North London derby FA Cup memories

Spurs and Arsenal's five meetings in the FA Cup have gone on to produce four finalists and three winners. Veterans of those games relive thirty years of the capital's greatest rivalry

There is more to Arsenal versus Tottenham cup ties than loaded emotions and local antipathy. The north London clubs have met five times in the FA Cup, and on each of the last four occasions the survivor has gone on to reach the final - three times winning the trophy.

David Hytner and Amy Lawrence track down some of the players who took part in these tussles who remember how it felt to have a cup run and bragging rights on the line simultaneously, and reflect upon how much is at stake at the Emirates on Saturday evening.

2 January 1982, Third round, Tottenham 1-0 Arsenal (Scorer: Crooks)

Paul Miller, Tottenham centre-half I remember Peter Shreeves, our assistant manager, bringing the FA Cup into our dressing room beforehand and saying: "This is our trophy. Let's make sure we keep it." We were the holders, having beaten Manchester City the previous year in the replay that Ricky Villa made famous with his individual goal, and it was a good bit of psychology from Shreeves. You hear about Bill Shankly and Brian Clough doing these kinds of things.

Playing Arsenal always meant a lot to us, particularly as we were a team with so many homegrown players. Our whole back four that day was homegrown – myself, Steve Perryman, Graham Roberts and Chris Hughton – and then there was Glenn Hoddle and Tony Galvin in midfield and Mark Falco up front. I know we got Roberts and Galvin from non-league but we effectively made them. Shreeves was brought up as a Londoner and he fully appreciated what these derbies meant. Having such a percentage of homegrown players will never happen again.

We were flying at the time, the team's confidence was up after we'd won our first trophy against City the year before and we were never not comfortable in the tie. It was cold, the pitch was heavy and I just remember Pat Jennings, who is obviously a massive Spurs man, letting in a soft goal, which was very uncharacteristic for him. He hurt himself in the process, I think he tore his groin and Peter Nicholas, the Arsenal midfielder, had to go in the net. Defensively, we were really sharp. We had to be against Arsenal and I think we were well worth the win.

Whenever you beat Arsenal, it's special. The best time was when we beat them 5-0 in 1983 and it could have been 10-0. They had beaten us 5-0 in 1978 so it got rid of that result. But to beat them in the FA Cup was big. The crowd went home happy and we really felt that, as we mixed with them more in those days on a social basis. The FA Cup was the real glamour trophy. There was a magic about it.

We competed for three cups that season. We lost the League Cup final 3-1 to Liverpool after extra time, having been 1-0 up in the 87th minute, and we were kicked out of the European Cup Winners' Cup by Barcelona in the semi-final. The first leg was the Battle of White Hart Lane. We were the better football team, which I suppose is quite funny to say given Barcelona's reputation these days, but we got involved in a kicking match and we lost. We played so many games that season and we only had a squad of 16 players.

But we won the FA Cup, having not left London until the semi-final against Leicester at Villa Park. After Arsenal, we beat Leeds and Aston Villa at White Hart Lane and then we won at Chelsea in the quarter-final. We beat QPR in the final after a replay.

I think Tim Sherwood has nothing to lose on Saturday; he's got one for nothing, really. There is less pressure on him but both he and his assistant, Les Ferdinand, are Londoners and they realise what a Tottenham–Arsenal derby is. They will make it known to the players.

14 April 1991, Semi-final, Tottenham 3-1 Arsenal (Scorers: Gascoigne 55, Lineker 10 78, Smith 45)

Paul Davis Arsenal midfielder It was the first semi-final to be played at Wembley. That's something that made a big impression. I felt it took a bit away from the competition – I was one of those who felt Wembley should be reserved for the final – but I could understand why it went that way. It was the first time the two north London clubs met at the semi-final.

We were confident. We were having a pretty good season. In the end we won the league losing only one match. But George [Graham] frustrated a couple of us. Michael Thomas and I felt he was talking about Gazza too much in preparation and didn't put enough emphasis on our own abilities. He was a bit worried about Gazza, and what we had to do when he had the ball.

Gazza was really fired up. He scored his free-kick from 35 yards just five minutes in. Then they went 2-0 up, and it's rare to come back from that. We got back into the game with a goal from Alan Smith and were chasing the game a bit when they hit us on the break for 3-1. Dave Seaman felt it was a mistake on his part as Gary Lineker's shot slipped through his hands. We were disappointed for him. Normally he would have saved the first and third goals. We were very frustrated to lose to our biggest rivals on such a big occasion.

These games really used to get to you as a player. I'm from London, I grew up with it. You know the fans need you to win. It puts the pressure on.

I had made my debut against Spurs in 1980. Arsenal had finals coming up in the FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup and, with not so much riding on the league game, Terry Neill brought in some youngsters. He didn't tell us we were playing until a couple of hours before kick-off, so none of my family got to the game as we found out so late. It was fantastic. We won at White Hart Lane with a few reserves. What a debut to have. That game has always stuck in my mind.

Despite the rivalry the players did get on. Once you got playing you had to win but we kept our rivalry on the pitch. I had friendships with Chris Hughton and Garth Crooks. There were a couple who maybe took it a bit over the edge, like Paul Miller and Graham Roberts.

The consolation was that after we lost the semi-final in 1991, we had the championship run-in. It takes a bit of the disappointment away if you still have something to fight for. We won the league with a couple of games to spare. Our record against Spurs was always pretty good and even is today.

4 April 1993, Semi-final, Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham (Scorer: Adams 79)

Ray Parlour, Arsenal midfielder I didn't play in 1991 – I made my debut the season after – but plenty of the team did and that background definitely gave it more spice. It was in a few minds, that's for sure. In games like this the form book is irrelevant and sometimes it just boils down to who wants it more. We wanted it. It was a close game – not exactly loads of chances, and then I was brought down for the free-kick that turned the game. Merse [Paul Merson] floated the ball in and there was Tony Adams at the far post to head it down. Then it was a case of "how long left?"

Tony was brilliant. He was always very vocal before games, he would get everyone going and his leadership was unquestionable. But nobody needs to get up for a game of this stature. You shouldn't be a footballer if you can't get motivated for a semi-final at Wembley against your closest rivals.

Lee Dixon was sent off towards the end but we kept our composure with 10 men. We knew we had a fantastic defence. George drilled it into us so we knew once we had a lead we could win any game 1-0. We knew we could see it out. Everyone defended that little bit harder. We kept two banks of four and it just meant the striker had to run his socks off, but we knew we didn't have too long to hold on.

At the end I remember looking around at all the Tottenham players on the floor, tears coming out of their eyes. This time we got it right. It was a big, big moment. There was a lot of relief and happiness. It means so much, not just to the players but you are aware of what it means to all the people involved with the club.

Particularly for homegrown players, you know how important it is. That is something the foreign players picked up quickly. Look at Thierry Henry's reaction when he scored against Spurs – they all got to know how vital it was. The likes of Jack Wilshere will know. He has been playing these derbies throughout the youth teams, and will make sure all the current team realise how much is at stake.

We did celebrate winning the semi-final in 1993, but you don't celebrate properly until after the final. You don't get a medal for winning a semi-final. If you lose the final it's a nightmare. We won two cups that season, with the Coca Cola Cup as well as the FA Cup, both times beating Sheffield Wednesday. It was a very special moment.

8 April 2001, Semi-final, Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham (Scorers: Vieira 33, Pires 74, Doherty 14)

Tim Sherwood, Tottenham midfielder We got battered, didn't we? We had gone to Old Trafford believing that we could impose ourselves on Arsenal and when Gary Doherty put us in front, you think: "Could it be one of those Cinderella stories?" Glenn Hoddle had come in as the manager for George Graham at the start of the week and we'd spent quite a bit of time on the training field, with Glenn trying to get his message across.

I've seen a lot of upsets in the FA Cup and it isn't always about dominating the games. But it wasn't to be, in the end. Neil Sullivan made a lot of saves for us and we were really up against it, holding on. It should have been seven or eight. We were never really in the game. Sol Campbell was struggling to be fit and he soldiered on to play. But he got injured and he had to go off. Patrick Vieira scored the equaliser while Sol was off having treatment. Nobody dreamt at the time that it would be Sol's last game for Tottenham and that he'd be going across London to Arsenal in the summer.

It was like the Land of the Giants, playing against that Arsenal team … everyone was huge but they could also play. They could pass you to death and they could batter you.

From where I'm from, in Borehamwood, there was only ever two clubs – Tottenham and Arsenal. They are the two biggest clubs in London and it was great to play in the derby. The one that we won in the league in 1999 was immense. I scored to put us 2-0 at the Lane, they came back to 2-1 and we were just praying to hold on. They had Freddie Ljungberg and Martin Keown sent off. It was an amazing feeling to beat them and there was fantastic noise at the Lane.

It's the biggest game for this football club. That goal let me have a couple of bad games and the fans let me get away with it for a bit. It papers over a lot of cracks when you get a result against Arsenal and you've contributed to it. I can buy myself a week, maybe, with a result on Saturday.

I think Arsène Wenger has done a great job for Arsenal over the years. I spoke to their players and it was a culture shock for them when he came in but the important thing was that they won. When you win, the manager has the players' ears. He can say: "Stand on your head in a corner," and they'll do it. © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

About the Author

Comments are closed.