Untold story of Gascoigne's horror FA Cup final injury by physio who treated him

Thirty years on it remains one of the most iconic FA Cup final moments.

Paul Gascoigne suffered a career-threatening injury with his challenge on Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles in the 1991 Wembley showpiece.

Former Tottenham midfielder Gascoigne was the biggest star in the English game, was due to join Lazio in a huge summer transfer and now suddenly his whole world was falling apart.

It actually brought cruciate knee ligament injuries to the public’s attention and Gazza faced a year-long rehabilitation battle to save his career and Spurs’ financial problems meant the whole future of the club even depended on the £5.5million move going ahead.

That moment will inevitably be played in the build-up to this weekend’s final and former Tottenham physio John Sheridan has spoken for the first time about a story which was so big he ended up doing an interview from the hospital steps on the BBC’s Nine O’Clock News.

Gascoigne lunged in on Charles and suffered a major knee injury in the process
Gascoigne lunged in on Charles and suffered a major knee injury in the process

Sheridan, 78, has written his own book – entitled The Limping Physio which is due to be published in the autumn – recounting his memories of his own remarkable career and that terrible moment when he ran on to the pitch.

Sheridan said: “Paul actually tried to play on at first, then I ran on to the pitch the second time and we both knew it was a serious injury straight away. I remember after he came off, waiting for the doctor and we both had tears in our eyes.

“As a physio, you are so close to the players, I was so close to Paul, that I was ready to go to the hospital straight away with him until the doctor said: ‘You can’t there’s a game going on.’ I told Paul I’d be there with him as soon as I could.

“I remember that day so clearly. It was Clough’s Forest v Terry Venables and Tottenham. Our great captain Gary Mabbutt, one of the nicest men you could ever meet, went up to lift the FA Cup and all my thoughts were with Paul.

The playmaker collapsed to the turf after initially trying to play on
The playmaker collapsed to the turf after initially trying to play on

“I went to the hospital the next morning, got up at 6.30am, I was in the operating theatre and watched the surgery. I remember at the time that there was a fear that he would not play at the top level again.

“There was so much pressure at the time. Tottenham’s finances meant they were counting on the transfer and it was a huge deal at the time. The pressure on me was huge. Lazio gave him a deadline to get fit.

“I remember ringing people at the club and no answer. There were so many people outside. It was such a big story that the world’s media were there and I had to go out and read a statement and I ended up on the Nine O’Clock News. I was s***ing myself!”

Sheridan, who started in non-league and then went to Luton before following David Pleat to Spurs, takes pride in the fact that he had already helped Rob Johnson play again after having two cruciate ligament injuries during his time at Kenilworth Road.

The injury plunged Gascoigne's move to Lazio into doubt
The injury plunged Gascoigne’s move to Lazio into doubt

“We were aware of it but maybe the public didn’t know or talk about cruciate injuries back then,” said Sheridan. “But I always believed in Paul and he trusted me. You have to have that between physio and player. It’s the most important thing.

“We did revolutionary things back then which are still being done. Hydrotherapy, weights, working in the pool. When I was down, Paul would lift me. I went to Rome on numerous occasions and the pressure of that deadline was huge. Still even now

Former Tottenham Hotspur physio John Sheridan
Former Tottenham Hotspur physio John Sheridan

There is still one aspect of Gazza’s injury and recovery which still grates with Sheridan.

“People ask whether he was still the same player afterwards or if he would have been a better player but for that injury,” said Sheridan.

“But he actually played more games for England after that injury than before and would a fully fit player been able to score that goal against Scotland in Euro 96? Looking back, I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved.”

Gazza remains thankful and gave Sheridan his Tottenham shirt from the 1991 semi final when he scored the famous free kick to beat Arsenal. Sheridan should also be proud of what he achieved.

Father of three Sheridan, who has three grandchildren, actually hurt his leg falling off a bus as a teenager, the title of his book comes from having to run onto the pitch with a permanent limp and part of his inspiration for writing comes from showing what can be achieved with a disability.

The Limping Physio: A Life in Football Hardcover – John Sheridan
The Limping Physio: A Life in Football Hardcover – John Sheridan

He added: “I originally wrote the book for my grandchildren. But there’s a lot of stories in it and a big part of it comes from showing what you can do with a disability.

“I remember running onto the pitch, scared how fans might react when the physio came on with a limp. I knew I’d get stick from the Stratford End.

“But I doffed my cap to them, they laughed and people like Cloughie or Fergie suddenly knew about you, the physio with a limp.”

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