Tottenham vs Barnsley: Remembering Ginola’s Masterclass

Tottenham will be looking to put more Wembley woes behind them as they host Barnsley in the Carabou Cup tonight. This will be the first time the two sides have faced each other since the turn of the Millennium. Spurs were 1-0 victors last time out, in a FA Cup quarter-final at Oakwell, March 1999. The winning goal on the night was a spectacular solo effort from the maverick that was, David Ginola.

The flamboyant Frenchman had been an instant success in English football, arriving on Tyneside in 1995. Ginola’s swashbuckling style suited Kevin Keegan’s philosophy perfectly as his team become known as the ‘Entertainers’ during their 1995/96 title challenge. However, following Keegan’s depature from Newcastle in January 1997, Ginola was unfancied by their new manager Kenny Dalglish and struggled to find a place in the side. He subsequently moved to Tottenham that summer for £2.5million.

Immediately the Tottenham faithful took to Ginola; his performances provided the much-needed spark in a Tottenham side littered with mediocrity. Ginola scored 24 goals in 124 appearances for Spurs in all competitions across three seasons.

“White Hart Lane was always a place where I felt I belonged.” – David Ginola

Despite this, it was the 1998/99 season when Ginola truly gained the recognition he sought after. After dazzling crowds with several stunning individual displays during the season, Ginola picked up both the PFA and FWA awards for Player of the Year. When put into perspective, a sensational achievement considering this was Manchester United treble-winning season.

Coincidentally, though, Tottenham did pick up some silverware in 1999, winning the Worthington Cup (known as the Carabou Cup, today). However, it was during Tottenham’s FA Cup run in the same season that Ginola scored his most famous goal in a Spurs shirt, against tonight’s opponents, Barnsley.

Tottenham had been struggling to breakdown a resilient Barnsley on the night and the Frenchman had been closely marked throughout. But in the 68th minute, Ginola received the ball from Taricco, wide-left just inside the opposing half.

In the blink of an eye and the twist of a body, Ginola escaped his marker, moving the ball from his left to his right. The Frenchman then proceeded on a slalom run of pure poetry, moving the ball effortlessly past every defender in his path.

Ginola was in the Barnsley box, bearing down on goal. And with one more jinx of the body and brush of the ball, he moved past the final defender before finishing neatly in the bottom right corner; it had only taken 10 touches.

To the disbelief of the Spurs fans, who erupted in the roofless stand behind the goal, Ginola had unlocked a bewildered Barnsley defence in a matter of seconds. The Frenchman then proceeded to take his shirt off in typically arrogant style and receive the adulation of a stunned crowd.

“I realised that the team would rely on me to do something special. We were reaching the end of the game when I received the ball on the left and ran at the goal. Sometimes you try things and they don’t work but sometimes they work pretty well and this was one of those times. Football is about instinct – when you think too much, things tend not to work! It’s best to let your imagination and your creation do the business most of the time” – David Ginola

Tottenham already had some previous in FA Cup solo goals and maverick foreign talents. It doesn’t take much for their fans to conjure up thoughts of Ricky Villa’s mazy dribble in the 1981 final. But Ginola’s goal was on another level in terms of quality. It may have been at Oakwell rather than at Wembley, in front of just 18,000 people rather than 80,000, but this, in essence, made it just as special.

Tottenham were eventually eliminated in the semi-final by Ginola’s former club Newcastle, but his goal versus Barnsley would go down as one of the FA Cup’s greatest. It was also pivotal in Ginola receiving those individual accolades in the same year. The Frenchman once explained that his footballing inspiration was Johan Cruyff, and the Dutch legend returned the favour, calling Ginola the “most exciting player in the world” in 1999. No goal would support Cruyff’s claim more than this one.