Former England international Paul Stewart says he paid too heavy a price for his prominent role in Tottenham’s 1991 FA Cup glory.
Spurs won the competition for a then-record eighth time 30 years ago when they beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at Wembley, with Stewart scoring the equaliser before Des Walker’s own goal in extra-time.
The 56-year-old has since revealed that he was sexually abused as a child over a four-year period by a youth coach, which later turned him to drink and drugs as he struggled to cope with his ordeal.
Stewart went on to win three England caps and his Wembley goal was a crowning achievement of a lengthy career, but that does not outweigh the pain he suffered in his childhood.
“I look at it like I paid too much to achieve what I achieved,” he told the PA news agency.
“When I look back, what I went through was horrendous. To achieve what I achieved in the game, I paid too much, the impact it had on me personally, the loved ones around me, the behaviour, which was too high a price to pay for an FA Cup.
“That said, you can’t take the fact I scored in a final away from me, you can’t take the winner’s medal away from me.
“As a boy growing up they are the things you dreamed of as a footballer and I am fortunate to be one of those who realised his dream, but having to pay a heavy price.
“It is certainly one of the highlights of my career. Getting my England caps was another highlight, but it is certainly up there. Just in the manner that we did, that made it special.”
Stewart is now using his horrifying experience to help ensure young players do not have to go through what he did, working with the English Football League to deliver safeguarding talks to clubs’ academies.
“I suppose for me that is a little bit of football I am able to connect with again after such a long time,” he said. “One could say that I have dedicated my life now to working in this field.
“I have a lot of projects on above the talks I give at EFL clubs to raise awareness, to combat this sort of behaviour.
“It is not just what happened to me. I look at the racial abuse, the online abuse. There are many types of abuse that affect people, as the abuse I endured did.
“For me it is about educating kids, coaches, parents about the dangers. These people are still out there and we have to make sure they can’t access our children and infiltrate our organisation to perpetuate their abuse.”
When Stewart struck a low finish into the bottom corner at the old Wembley to help Spurs on their way to the FA Cup 30 years ago, no one would have expected that to be the last time they won the famous trophy.
Silverware has been in short supply since, with just two League Cups to their name, and it is the major reason why star striker Harry Kane is ready for a new challenge.
The England captain is understood to want to leave the club this summer with Spurs having stagnated in the last couple of years.
Stewart is not surprised and says moving on is the only way to get the honours he deserves.
“He has been loyal to the club,” he added. “Ultimately he wants to win trophies and if he doesn’t go now he doesn’t get that chance.
“For him I think, the only way he will succeed is to move on to a club where the ambition is higher. I saw something on Twitter that I thought was a good comment: ‘We have got the best cinema in the world but we are watching a crap film’.
“I thought it was a true reflection. They are not competing in the transfer market with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
“They are going to want a lot of money, but someone will pay it for him because of the goals he scored. It is irrelevant the amount of money Manchester City pay for him, if they want him they will pay the money for him, for example.
“I think Harry has shown loyalty to Spurs, he has stayed with them, you can’t say he hasn’t performed for them. He has led by example.
“He wants to win trophies and end his career with trophies and will that happen at Spurs at the minute? I think most fans are resigned to the fact he will go.”