second leg was played on the 6th October. It had been a day of heavy showers with pendulous clouds marauding darkly over the city, drenching us with their sharp, chilly downpours. Tottenham expected only a lame away presence, opening just two visitors’ gates, leaving us exposed to the inclement weather as we shuffled slowly, with mounting aggravation, towards the turnstiles. Here we found there were no concessions and no guarantee of shelter from the rain. Once inside, though, we smugly claimed more expensive protected positions. With the stewards deciding that capitulation was the better part of valour, we stood our ground throughout.
Spurs had begun their 1993/4 Premier League season in good form. Coming into this second leg game they were in 5th place with Sheringham vying with Shearer for the ‘Golden Boot’ slot. Ardiles’ midfield diamond was glittering and sharp. We expected Burnley to have their work cut out to hold them.
This was not to be a back to the wall defensive slog, though. Such a strategy would have been suicidal. Jimmy Mullen knew his side had to attack Spurs and this is what they did, straight from kick off. Immediately, Randall, Heath and Eyres combined slickly on the left allowing overlapping full back, Les Thompson to force a corner, the ball zipping off a surface that hissed with excess moisture. Although the corner was cleared with comfort, Burnley were quicker into their stride, playing neat triangular passes in midfield, where Heath was orchestrating the play, and Randall and Rooster were providing probing runs. So, it came as something of a surprise when Sheringham opened the scoring after 7 minutes. Samways fed Sheringham in the inside right channel and, having shrugged of Heath’s challenge, and seeing Pender backing off, he unleashed a fierce drive, which gave Beresford no chance, the ball fizzing into left-hand corner.
Our reaction was instantaneous. Incensed by our reception and now furious at our injured pride, we bellowed our defiance. From that point there was no letting up. Refusing all instructions to sit down – we had shunned our seats with Luddite contempt – our raging vocals thundered throughout the first half, through the second and well into the night. Time and again we chanted ‘No, Nay, Never’, ‘Jimmy Mullen’s Claret and Blue Army’, ‘Forever and Ever’, the full works. Fiercely focused, galvanised, intensely partisan, we seemed to carry all before us, crushing the home support with the force of our greater conviction. Willing, urging, imploring our team to push forward, it seemed as if we were one with them. On the pitch the Burnley lads scrapped for everything. Our midfielders poured forward at every opportunity, creating dazzling triangles and overlaps for the front men to exploit. Our defenders propelled themselves into one crunching tackle after another. Everyone hustled and harried as if their very lives depended upon their efforts. We were all in the grip of this incandescent force. Surely, nothing could quell this?
Within five minutes of going behind, we were level. An elegant exchange between Heath and Randall created just enough space for Rooster on the right to float in a near post cross. Eyres was onto it in a flash, out-jumping Calderwood and flicking the ball goal-wards off the top of his head. With ‘keeper Thorsvedt stranded in no-man’s land, the ball appeared to be going in. We watched first with apprehension that the ball might not carry, and then with mounting glee that it might. It was as if this was happening in slow motion. Drawing a deep collective breath, we sucked the ball towards us, digging our finger-nails deeply into our palms as Thorsvedt scrambled backwards, urging him to fail, willing the ball to elude his grasp. Then with the ball nestling in the net and a triumphant Eyresy before us, we let rip a volcanic roar, generated as much by the release of our trapped breath as by ecstasy. Vindication replaced righteous indignation, as we made jabbing gestures of contempt at our embarrassed hosts. ‘It’s All Gone Quiet…’, ‘Shall We Sing A Song For You?’, ‘Oo are yer!?’. We were merciless.
Everyone was lifted. Even Nathan Peel, who had started uncertainly, began to make his presence felt, almost getting the better of Mabbutt in a boisterous one-on-one raid and then, shortly afterwards, narrowly failing to put Eyres through on goal. For all their pretty patterns, Spurs rarely threatened during the next twenty minutes, but you ignore a player as good as Sheringham at your peril. In the 20th minute, full back, Kerslake, broke on the right flank and whipped over a high, pacy cross. Marlon raced from the line but Sheringham was quicker, beating him to the punch and sending a powerful header skimming over the bar.
However, the best chances were being created in front of the home goal. In the 25th minute, Eyres bewildered Kerslake, not once but twice, turning him inside out before setting Russell free in the inside left channel. Alas, Rooster wasted the opportunity, managing only the tamest of efforts, which Thorsvedt fielded with ease. We wondered whether we would rue this profligacy, but the chances kept coming. Just five minutes later, Burnley counter-attacked swiftly following a Spurs corner. Russell skipped down the right flank before clipping an oblique ball across the face of the box for Heath to meet with his head. With only Kerslake between him and goal Heath attempting to nod the ball past the full back, putting himself in the clear but Kerslake got just enough of a deflection to deny Inchy.
It was easy to forget that Spurs were the home side such was the extent of Burnley’s possession. It was easier still to mistake this for a Premier League contest, given the range of skills being exhibited in these slippery conditions. However, as good as Burnley were, this wasn’t one-way traffic. Shortly after the half hour mark, Spurs exerted pressure, first with Sedgley nearly taking advantage of some confusion between Davis and Pender and then Durie nearly breaking through on the left side of the goal area.
Burnley were undeterred and continued to attack Spurs at every opportunity. Almost immediately, Randall, Heath and Russell again combined well to set up a cross that was cut out at full stretch. With Heath as the fulcrum, and Deary performing a holding role, Randall, Russell and Eyres were playing with increasing freedom and flair. In the 40th minute, they concocted a 14-man move! Let me repeat that, a 14-man move! It was reminiscent of Leeds at their contemptuous best. Burnley hadn’t played football like this since Jimmy Adamson was in charge. It was mesmerising. The move concluded with Eyres firing a low cross between Thorsvedt and Mabbutt and with both of them uncertain who should claim the ball, Thompson almost nipped in to score. Mabbutt was angry at Thompson’s rugged challenge but he was angrier with himself for not taking responsibility sooner and booting the ball to safety.
It didn’t end there. The referee was so absorbed by the game that he completely lost track of the time. Over five minutes stoppage time was allowed when there had hardly been a break in this tumultuous game. It was just enough time to allow further chances at both ends. Monington’s brave header just kept Durie at bay and Eyres’ smart left-wing cross almost enabled Heath to score with a diving header at the far post. It was splendid stuff!
The second half was greeted by another torrential downpour, illuminated in sharp relief by the floodlights’ glare. The rain bounced furiously on the running track, shimmering on the sodden playing surface, plastering the players’ hair against their foreheads and darkening the Claret hue on the Burnley shirts. The conditions were becoming increasingly treacherous, but it made no impact upon the tempo or quality of the game.
Stung by Burnley’s first half temerity, Spurs immediately turned up the heat. Burnley threw themselves into desperate defence. It was full tilt boogie as the skills deficit began to be exposed. Monington was the first to be penalised, booked in the 49th minute for bundling over Durie in full flight. For five or six minutes, Spurs seemed certain to score but the Clarets hung on and just as they had done so many times before the interval, proceeded to counter-attack in strength. Peel picked up the ball from Davis in central midfield and strode purposefully forward, easily brushing off the anxious attentions of the Spurs defenders and laying the ball off perfectly for the overlapping Thompson. Our left back picked his spot quickly but under the combined challenge of Mabbutt and Calderwood, Eyres could only manage a soft headed contact, allowing Thorsvedt to save comfortably.
After 55 minutes, Spurs should have re-taken the lead. Caskey put Durie in on the left side of Burnley’s six-yard box. The Scottish striker spun away from Pender and, with our hearts in our mouths, fired a low shot across Beresford. At full stretch Marlon just managed to divert the ball for a corner. But back again came Burnley with Heath sending Russell away on the left. The resulting cross was headed away, though.
In the 57th minute came, what proved to be, a crucial substitution. Howells replaced Durie, who, apart from his sharp 55th minute effort, had been innocuous. Within three minutes of the substitution, Spurs could have been 3-1 in front. Sol Campbell, clumsy and apparently out-of-position at left back, almost sneaked in at the back post to convert a low right-wing cross. Then, a minute later, Caskey sent a fizzing drive across the goalmouth after Davis had blocked Sheringham’s passage.
Was the tide finally turning? Not a bit of it. Off galloped Randall moving deep into Spurs’ territory before squaring the ball to Heath on the edge of the host’s box. Without hesitation, Heath flicked the ball over the static home defenders. Russell read the script, darting around them before they could react and picking up Heath’s pass in his stride. Thorsvedt raced to intercept. Russell shot. Getting the slenderest of touches, Thorsvedt did just enough to divert the ball onto the inside of his right-hand post, the ball rolling across the face of the goal and thence to safety.
Now the alarmed home fans started to have a go at their side. Some might have remembered the 4-1 defeat ten years before. There was a sense of déjà vu. Perhaps rattled by this backlash, Spurs began to scrap. Caskey took this to extremes, clattering Thompson with his elbow. The referee had no hesitation. Immediately, he flourished a card. It was red. So, with twenty-seven minutes remaining we had a man advantage and an away goal, which might be decisive if we required extra time. We all believed that the game had turned decisively in our favour. Jimmy thought so, too, as he decided that Francis’s extra pace might hurt 10-man Spurs.
Spurs were in trouble. Their passing game had deserted them. They were losing possession. Surely, we would make this advantage count. We didn’t though. Ten minutes later, Spurs demonstrated why they were a Premier League side and we weren’t. Samways collected the ball on the left wing. We seemed to have sewn things up in defence but Samways spotted a chink. His superbly weighted cross found Sheringham, who again displayed his brilliant knack of pulling away from his marker at the last possible moment. When Samways cross reached him, he found enough space to produce a perfectly cushioned pass. Substitute Howells was not in his class but swivelling with consummate timing, he crashed the ball into the top left-hand corner before Beresford could twitch. We couldn’t believe it! How could we be punished so unfairly after playing so well? But this was no time for heads to drop. We had come back once. We could do so again.
Sure enough, just three minutes later, we were applying the screw. Under pressure, Anderton, in the left back position, badly miscued his clearance, slewing the ball in the direction of his own penalty spot. Thorsvedt groped. Kerslake jumped with Eyres. Although the Spurs defender reached the ball momentarily before Eyres, his clearing header lacked power and direction, merely finding Thompson on the left edge of his box. With Thorsvedt out of position, our full back hardly broke stride as he hammered the ball goalwards. We all leapt in expectation of the net bulging. But we were to be denied. Thompson’s exocet picked out Calderwood, the solitary defender of the goal-line. How he kept it out, God only knows! By rights, the ball should have gone right through him and onto Enfield. It was then that we knew for sure that it wasn’t going to happen for us.
Our team, bless them, didn’t buy this. They scrapped to the bitter end. With six minutes of normal time remaining Russell decided to take on the Spurs defence alone. His strong run down the middle almost succeeded. Only a terrific tackle by Mabbutt thwarted him. But apart from a couple of inconsequential corners forced in the final minute that was our final blow. Again, we had a generous ration of extra time. Even a thorough soaking wouldn’t discourage our referee. He was loath to give this up. Finally, in the 4th and last minute of injury time, Thompson’s determination to dispossess Anderton over-stepped the mark. Anderton drove the free kick from the right high across the Burnley goal, Sheringham slipped away from Davis and headed back across goal and in. Marlon was probably unsighted by Davis but this was high class opportunism. It was such a cruel end to a stirring contest. As for Sheringham, he milked his moment of triumph. We had foolishly scorned his England chances all night. Now he paid us back, big time.
It didn’t end here though. Our brave team might have lost but we hadn’t. On and on went our chants, long after the players had left the field. Some of the Spurs supporters stayed to witness our crowing triumph, curious at our frenzied passion. As at Derby in ’92, the players were forced to return to acknowledge our support. This was our victory. The Spurs supporters on the train acknowledged this. None of them would look us in the eye. It was as if they knew we had cared more.
Looking at this result now, more than 25 years after, most observers would not see anything remarkable, an apparently comfortable 3-1 win by a Premier League side against lower division opposition. Those who were there would know differently. Sometimes, winning isn’t everything.
The Burnley Cast: Beresford, Monington, Davis, Pender, Thompson, Randall, Russell, Deary, Eyres, Peel (Francis), Heath.
The Burnley Stars: Heath (9/10), Russell (8/10), Eyres, Randall, Thompson, Davis (all 7/10), the Burnley support (10/10).Follow UpTheClarets:
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