"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published February, 2018, but first written in 1998 by Irish Spur Henry Bradley
FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 7TH FEBRUARY, 1998
BLACKBURN ROVERS 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3(1)
Referee:- Mr. G. Barber
Blackburn:- Flowers; Kenna, Croft (sub Dahlin, 62), Henchoz, Hendry, McKinlay (sub Bohinen, 82), Ripley, Sherwood, Sutton, Duff, Wilcox
Spurs:- Baardsen; Carr, Wilson (sub Brady, 71), Vega, Campbell, Berti, Fox, Nielsen (sub Clemence, 67), Ferdinand (sub Armstrong, 70), Howells, Ginola
Henry Bradley of the Irish Spurs list contingent wrote these
I realise bits and pieces have come across over the last few
days, but here are a few of my lasting impressions of my trip to
Blackburn last weekend.
Since Joe Doyle went to the West Ham game almost a month ago
the rest of the Irish Spurs list began to get itchy jealous feet.
It had been over a year (West Ham - Nov 2 1996) since some of us
had been to see Spurs play live, and we were looking forward to
going to see the team with all the new faces (Jurgen, Berti,
Ferdinand, Baardsen). AS a result we decided to try and get to go
to the Blackburn away game on the 7th of Februrary. This was
influenced by a number of reasons, the famous fabulous away
support, the accessability of Blackburn to Ireland and the
likelihood of a good game.
Things weren't finalised until well into the last few days.
Tickets were booked and charged and B&B's in Holyhead were
arranged. We decided to travel on the ferry, stay overnight in
Holyhead and avail of BR to get us to Blackburn in time.
Travelling home would be worried about later. So off we went,
Mark Cruise, Sacha Mooney, Tom Daly, Muller (does he have a real
name) and myself to watch Blackburn V Spurs.
Journey was pretty uneventful, except for Mark's presents. He
had bought us little Tottenham figures, a Ruel Fox and a Chris
Armstrong. How prophetic a gesture this would prove to be. We did
discuss what we believed the score may be the next day, with Tom
optomistically looking at a 1-1, Sacha a lowly 3-0 and Mark a
4-0. Personally I didn't think we could score 4 !!!! Journey
(stage 1) over we arrived in Holyhead and made our way to the B
390 minutes later we were on our way. "Best of luck lads-
you'll need it against Blackburn" said Roy Cropper lookalike
guy in the B&B. No-one disagreed. 4 hours later (after a
number of games of scrabble) we were in Blackburn. We had seen
Ewood Park out the window of the train on the way to the station
and we were suitable happy. Not really knowing where to go we
decided to get a taxi to the ground once we had our grub. Being
real brave lads we decided to change into our jerseys just as we
reached the safety of the bottom of the stand.
So into the ground we went. At first we were all quite
impressed with the stadium. The three new stands (2 goal ends and
side with cameras) really make the old stand look quite poor.
Shame about the corner spaces however. It sure makes WHL look
very impressive in comparision. We were all quite happy with the
make up of the team, reckoning that the shape and system might
contain the powerful Blackburn team. We were a bit worried about
young Damien Duff though - his ever willing running would be a
threat. Our seats though, we excellent. We were in the Darwen
End, Lower Stand, Row 32, No. 142-146, or right at the back of
the lower stand about ten-fifteen yards in from the sideline.
"Stand up if you hate Arsenal" they sang, and some of
us did - for the whole game.
So, kick-off approached and we all got nicely nervous. The
teams came back out and after the initial burst of support from
the Ewood park faithful, the noise from the Darwen End took over
and would be dominant for the rest of the game. I have to say, as
someone who hasn't been in an away end before - it was
remarkable. The singing and chanting never stopped - loads of
banter and good will being tossed around at friends and fellow
supporters. I even learned to sing in a cockney accent as my
Irish one just wasn't suitable when joining in in that company.
When the goal came it was after a period when we had a number of
chances and we were right excited. End-to-end stuff it wasn't, but
there were a number of good chances falling to both sides.
McKinley had a shot cleared off the line by Carr (not shown on
MOTD) and an incident involving Berti and McKinley had left lots
of fans 'involved' in the game.
The celebrations at that moment were about 5 times as
intensive as any I've been in before (yes, even better than
Houghton in Stuttgart in 1988, who was that against again ??) and
somehow all the more personal. I'd spent my money I've been
working for and come over here and he's gone and rewarded me for
it. Thanks a lot Mr. Nicola Berti. Now if only I had selected you
on the Ladbrokes sheet at 33-1 rather than Vega at the same price
!! The next few minutes passed quite slowly, as Blackburn
attempted to get the goal back before half-time. Thankfully they
The half-time interval was a chance to eat our Rice Krispie
Squares (definately chewy) and get our breath back. When the
teams came back out for the second half we were just wondering
how long we could hold out. Great defending and staunch work in
the middle of the park by the trio of Howells, Berti and Ginola
meant that we were able to cope (just...). The singing from our
end never really stopped, except when a corner or shot on target
would snap us all away from our vocals to concentrate on the
action. Then as soon as the danger was passed somewhat it would
start up again. Oooooooooohhhhhhhh, oooooooohhhhhhhh when the
spurs, ooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh when the spurs go marching etc
etc... Absolutely magic.
And then on came Chrissy and Brady. We had seen Ferdinand take
a knock and signal to the bench but Armstrong seemed to take an
age to come on. He seemed very nervous, but very willing and
obviously delighted to be back on the pitch. the signing and
cheering to signal Chrissy's return was fantastic - well done to
everyone involved on the Darwen end. The incredible support from
our end continued right up until near the end, when we started to
create a number of chances as Balckburn threw everything forward
in an attempt to equalise. First Chrissy and then Ruel shot
poorly before Chrissy scored. What a party that was. All those
new friends I made (well, people I never met that I hugged that
is). And then Blackburn came at us again, and again we broke well
and Ruel scored a great goal. Emotional overload - cheering and
screaming and loving every second of it. What a moment. Better
and sweeter than the other two, less relief than the first and
second - more celebration and delight and some "We've gone
and beaten you we have" to rub salt in open Blackburn
wounds. And then too quickly it was all over. We leapt to
celebrate our heroes, and led by the magic Frenchman they came
down to salute us. Nielsen leapt off the bench like a child and
jumped and was clearly delighted. Vega was like a big awkward
brother to them all - messing their hair and lifting them up.
Chrissy and Fox just looked like they could live with this sort
of support for ever. Berti had a grin from ear to ear that spoke
volume's about what he thinks of the place now.
And me, with the emotion of it all - I just felt like crying.
Best day of my life ?? - I dunno, it was only a game as they say
- but what a game, the odds against us, the great performance and
the joy of victory. It'll take a very special football moment to
beat this one - I only hope it makes up for all the despair
football has brought since May 1991 and there will be no more
during the next few months.
Time to calm down again. Left stadium happy (except Laddies
was closed). Got back to Blackburn station, had a few pints and
got trains via Bolton and Chester to Holyhead. Saw myself on MOTD
- wow !!!! and had a few pints. I was now officially ready to
fall asleep. Slept till ferry came, then slept on ferry. Got home
and guess what - slepy again.
All in all, a great weekend, a fantastic result, a memorable
90 minutes singing experience and not a bad train journey. Oh,
and the bed I had wasn't really too small for me either.
Henry Bradley IRISH Spur.
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