It’s the oldest cliche in the book, but as a footballer, you dream of winning trophies. Playing in front of a sold-out crowd, being on the winning side in a cup final and climbing those Wembley steps to collect your winners medal - “there’s no better feeling,” says Paul Robinson, as the former Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper reflects on Spurs’ 2008 League Cup triumph, the only major trophy of his career.
“There’s the old cliche that as a kid you dream of winning a cup final and climbing those stair at Wembley Stadium, and I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity and to have climbed those stairs as a winner.
“As a child, that’s your ambition, it’s something you always want to do and yes it’s a cliche, but to play at Wembley and to win at Wembley, you’re living out your childhood dream. There’s no better feeling.”
It’s 13 yers since Spurs last lifted the League Cup, with triumph over London rivals Chelsea in 2008, and Paul Robinson was part of the Tottenham side that helped the club to an unforgettable 2-1 victory under the new Wembley arch.
More than 87,000 made the trip to North London for what was the first fixture to be played at the new Wembley Stadium. Underdogs on the day, Spurs were up against a Chelsea side captained by John Terry, with Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka all featuring in the starting line-up.
“It was an incredible occasion for us all,” Robinson said, speaking exclusively to the EFL.
“We were in a bit of a transitional period when we won the competition in 2008, we went into the Final as underdogs because of that.
“We’d recently got a new manager in Juande Ramos, we were about 14th in the table with Portsmouth, Fulham and Reading all above us in the Premier League, so it was a difficult season for us because we were all learning new things and getting to grips with where we were, but that win really did catapult us on and gave us the confidence to go on and perform in the league. I think we took a lot of confidence from overcoming Chelsea.”
After going behind in the first half thanks to a Didier Drogba free-kick, they had to do it the hard way and extra-time was needed to overcome their London rivals, but Jonathan Woodgate struck in the 94th minute to give Spurs a fourth League Cup and deny Chelsea back-to-back League Cup victories in the process.
“They had a very strong side and they went 1-0 up through Drogba who scored a free-kick,” Robinson continued.
“But we fought our way back into the game through a Dimitar Berbatov penalty and from then we really grew into the game. We managed to take it to extra-time and I think Petr Cech punched the ball out to clear it, it came off Jonathan Woodgate’s head and went in. I think it was one of the luckiest goals that Woody has ever scored, but from there it was just a case of holding on which we managed to do.”
An outstanding defensive display from Woodgate and Ledley King saw Spurs hang on for a famous win, but the secret behind their success all those years ago? Robinson reveals all…
“One thing I do remember more than anything is two days before the Final, the manager took us away to a hotel in London and it was more like a stag do rather than preparing for a final - minus the alcohol!
“There were all these team building and bonding exercises prepared; we went go-karting, buggy riding, did archery and spent a whole day doing activities like that - none of us knew it was coming and none of us really knew what was going on, but it completely took our mind off the Final and off the upcoming game, which in hindsight was probably a masterstroke.
“I actually remember the night before the Final we had dinner together and had our team meeting, then the manager opened up the room next door and it was a fake casino. I just remember him saying to us, ‘you can have a couple of hours in the casino before you go to bed.’
“We all turned to each other wondering if it was some sort of test, no one really knew what to do at first. It seemed so out of character for the manager to do something like that, but actually it enabled us to prepare for the game but at the same time not for the game to consume us.
“I think the manager was looking to take our focus off the Final and for it not to consume us for the full 48 hours before it took place, he wanted us to go into the game with the right mentality and mindset. It was a typical team building exercise and in hindsight it had the desired affect.”
Robinson made more than 170 appearances for Spurs, winning the only trophy of his career during his four-year stay at White Hart Lane, and there’s no doubt that the club will always hold a special place in his heart.
“It’s the only major trophy of my career and that makes the competition very special to me.
“I think I played some of my very best football at Spurs, my time there was one of the highlights of my career, it was fantastic. I established myself as England’s no.1 during my time there, the relationship that I had with the fans was amazing and some of the football that I played at White Hart Lane was the best of my career.”
The full interview with Paul Robinson is available to watch below: