Sunday, December 21, 2008

Profiles of the Great and Good: Garry Brooke—Better To Be Lucky Than Good

There are very few outside Spurs who would have heard of Garry Brooke, come to think of it, there are few Spurs fans who would even remember his time at White Hart Lane.

But Brooke earned a place in the clubs history, winning two FA Cup medals, playing 75 matches and scoring 15 goals has ensured that Brooke's name will go down in the Tottenham opus.

A gifted central midfielder, Brooke signed for Spurs in 1978, aged 18. The 5'6" dynamo liked nothing better than joining the attack, and he was blessed with a remarkable habit of ghosting into the box unnoticed.

Brooke made his debut for Spurs in 1980, coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 defeat to West Brom. A month later, he made sure it would be a Christmas to remember. On St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) he played his first full game for the club and he scored twice in the 4-4 draw with Southampton.

Over the course of the '80-'81 season he played 18 league matches and featured in seven FA Cup games on the way to Spurs winning the trophy, scoring the winning goal against Hull in Round four and then coming on as a sub in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City in the Final.

Spurs went on to win the replay 3-2, thanks to Ricky Villa's famous goal where he beat four players inside the box before he fired past Joe Corrigan. Brooke didn't feature in the replay, but he collected a winners medal all the same.

Brooke not featuring wasn't a surprise, in the early 80s Spurs as were blessed with some of the best players in England.

World Cup winners, Osvaldo Ardilles and Ricky Villa were prominent team players as were the mercurial Glenn Hoddle, hard-man Graeme Roberts, and the indefatigable Tony Galvin.

Ardilles was a genuine world-class talent, while Glenn Hoddle had all the talent that god could give and then some. Faced with such opposition for a berth in midfield, it wasn't a shock to see Garry Brooke become a fixture on the bench, although to even make it that far would suggest that he was also highly talented.

With such competition for places, Brooke found it difficult to claim a regular spot, despite this he won his second FA Cup medal in 1982, as Spurs beat Q.P.R.

Under manager Keith Burkinshaw, Spurs were on the crest of a wave. Having won the FA Cup in '81, Spurs were battling on four fronts in '82. They won the FA Cup, but finished as Runners-up in the League Cup and the Cup-Winners-Cup after Barcelona won the Final on the away goals rule, following a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.

With a massive backlog of fixtures due to their cup exploits, Spurs fell away in the final month. They played almost three games a week for seven weeks.

Brooke rose to the occasion in the league run in, he scored four goals in seven games and was one of the few Spurs players left with enough stamina to battle for the title. Burkinshaw took notice, and the following season Garry became a regular.

By February, Brooke had played 23 times and had scored seven goals, and with Spurs gaining even more momentum as they challenged for trophies, Brooke was at the epicentre of all that was good about Tottenham.

Unfortunately, a car crash on the way home from a friends wedding at the end of February would bring a close to Brooke's career as a top-flight footballer at 23 years of age.

Brooke was a passenger travelling home from a wedding reception when they hit black ice, hit a couple of lamp posts and crashed down a ditch.

"I'd actually crawled out but the pain was just above my b*****ks. I said to Kay, "Do me a favour, undo me trousers" and then she's gone, "Oh, shut up Garry!"

"Funny now but at the time I was in agony...

"Maybe it was the adrenalin keeping me conscious, but by the time I was in hospital, I was in a real bad way. Mark Falco (Spurs player) came to the hospital that night. He saw me getting the last of the ambulance people didn't know he was talking to my mum and dad and said "he's got no chance; he won't last 'til morning. He'll be dead".

Miraculously, Brooke woke up the next day. Unfortunately he had almost a dozen tubes coming in and out of his body, he had fractured or broken 12 ribs and damaged some of his internal organs, most notably one of his lungs was left like Swiss cheese after his ribs had shredded it.

After months out for recuperation, Brooke eventually returned to action but he was never the same player again. Spurs had fallen away from challenging towards the end of the '82 to '83 season, but had still finished high enough to qualify for Europe.

With Spurs chasing honours on all fronts again in the '83 to '84 season, Brooke found it very difficult to break back into the team. And despite his lung capacity being reduced by almost 25-percent, Brooke still battled on.

Keith Burkinshaw stuck with Brooke, and over the next season he played 13 games but he was never the same player. Spurs went on to win the UEFA Cup in '84 but Brooke never collected a medal as he hadn't featured during the campaign.

Days after winning the UEFA Cup, Burkinshaw resigned citing boardroom interference as the reason.

Sadly for Brooke, new manager Peter Shreeve sold him to Norwich the following summer.

Brooke spent two seasons with the Canaries, helping them gain promotion from Division Two in '85.

Following his time in Norwich, Brooke found himself in Holland playing for Groningen. On a personal level, it was one of the happiest times of his career. The different style of football played in Holland favoured technique over lung-bursting runs (and little has changed since) and Brooke found himself slotting right in.

Over a single season in 1987 to 1988 he played 38 times, and scored 9 goals. Groningen finished in 11th place, but qualified for the UEFA Cup, a remarkable achievement for the minnows.

After his successful season in Holland, Brooke was offered a way back into top-flight football in England. Wimbledon FC had been newly promoted are were trying to solidify their ranks with proven talent, perhaps being ill-advised Garry Brooke jumped at the chance to join "The Crazy Gang."

As a player who came in at five and a half foot, and who wasn't the most physical of players with the added impairment of a reduced lung capacity, maybe a move to Wimbledon wasn't the best of choices.

On hearing that Garry was joining Wimbledon, Spurs legend Steve Perryman told him "he was the most un-Wimbledon like player that's ever been born!"

Famed for their physical approach, Brooke struggled to get a game in his two years there. But his good luck rubbed off them, as they won the FA Cup in '88.

Over the next year (1990) Brooke played for five different clubs before he joined the ranks of non-league football.

Brooke was a good player, unfortunately his career may not have gone the way he would have liked. But Lady Luck likes him, over his career he was with clubs who won cups, gained promotion, qualified for Europe when they shouldn't have, and survived a crash when he had no right to.

Sometimes, as the old saying goes, it's better to be lucky than good.

twitter / WillieGannon