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Blackburn v Spurs, 07.02.98

"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)

Scorers:-
Berti, 37
Armstrong, 89
Fox, 90

Attendance:- 30,388

Referee:- Mr. G. Barber

Teams:- 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 comments:-

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 & 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 didn't.

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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