Opinion: Spursy or cursed? – Looking at 12 key moments in Tottenham’s history

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Image: @snapshotspurs

I have been a Tottenham Hotspur fan for over 30 years. I have seen some very good, some very bad and some very… strange times.

You could argue Spurs have been very unlucky, but have we seen some events over the past 25+ years that could point to the club being more than just unlucky? Maybe there is something more to it with Tottenham and their “moments to forget”? 

Spursy” is a term we as Tottenham fans even use when our beloved Lilywhites get beat by lesser opposition, squandering good leads or simply shooting ourselves in the foot, but we also hate to hear the term being used to describe us by opposition fans and in the media.

There is no doubt an element to the term Spursy we can honestly relate to, but I feel some of these “Spursy labelled” events in our recent history could actually be deemed more than this, maybe even to go as far as CURSED?

Let’s travel through the Spurs timeline of key unfortunate events and attempt to label exactly what these events are…   

We will begin way back in April 1995. Boyband Take That was the UK number 1 with single: Back for Good and a buoyant Spurs travelled to Elland Road to face Everton in the FA Cup Semi-Final.

A mouth-watering opportunity for Spurs to face Manchester United in the final. At 2-1 down in the second half, a certain Daniel Amokachi entered the field of play as a substitute for the injured Paul Rideout. 

Amokachi went on to score a heart-breaking brace to make it 4-1 that settled the tie sending the Toffees to Wembley to face Manchester United. This happens in football, right?

Yes, but it turns out Everton manager Joe Royle didn’t sanction the substitution of Amokachi as there was a mix up between the physio treating the NOT injured Rideout and Amokachi believing he was coming on when in fact he was only asked by Royle to warm up. 

Amokachi somehow substituted himself onto the field of play via the assistant referee and hit the target twice to kill any hopes of a Spurs equaliser or turnaround. Absolutely gutting afternoon especially losing to a side who couldn’t even organise a substitution correctly!

(Spursy or Cursed) Verdict: Cursed.   

We leap forward to another FA Cup tie in February 2004. Tottenham host Manchester City (the pre-wealth version of Man City) at White Hart Lane in a Fourth-Round Replay. The original match played out eleven days prior ending in a 1-1 draw in Manchester.

I was in attendance for this match at WHL with a very good friend of mine sitting in the upper tier of the old west stand in the block that joins the south corner seating the away fans. Only a bright yellow hand-rail separating myself from a large huddle of sky-blue noisy northern fans.

Tottenham raced into action and took the lead through skipper Ledley King. With just 17 minutes on the clock Spurs deservedly doubled their lead through the energetic Robbie Keane. To make things even sweeter striker Nicholas Anelka limps off with an injury to reduce the goal threat of City.

Two minutes before the break the Spurs fans were in a frenzy as German full-back Christain Ziege put Spurs 3-0 up with a sublime free-kick. Capping off a sensational first half for Spurs – Joey Barton was dismissed for a second yellow card after the HT whistle for descent. Cheerio went the Spurs fans to Barton as both teams walked down the tunnel at the break.

Game over, 3-0 up and Man City down to 10-men. We can finally relax and enjoy the second half, right? Within three minutes of the re-start, big Sylvian Distin heads home from eight yards to give City hope. That’s okay I thought – we will still get another in this game.

On the 69th minute Bosvelt scores from a very poor effort that takes a wicked deflection off Anthony Gardner. 3-2. Nerves now starting to kick in. What is going on here?

Ten minutes from time, Shaun Wright-Phillips latches onto a long and hopeful ball up the pitch to stun me and the other 30,000 Spurs fans with an equaliser. 3-3.

As I stand at 90 minutes and walk towards the toilets readying for a very much unexpected period of extra-time, I get as far as the steps (brushing shoulders with the City fans), I take one last look down before heading into the internals and I see a Tarnat cross meet the head of John Macken that looped up and over (a very poor) Kasey Keller and into the back of the net. Wow, 3-4.

As I never even made it off the steps, I was only an arm’s length away from hundreds of City fans screaming in my face going absolutely mental. If only the ground could have swallowed me up. Flying 3-0 up at HT, against 10-men and we lost 3-4. Only Tottenham could serve up this kind of pain at home in from the Spurs faithful.  

Verdict: Spursy 

Moving along to 2005 and a wintery Wednesday night at Old Trafford. Tottenham were involved in a scrappy affair against Manchester United. A certain linesman Rob Lewis was involved in an incident that would become very famous and shown for years to come.

With 89 minutes on the clock and the score at 0-0, Portuguese Spurs midfielder Pedro Mendes runs onto a loose ball just inside United’s half and hits a looping shot from fully 50 yards that United goalkeeper Roy Carroll spills in an attempt to catch.

The ball bounces over the line by a clear meter, Carroll then lunges in desperation and manages to claw the ball almost out of the net. Most keepers in a similar situation would have laid down with their face in the turf knowing this was a major blunder.

Not Roy Carrol – he jumps up like a man possessed, has a cheeky look at the linesman, and carries on like he has just made a routine save?!?

An absolute horrific decision watched by the footballing and now the non-footballing world that potentially denied Tottenham a famous win on a ground that proved so difficult over the years.

Robbed is an understatement. I am now convinced the goal-line technology in use today was invented due to this very moment. 

Verdict: Cursed.   

Another game we really want to forget for many reasons. West Ham away at Upton Park in 2006. Tottenham needed the win to secure not only a finish above Woolwich but a coveted top-four spot in the Premier League.

The game at Upton Park had been in doubt ahead of the kick-off after several Spurs players had come down with food poisoning. (The game later being known to football fans as Lasagna Gate).

Our players looked almost green with illness. How on earth was this game allowed to be played I will never know? We started in the worst possible way. West Ham took the lead after just 10 minutes as Fletcher scored his “first-ever Premier League goal” from 30 yards out (as most players seem to score a first or end a baron scoring run against us).

Shortly after this, the Spurs fans were cheering when news broke out that Wigan had taken the lead against Arsenal 2-1 back in North London. Then Spurs striker Jermain Defoe levelled with a superb finish to silence the crowd booing his every touch.

More drama unfolded as Spurs keeper Paul Robinson denied former Spurs striker Teddy Sheringham from the spot to keep the scores level. Tottenham made changes to relieve some of the ill-stricken players who simply had no energy to continue.

With 10 minutes remaining, West Ham won the game and broke Tottenham hearts through Yossi Benayoun. The heartbreak for Tottenham deepened as Arsenal came back to win 4-2 against Wigan Athletic and clinch the 4th spot leaving Spurs to settle with a UEFA Cup place. 

Dodgy Lasagne, food poisoning for half the squad, losing to West Ham and also losing out to Woolwich in the Champions League places is enough to turn anyone’s stomachs in N17. More to this than Spursy for me. 

Verdict: Cursed.  

It’s Wembley again I am afraid and another FA Cup Semi-Final in April 2010. This time we faced Portsmouth.

A Spurs side on the day managed by Harry Redknapp included talents Bale, Modric, Defoe and Crouch – Tottenham were easily the bookies and pundits favourite to reach the final against a Pompey side already relegated from the Premier League only a day earlier.

After a goalless and flat 90 minutes on what could only be described as a ravaged Wembley surface, we entered extra time. Michael Dawson slipping on the surface allowed the opening for Pompey as Frederic Piquionne pounced to beat Heurelho Gomes from eight yards.

Then three minutes from time Tottenham conceded a penalty via Wilson Palacios for former Spurs man Kevin-Prince Boateng ironically to seal the win and the short trip home for Spurs.

Losing to a relegated side, a slip leading to a goal, a penalty and a former Spurs man scoring all in one match summary again points to another embarrassing event for Tottenham Hotspur at the Semi-Final stage of a domestic cup.

What is it about Spurs and semi-finals? 

Verdict: Cursed.  

It’s back to Old Trafford again in October 2010. Tottenham trailing 1-0. In the second half United winger Nani goes down in the Spurs box – nothing is given. Nani looks as if he handles to ball whilst on the ground which Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes thinks is given as a freekick.

All the players start to jog upfield and Gomes rightly spots the ball down to take the (what he thought was a) “freekick”, when a returning Nani strolls past the Brazilian stopper, swivels and passes the unattended ball into an empty net?!? 

After referee Mark Clattenburg consults with the linesman, the goal was given (of course, this was at Old Trafford). One of the most bizarre goals seen in the Premier League has happened (you guessed it) to Tottenham.

Gomes had his moments for Spurs between the sticks but even this was so bizarre it was shocking to witness. 

Verdict: Spursy.   

2011/2012. Long story short. Tottenham finished in the fourth and final Champions League place in the 2011/2012 Premier League season. A decent season overall for Harry Redknapp at Tottenham Hotspur.

London rivals Chelsea only managing a sixth-place finish that season found themselves in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Chelsea, not given much chance of toppling the formidable German giants, scored an 88th-minute equaliser through a Didier Drogba header to force extra time and then take Bayern to penalties.

Annoyingly Chelsea won the shootout meaning their sixth-place finish was automatically upgraded to a fourth-place finish at the expense of…..Tottenham. Only Spurs could have a league position downgraded without kicking a ball and with the domestic season finished.   

Verdict: Cursed.  

Into 2016 now and sorry I know this is a game we have all erased from memory, but it is the hammering by Newcastle United at St James Park on the final day of the 2015/2016 season.

A win in the north would have cemented a deserved runner up place in the Premier League table for Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs behind a resilient title-winning Leicester City and a long overdue finish above our north London rivals.

Newcastle under Rafa Benitez were already relegated before a ball was even kicked. This filled Spurs fans with confidence with many neutrals backing this as a banker on that weekend’s footy coupon. How wrong were we?

Spurs went 2-0 down in the 39th minute. Erik Lamela pulled one back on the hour. We had hope. That hope grew stronger in the 67th minute when the scorer of Newcastle’s second goal Mitrovic was shown a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Kyle Walker.

Just six minutes later sloppy Spurs gave away a penalty through Jan Vertonghen. We were now 3-1 down. Inside the final 10 minutes, Newcastle grab two more goals within two minutes to destroy Spurs 5-1. Wow, five.

Having been in the top two for a large part of the season, this embarrassing defeat coupled with a 4-0 win for Arsenal over Aston Villa meant Spurs finished third in a “two-horse race” with Leicester City and below Woolwich again.

A run of finishing below the red side of North London stretching back to 1995.

Verdict: Cursed.   

Just going to skim over the more recent events as these are still very much (unwanted) in our brain… 

The 2016/2017 season snapshot – Tottenham: Lost the least amount of games, scored the most goals, conceded the least amount of goals, boasted the biggest goal difference margin and finished second in the table.  Unbelievable.

Verdict: Spursy. 

Going to keep this one very short as it’s still a raw emotion to us Spurs fans. The 2019 Champions League final vs Liverpool in Madrid. Sissoko – barely with a minute on the clock points to no one in the air, Mane of Liverpool picks out Sissoko’s “arm”. Penalty given.

Spurs lose the Champions League final. Distraught. Never watched this back since. Ajax away was my final and this game never existed thank you. 

Verdict: Cursed.  

Into 2020 now with Sheff Utd end a losing run of games against Tottenham winning 3-1 at Brammell Lane. With the score at 1-0 in the first half to the Blades, Lucas Moura was on the attack and was bundled over with his arm hitting the ball on the way down.

The ball then finds Kane who slots home superbly only for the goal to be chalked off for handball. Moura, only using his arms to break his fall from the challenge. In no logical way was this a deliberate handball or enough to be an offence.

VAR was called into action and was decided the decision will stand to disallow the goal. Spurs never recovered after the break, played awful and lost the match. The rule for accidental handball leading to a goal was amended shortly after this and other similar incidents. Great.

Verdict: Cursed.  

The 2021 Europa League Round of 16. Leading 2-0 against the lowest-ranked team still in the competition Dynamo Zagreb, Spurs having a line-up full of talent and global stars managed to lose 3-0 in the second leg away from home (after extra-time).

I accept Spurs were dreadful on the night, but we lost to a team whose manager was sentenced to prison for fraud in between the first and second leg and had an assistant taking charge of his first-ever game.

A deeply embarrassing night for all connected with the club, with this being tagged as the worst defeat for Spurs in their entire European history. If this is not cursed I really do not know what is.

Verdict – Cursed. 

On reflection, there is a serious case that Spurs are indeed the unluckiest team in the Premier League. All of the above can’t just be a coincidence or of all our own doing.

I understand Tottenham do have some Spursy moments as explained above, but for me a list of events containing an unscheduled winning opposition substitution, an unfit, short-sighted Old Trafford linesman, an undercooked/spiked lasagne, losing to an already relegated team in a major semi-final, losing a secured 4th place after the season has ended, and having Moussa Sissoko doing the “YMCA” in our own box during a massive Champions League final can only point to one explanation: Spurs are seriously cursed as a football club.

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