Words by Sivan John
The year was 1994 and Tottenham Hotspur were about to send the entire shockwaves to the entire English football fraternity. That summer they made a surprise announcement that they signed Jürgen Klinsmann. In my view, Germany's World Cup winner is the biggest name from abroad to arrive in England since Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.
Spurs were in fact planning to make a sonorous statement that season. Now managed by Ardiles, they have also brought in Romanian super duo Ilie Dumitrescu and Gheorghe Popescu. Both have enjoyed a splendid summer representing their country at the World Cup held in the United States. Under the ownership of Alan Sugar, Spurs were dead serious of disrupting the status quo at the top.
Yet, the season didn't go down as according to plan. Firstly, they were banned from the FA Cup after the club was found to be involved in financial irregularities. Inconsistent in the league eventually lead to Ardiles losing his job. The Romanian duo also failed to adapt to life in England and after some time left for Spain.
In came Gerry Francis to help revive the club’s fortune and things were starting to improve. Further good news is that, Spurs won their appeal which allow them to be reinstated in the FA Cup. With the Premier League now out of reach, they could at least try to salvage something with a good Cup run.
Spurs was having a fine progress, dispatching the likes of Altrincham, Sunderland and Southampton in a dramatic replay. Their quarter-final match up, was a trip to Anfield to play against Liverpool. This game had all the script of a potential to be a vintage Cup tie.
Liverpool had the rousing Kop End to galvanize the atmosphere. On the other hand, Spurs had a team that weren't going to be submerged under any ambiance. The home side had the RAF (Rush and Fowler) squadron to lead their attack. The visitor had the TAJ (Teddy and Jürgen) Mahal who were worthy of any strike partnership. What more you can ask for?
From the beginning, it was all end to end stuff. Liverpool were looking to be more auspicious to break the deadlock. The wait was over in the 36th minute when Mark Walters made a sublime run from his own half. So awe-inspiring that it contained three different classic moments in football history.
First was the Diego Maradona's similar dazzling whiz he did against England in 1986. It followed with a typical Johan Cruyff turn that left a couple of Spurs defenders hypnotize. Ended with a typical John Barnes cross that found Robbie Fowler waiting to head the ball in. The Kop End was all in exuberant mode.
That happiness however was short lived for just two minutes. Klinsmann wanted to make his mark at one of the most famous grounds in England. Receiving the ball from David Howells, he was on through to make strike against Liverpool's goal post.
Instead, the Spurs Luftwaffe decided to pause, open his einsteinium brain and analyze his surroundings from a gradient of 180 degrees. He realized that an incoming Teddy Sheringham had a better chance of drawing things level.
Thus he gave a subtle pass to his strike partner. This time it was the Liverpool's defenders turn to be left in a state of shambles. Sheringham drove the ball in a curvy angle towards the right end of the goal. Liverpool's keeper David James was completely out of reach. The ball hits the post and goes in.
That's how the game remain at half time. Two goals that didn't necessarily had the best finishing. But the build up on both occasions had more quality. It didn't contain the typical British physical style of play instead a more continental flair and technique.
The second half resume, both teams tried to settle things within 90 minutes. Spurs would have been more than happy to force a replay at White Hart Lane. But the trident attacking of Darren Anderton, Sheringham and Klinsmann had other ideas. In the 89th minute, together they combined to orchestrate one of the most thrilling finishes seen in the FA Cup.
It started with Anderton intercepting a Liverpool clearance and pass the ball to Sheringham. He had to make an expeditious decision within a matter of seconds. Sheringham flicked the ball perfectly to Klinsmann who has skedaddle away from a couple of Liverpool defenders. They must have been awe-stricken by Sheringham’s move that they completely forgot about the German striker.
Klinsmann only had to be beat goalkeeper Ian Walker. With a path that is left to him like an open highway, the ball is only going to end up at one place. A section of the crowd at Anfield were given divine right to knees up themselves. After all, an enrapture finishing like that which combines with an artisan footwork, can never end on the losing side.
Spurs would go on to meet Everton in the semi-final. To my mind this was destined to be their season, winning the FA Cup. I had pictured all along of Klinsmann walking up to iconic pathways of Wembley to lift a trophy. I must say that I wasn’t wrong though. Only thing is that moment had to wait for another year when he would lead his country to win EURO 1996.
The Toffees torpedoed themselves to the final with a 4-1 win. Shattering any hope of Spurs ending the season with the trophy. Once the season ended, Klinsmann would leave for Bayern Munich that summer. He left Spurs not only as an instant legend but with one of the most memorable Cup tie win that I will never forget.