Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt talks to Football FanCast
A veteran of just over 480 league appearances for Tottenham Hotspur, Spurs living legend Gary Mabbutt caught up with FootballFanCast.com at the recent London Football Legends Dinner & Awards hosted at the Albert Embankment Park Plaza on Thursday evening.
Joined in force by an array of glittering ex-professional names such as Ian Wright, Liam Brady, Kerry Dixon and Sir Trevor Brooking, the event took place as part of former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation scheme – a charity devoted to the betterment of seriously ill 16-40-year-old’s who are lovingly provided with special days as a diversion from reality for the individuals and their families.
Established in 1999 by Wilson and his wife Megs, the foundation was set up as a memorial to their daughter Anna who died of cancer, aged 31 and the foundation continues its amazing work today representing the only national charity to provide such psychological and emotional support to those who require it most.
Bristolian ex-defender Mabbutt; an ambassador for the foundation found the time to chat about the good work of the scheme and also offered his insight into Spurs season so far, the superstar that is Gareth Bale and just where the Lilywhites can go this term.
FootballFanCast’s Taylor Williams caught up with Mabbutt ahead of Sunday’s titanic clash against bitter rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated North London derbies in years.
Football is often described as being detached from reality. How important is it for personalities such as yourself to associate with worthy causes like the Willow Foundation while also catching up with so many old friends and former adversaries?
“I’ve been friends with Bob and Megs for over 30 years now, I’m an ambassador for the Willow Foundation and the charity has been phenomenal with what it has achieved.
“It’s not just for the disadvantaged youngsters but for their families too, to give them a break so the special days that Willow produce are incredible and the response and support we have received from the footballing fraternity is great and we’re more than happy to be here.”
Your former club Tottenham are enjoying a fantastic season in the Premier League. How impressed have you been with Andre Villas-Boas this season considering his reputation was tarnished in the immediate aftermath of being sacked by Chelsea?
“Coming into the season there was a lot of speculation around how he’d do at Tottenham after coming from Chelsea where he had a huge reputation before taking over. His time at Chelsea didn’t go well and when he left there he had a reputation to rebuild.
“He is a very ambitious, young and intelligent manager and he will have learned from his mistakes. Anything he learnt at Chelsea, he would have made sure he didn’t make the same mistakes again.
“He’s come in at Tottenham and the camaraderie between him and the players is good, they’ve responded to him and you only had to witness the game at West Ham on Monday night to see at the end of the match that the players, manager and team were united with a great atmosphere between them. We’re third in the table with a big game on Sunday and we’ve got a great chance of staying there.”
Gareth Bale has taken most of the plaudits of late quite understandably but are there any other players who represent the most improved. Any special mentions? Sandro has impressed many supporters this term.
“Well, Sandro was having a great season and then got injured but fortunately we had Scott Parker to come back into the side. I think Aaron Lennon’s had his best season for the club and we’ve got a good backbone.
“You’ve got Hugo Lloris, Brad Friedel, Michael Dawson, Scott Parker in there then you’ve got the likes of Bale, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Dempsey and now Holtby so there’s a lot of players in there now that can make things happen.
“I think we’ve got a very talented squad and of course everyone is talking about Gareth Bale because he’s been phenomenal this year. Gareth gets better season upon season.”
Former boss Harry Redknapp has previously described Gareth Bale as a grounded, home-boy type. What does your gut tell you about his future and is it a shame we have to talk about him potentially leaving these shores given his form?
“Why are we talking about him going abroad? He’s playing the football of his life, he’s got a very close family; his family travel to see him play every week, he’s on a very good four year contract he signed at the start of the season, hopefully we can get in the Champions League – what more could a 23-year-old want?”
With the big showdown between Tottenham and Arsenal on Sunday, there have been some crazy score lines in recent years. Being a defender yourself, have modern day footballers forgot the art of defending or is it simply a case that the attacking play has improved markedly?
“I just think you’ll get games where there are a lot of goals. I don’t think it’s a case of blaming defenders. I think it’s simply a case of that’s where things have gone.
“If you look at some of the goals that have been scored in the last few games, let’s hope a similar amount of goals are scored on Sunday in what I think will be an exciting game.”
If Spurs can edge past Arsenal on Sunday, surely this will give them the psychological boost that they can get over the finishing line in terms of ending up in the Champions League places once more. Is there a mental toughness that wasn’t there before?
“I think that’s slightly unfair. If you go back to the last couple of years, we’ve finished fourth, fifth and then fourth again; now we’re third so we haven’t been doing too bad the last few years.
“I think there is a belief we can do it, we want to get as high up in the table as we can, our aim is to get into the top four, we’re now third and putting pressure on Manchester City so the game on Sunday is hugely important for both teams. At Arsenal, there’s been talk about the demise of Arsenal and pressure on the manager…”
Do you think this pressure is unfair?
“Absolutely. To me, I’ve known Arsene Wenger for a long time. Over 14 years consecutive Champions League appearances; that to me is outstanding, so how you can even think about his demise?
“Everyone was talking about his demise this time last year and then they won the home game against Tottenham last year and it turned their season around. This weekend, it is the same for both teams – a hugely important game for both teams this year.”
If you want to find out more about who the Willow Foundation are and the outstanding work they do for seriously ill individuals, you can visit the official website by clicking here.