Spurs must avoid repeat of Perryman's darkest nights

Own goal then red card for legend who still seethes over injustice in Madrid which left 'nasty taste'
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The Independent Football

If Harry Redknapp's Tottenham Hotspur players are hoping Tuesday brings one of the nights of their lives under the Bernabeu lights, for Steve Perryman the club's one previous encounter with Real Madrid was more the stuff of nightmares.

Perryman was captain of the Tottenham side whose Uefa Cup defence ended at the hands of Madrid, the eventual winners, in the 1984-85 quarter-finals and, for the then 33-year-old, things could scarcely have turned out worse. Not only did he score the own goal that separated the teams at White Hart Lane – Spurs' first home defeat in Europe – but he was then sent off in a second-leg stalemate that even today stirs a sense of injustice.

A contemporary match report at the conclusion of the 1-0 aggregate defeat suggested Perryman would "never forget his two nights of darkness" and he has not forgotten Swiss referee Bruno Galler's decision to disallow Mark Falco's headed goal for a push, shortly before his 78th-minute dismissal. "We came out of it thinking Real needed a slice of luck, which was an own goal, unfortunately by me, and an incredibly bad decision by the referee," says Perryman, now director of football at League One Exeter City.

"He got up between two defenders and headed in – there was a metre's daylight between each defender," he adds of Falco's Bernabeu strike. "It was great to play against a fantastic club but we came away with a nasty taste. There was a bit of doubt as to the validity of the result." According to The Times, the referee had "hesitated suspiciously" before penalising Falco.

Perryman's personal horror show began 12 minutes into the first leg when Spurs keeper Ray Clemence got his hand to an Emilio Butragueño cross but "touched it on to my chest and the momentum of me running back knocked the ball into an empty net". His red card in Madrid followed a crude body-check on Jorge Valdano – retribution for a nasty challenge by the Argentinian, who is now Real's director general.

"I was a little bit selfish, which was unusual for me," Perryman says. "I got a bit of revenge on Valdano, who really did me badly from behind down the Achilles. Ossie [Ardiles] told me later he'd thought I was [Graham] Roberts, because Roberts had apparently kicked him. It was my last ever game in Europe so a shame it ended that way."

For Perryman, Spurs' record appearance-maker with 64 in Europe and 866 overall, it was a sad close to a long European career. A 20-year-old in Bill Nicholson's team that beat Wolves to win the all-English Uefa Cup final in 1972, he was captain 12 years later as Keith Burkinshaw's side reclaimed the trophy – although he was suspended for the second leg of the final against Anderlecht.

According to the 59-year-old, "Bill Nick", his old boss, "would be purring" at the manner in which Tottenham have lit up Europe this term. "I said to someone the other day that Bill Nicholson, bless him, would be really proud of Harry and his style and his team. It has progressed since he took over. They can go a goal down and get back. They can hit people with pace, go aerial, or a combination. They have some terrific match-winning players like [Luka] Modric, who I love, and [Rafael] Van der Vaart.

"What I like about Harry is he is coping with so many flair players as a unit, and if you get the combination of that you've got a real chance," adds Perryman, who considers this to be Spurs' finest crop since they last visited the Bernabeu. Tottenham's starting XI then featured six homegrown players who "had a true feeling about the club" and no lack of talent, as Perryman underlines. "When you have Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles in a team you can compete with the best."

Perryman was Ardiles's assistant manager during the Argentinian's 17 months in charge in 1993-94 and he maintains his good friend was "in the right job at the wrong time". Experiences such as working under Alan Sugar at Tottenham made him wary of those with "money and power telling me what I should and should not be thinking about football" so he found success instead managing in Japan, and now with an Exeter side promoted twice in four seasons.

Yet if he does not miss the "spin and image and ego" prevalent in top-level football today, he will still be glued to his TV down in Devon on Tuesday, hoping his Spurs successors can avoid the unhappy fate his own team suffered at the Bernabeu all those years ago.

Real Madrid v Tottenham is on Sky Sports 2 on Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm