Pascal Chimbonda is proof that cup final miracles DO happen for Tottenham… and here’s why he thinks Spurs CAN do it again! Plus more on his old pal Ryan Mason, why Mourinho did not deserve the sack, and his incredible fight against racism
- Pascal Chimbonda was part of the last Spurs team to win a trophy in 2008
- The full-back miraculously overcame injury to win the Carling Cup final that year
- Tottenham are back in the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday
- Chimbonda admits Spurs should not have sacked Jose Mourinho this week
- He also opened up on racial abuse from his own fans and team-mates at Bastia
Tottenham may need all the luck they can get in the Sunday’s Carabao Cup final with Manchester City, the same type of fortune that greeted Pascal Chimbonda when Spurs last won a trophy 13 years ago.
Ahead of the 2008 Carling Cup final with Premier League title hopefuls Chelsea, the French full-back suffered a knee injury in training just two days before the Wembley clash.
Chimbonda could barely walk just 24 hours before the match with Spurs already plunged in a left-back crisis. Gareth Bale and Lee Young-Pyo had long-term injuries, while midfielder Teemu Tainio was being shoehorned into a full-back role.
Pascal Chimbonda has spoken to Sportsmail ahead of Spurs’ Carabao Cup final with Man City
Chimbonda was part of the last Spurs squad to win a trophy – the 2008 Carling Cup final
But the Frenchman, who was left out of the matchday squad by Juande Ramos but still travelled to the hotel with the team, endured an incredible stroke of luck.
Recalling his miracle, Chimbonda told Sportsmail: ‘I was injured for the final the day before. I got a kick on my knee and I couldn’t even walk the next day in training – the day before the game.
‘The next day I woke up and the pain was gone. And I went to the manager and I said, “I don’t have any pain in my knee. I think I can play the game.”
Chimbonda was injured before the final but miraculously came through to play over an hour
‘He said, “Are you sure?” and I was sure. He asked me to see if I had any pain anymore so I ran up and down the hotel corridors.’
Those sprints down the hotel were enough to convince Ramos to start Chimbonda just hours after leaving him out the side. The full-back went on to play over an hour in the final, which Spurs won 2-1 after extra-time.
Jonathan Woodgate’s header sealed the victory for the north Londoners against their city rivals, who went on finish as close runners-up to Manchester United in the Premier League and Champions League competitions.
Spurs won the final 2-1 thanks to Jonathan Woodgate’s extra-time winner at Wembley
Spurs went into that final as fierce underdogs and the situation remains the same for this year’s Wembley showpiece. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are top-flight champions-elect but Chimbonda remains confident that Tottenham can cause an upset.
He continues: ‘We were struggling in the league and the only way to play in Europe the next season was to win the cup and we did it.
‘At the time Chelsea was the big team and we were just fighting to finish the season strongly as we can. We were 13th in the league and a team like Spurs needs to be in Europe every season.
‘We were hungry. We were 18 to 25 hungry guys because in a final, the new Wembley, the atmosphere was buzzing. We were losing 1-0 but we were hungry and we fought and got back in the game and won it.
Chimbonda claimed Spurs were ‘hungry’ against Chelsea – who reached the Champions League final that year
The Frenchman now runs his own academy – PC.39 – in Manchester for boys aged 19+
‘You have to be hungry. It’s a trophy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little Carabao Cup, you want to win it. I hope they’re hungry like we were in 2008. Anything can happen, Chelsea were a big team when we did it – why couldn’t they do it against Man City?
‘You have to play with no fear, because if you do you’ll definitely lose. Against Chelsea, we won it at the death. The players have the key to win the game, not the manager.’
Yet the emotional backdrop going into Sunday’s Wembley final couldn’t be any different compared to 13 years ago. Football is still reeling from the shock European Super League launch that saw 12 clubs – including both of this weekend’s finalists – attempt to break away into their own self-elected tournament.
Chimbonda sympathises with Spurs fans who protested against the club’s Super League plans
Chimbonda was full of sympathy for the Tottenham fans who protested outside the club’s stadium before Wednesday’s Premier League win over Southampton – and with more demonstrations planned of Sunday, the Frenchman claims Spurs will need to show pride in England’s current set-up to
‘It’s like they’ve got something to prove to the fans to win the Carabao Cup and make things good again,’ says Chimbonda. ‘They were trying to take football away from the fans when football is about the fans. It was all about the money but fans are more important than the money.’
The Super League saga meant the shock sacking of Jose Mourinho last Monday morning went slightly under the radar.
Daniel Levy’s decision to relieve the Portuguese coach of his duties just six days before Sunday’s final shocked many – including Chimbonda, as the former Spurs and France full-back believed Mourinho deserved a few more chances.
Chimbonda claims Jose Mourinho should have stayed as Spurs boss until at least the summer
He claims: ‘I don’t think it was the right decision to sack Mourinho. He (Levy) should have waited until the end of the season to see what’s going on.
‘If you want to sack a manager, you should do it two months or with half the season to go. But six games left you know? He deserved to stay until the end of the season and if he had won the cup he should have stayed for another year.’
Mourinho’s short-term successor and the man leading out Spurs at Wembley is someone Chimbonda knows reasonably well.
Ryan Mason broke through into the Tottenham first-team during Chimbonda’s final stint at the club, while the Frenchman also coached Mason while doing some part-time managerial work in Spurs’ youth teams.
Now retired at 42 and running his own PC.39 football academy in Manchester, Chimbonda couldn’t be happier for the former Spurs midfielder whose playing career was cut short at 26 when a serious head injury in 2017 sparked medical concerns about carrying on.
Spurs will be led by Ryan Mason (above) at Wembley – who played with Chimbonda at Spurs
Chimbonda is delighted for the Spurs interim coach, 29, who was forced to retire in 2017
‘It’s a bonus for him,’ Chimbonda claims. ‘He knows he’s only got six games and one final and knows he may not be there with the first-team next season.
‘When I was at Spurs, he (Mason) was a young boy and an academy boy. He’s a good guy, a quiet guy but when this opportunity comes you have to take it. You never know what will happen.
‘I’m happy for him, he’s the youngest manager in the Premier League. He’s been lucky and he’s been unlucky. He will have want to still be playing football. But look at him now, he has to play a final against Manchester City. Everyone is buzzing for that.’
Take any of the key talking points before Sunday’s Carabao Cup final – Super League, Mourinho, fans back at Wembley – none matter more to Chimbonda than the topic of racism in football.
‘This will never stop you know, he says. ‘People say, “let’s fight against racism” – until now they didn’t do anything and nothing has changed.
‘People looked at the Super League and there was this buzz – but there wasn’t with what was going on with racism in football. You see how quickly the Super League was stopped, but football doesn’t take racism this seriously.
Chimbonda claims football does little to tackle racism after Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby (right) walked off against Cadiz in April after allegedly hearing abuse from Juan Cala
‘Players get abuse everywhere and football doesn’t know it. It will never change until the football authorities decide to do something.
The former full-back watched on in anger as Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby walked off the pitch with his team-mates after allegedly suffering racist abuse from Cadiz’s Juan Cala – only for LaLiga to find no evidence to punish anyone.
The Valencia incident took Chimbonda back 15 years when his own supporters at Bastia turned against him after some poor performances.
In the final match of Bastia’s 2004-05 season which saw them relegated to Ligue 2, the Guadeloupe-born defender asked to leave the pitch after constant abuse but was talked out of it. He had enough of fans spitting at him, wrecking his car and calling him a monkey throughout the final weeks of the campaign.
Chimbonda suffered racist abuse from his own fans at Bastia after the club were relegated
The abuse was sickening but the reaction of his Bastia team-mates to the incident was the final straw. Chimbonda joined Wigan Athletic that summer which propped up his move to Spurs – he stayed away from French club football for a decade.
Now settled in the city of Newcastle, Chimbonda recalls: ‘In my second season, we weren’t doing well and towards the end of the season, fans started spitting, assaulting me – everything.
‘Even young kids were assaulting me. It was too much. Fans even threw stones on my car. It was really bad. I had to leave, it wasn’t a good thing for me.
‘But when I left the club, some of team-mates said, “You deserved it. You made the fans be like this against you.”
‘They said it was my fault, my attitude – why the fans turned against me, started spitting at me, treating me like a monkey.
The French full-back (left) was blamed for the fans’ abuse by his own Bastia team-mates
‘People never do anything against this sort of thing. People in football don’t care about what happens to us in social media or on the pitch.
‘If you leave the pitch, there will be problems and you’ll be punished. I nearly left the pitch 15 years back, the Valencia players left the pitch and no-one did anything about that.’
And Chimbonda’s idea of a solution to racism? ‘The players have to do something. They don’t think they have power, but they do.
‘You take the knee before games, but for what? Nothing changes. It’s for the image, so I understand why Wilfried Zaha and some other players have stopped.’
Players will take the knee again at Wembley for Sunday’s final. Chimbonda will be watching on and rooting for his former side with mixed feelings.
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