Alan Mullery: Spurs can get result at San Siro - just like the class of 1972
Tottenham’s 1972 Uefa Cup-winning captain feels that Harry Redknapp’s Lilywhites can take a point from the San Siro, 28 years after he scored for Spurs in a 1-1 draw at the world-famous stadium.
SPURS’ Uefa Cup-winning captain Alan Mullery believes that Harry Redknapp’s Spurs can emulate the legendary class of 1972 by getting a result at the San Siro this week.
Spurs travel to Italy on Wednesday for the first part of a Champions League double-header against holders Inter Milan, with the Nerazzurri visiting White Hart Lane on Tuesday November 2.
Ex-Spurs midfielder Mullery is confident that Tottenham can pick up four points from the two games against the Serie A giants, although he admits that it will be no easy task for Redknapp’s men.
“Inter are reigning champions and it goes without saying that getting anything out there will be tricky,” he says. “There’s not many clubs that go there and beat them on their own patch and I can’t see Tottenham doing that. Rafa Benitez has got off to a great start there, got his team well organised and they are currently second in the table.
“If we could come away with a point, that would be absolutely fantastic though. I honestly think we’ve got the capability to get a draw away and I’ve got an even stronger feeling that we can beat them at White Hart Lane.
“One thing is for sure, these two games will teach Tottenham exactly what being in the Champions League is all about. It’s great for our fans for us to come up against top European teams like Inter – it’s what a football club like Tottenham Hotspur is geared for.”
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Mullery has particularly fond memories of the San Siro after skippering the Spurs side that travelled to Italy in the 1972 Uefa Cup, en route to lifting the trophy.
Indeed it was Mullery who scored the Tottenham goal in the 1-1 draw against AC Milan in the semi-final second leg, which took the Lilywhites through to the final against Wolves and, ultimately, glory at White Hart Lane.
“We’d beaten AC Milan 2-1 at home in the first leg of the semi-final, so that result, the 1-1 draw, was enough to put us through to the final,” said the 68-year-old.
“Only a few weeks earlier I’d be recovering from a pelvic injury and playing on loan at Fulham in the old Division Two.
“So for me personally, it felt a lifetime in just one month and for the club it was an incredible achievement. I can remember the excitement in the dressing room after the result in Milan. It was fantastic.”
Mullery left Tottenham soon after lifting the Uefa Cup, having made more than 300 appearances for the Lilywhites.
Now, 28 years later, he believes that Gareth Bale – who scored in the 4-1 win over FC Twente in Spurs’ latest Champions League outing – will be a key player as Tottenham return to Milan.
“Gareth Bale has had a meteoric rise over the last 18 months,” says the ex-England man. “If you’d seen him in his early days at Spurs, you wouldn’t believe he’s the same player now.
“I remember thinking he looked far too lightweight when he first joined the club and, of course, he had that awful record of not being on the winning side in the Premier League for 20-plus games.
“Now though, he’s up there with the best. He’s got incredible pace, a great left foot and he can motor up and down the touchline all game.
“What’s particularly pleasing is to see he’s obviously done a lot of work both in the gym and on the training field and he’s so much stronger both physically and in his reading of the game.
“I remember him giving Michel Salgado a torrid afternoon for Blackburn Rovers last season.
“Salgado had to go off at half-time, he was struggling so badly to deal with Bale and this is a player that has played 50-plus games for Spain. Bale’s got the quality to make great players look average and he can give right-backs hell in the Champions League.”
One disappointment for Mullery is that Rafael van der Vaart will be suspended for the first game with
Inter Milan, following his sending off against FC Twente.
Like everyone at White Hart Lane, Mullery has been impressed at how quickly the Dutchman has settled in and says he will be sorely missed in the San Siro.
“I was able to hand Rafa his man of the match award after the game against Aston Villa and it was an absolute privilege,” said Mullery. “He’s a lovely young man who speaks excellent English. It already feels as if he’s been here for a number of years.
“It’s incredible how quickly the Spurs fans have warmed to him too, considering he’s only played five games and most of those haven’t been full matches.
“He was man of the match against Twente, even having been sent off and having missed a penalty. That tells you how good he is.
“His ability and control is fantastic and he’s good with both feet, which is a rare attribute in today’s game.
“He can score different types of goals as proved for Spurs from the volley he got against Twente, to the header against Villa, where he out-jumped someone like Richard Dunne.”