A Tribute To Gary Mabbutt

Gary Mabbutt is a living legend, and one of the greatest ambassadors for British sport. This page will eventually become a fully-fledged website dedicated to a sporting hero, but until then, here is an article which is quite comprehensive in it's coverage of a great player.

Mabbutt: A true gentlemen retires
by Steve Stammers

He was supposed to be the less talented of two football-playing brothers. The star of the family was going to be, without question, Kevin, the striker, the one at a then successful Bristol City, the one with the pop-star looks and following, the one with the high-powered sports car.

Gary? He opted for the poor relations at Bristol Rovers. No one could decide his best position, the team played in the drab surrounds of Eastville Stadium and before he had reached the age of 18 it was discovered he was diabetic.

But Gary Mabbutt had clearly not read the script. While his brother was to become one of the great unfulfilled talents, he went on to play for Tottenham and England and appear in two FA Cup Finals.

That career has finally come to an end. At the age of 37, Mabbutt has been told that he has suffered one injury too
many. His left knee cap is fragmented and will no longer stand up to the rigours of the professional game.

After his release by Tottenham at the end of last season, Mabbutt was determined to carry on as a player. That is now impossible, and he has accepted the news without a hint of bitterness.

"Why should I be bitter?" he said. "I've had a fantastic career and played for one of the biggest clubs in the country for 16 years, and also played for my country.

"I have a lovely wife and beautiful daughter. I have had nothing to complain about, have I?"

That kind of outlook has been a characteristic of Mabbutt's professional career. He never complained, though, goodness knows he had cause enough on several occasions.

Instead of cursing his luck, Mabbutt found a way of controlling the diabetes. Then, when injuries came his way, he just got on with the job.

One of the first coaches to detect his abilities was John Cartwright, now working at Crystal Palace but then the coach of the England Under-18 team.

Mabbutt was in the squad that won the European title in East Germany back in 1980. The surroundings were austere but Mabbutt illuminated the tournament. As England prepared for one of the games, Cartwright pointed at Mabbutt and said: "See him, the lad from Bristol? Well, he is going to be our Johann Neeskens. That's how good he is."

It was Keith Burkinshaw who decided that Mabbutt was worth the risk. The Spurs manager admired the way Mabbutt had dealt with his illness and signed him when Bobby Robson, then at Ipswich, declined. Some risk.

Mabbutt had to contend with a series of setbacks. Once he went into a coma when he missed an insulin injection. Much later in his Tottenham career he had his features rearranged by John Fashanu and, two years ago, his leg was shattered on the opening day of the season.

He beat the lot and on the way was able to enjoy several highlights -playing for England on 16 occasions and picking up the FA Cup for Tottenham in 1991 when Nottingham Forest were beaten 2-1.

"The highlight was that Cup Final, no question," said Mabbutt. "Any player will tell you that nothing beats that
feeling of walking up the stairs as captain to collect the trophy. Nothing."

It was as though fate had at last repaid Mabbutt for the misery he suffered at Wembley four years earlier, when his
own goal gifted Coventry the FA Cup.

It was also a reward for his loyalty. Mabbutt had many opportunities to leave Tottenham over the years, notably the
chance to join Liverpool. He spurned them all. He loved Tottenham too much.

That makes him part of a select band, a dying breed. David O'Leary, Steve Clarke, Billy Bonds, Steve Perryman, Bob Wilson, Pat Rice and, more recently, Tony Adams. They have all given their best years to one club. Mabbutt is one of the few.

In the post-Bosman area it is unlikely that membership of that club will grow much bigger. Mabbutt will be proud of
his status among them.

Gary Mabbutt Factfile:

BORN: Bristol, 23 August 1961

HEIGHT: 5ft 10ins

CLUBS:
Joined Bristol Rovers (where his father Ray had played) in 1978 as an apprentice. Turned professional in 1979. Games:
122 (plus nine as sub). Goals: 9.
Signed for Tottenham in August 1982 for 105,000 and made his debut in Charity Shield v Liverpool. Games: 618 (458 league). Goals: 36 (27 league).
Captained Spurs in 1987 and 1991 FA Cup Finals.

INTERNATIONAL RECORD:
England debut v West Germany in October 1982.
Appearances: 16.
One goal (v Yugoslavia at Wembley in November 1986).
Also played for England B and Under-21s.

HONOURS:

UEFA Cup 1984, FA Cup 1991, Charity Shield 1991, awarded MBE in January 1994.

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