Starting in the same team as Steve Perryman, Gary Mabbutt adopted his captain's loyalty and determination to serve Tottenham Hotspur with great distinction.
A young midfielder with Bristol Rovers, Mabbutt was persuaded to leave his home town for London by Bill Nicholson, who took a shine to this versatile and athletic player, making a mockery of the diabetes that he suffered from. Signing in the summer of 1982, Gary made his debut in the FA Charity Shield, making an impressive start among a lot of bigger names in the team.
Initially, he was a box to box player, who scored the occasional outstanding goal and his control of volleyed shots made him the best at this skill in the club. Covering lots of ground, with a prodigious leap to win headers, Mabbutt soon established his value to the team.
For four years Mabbutt played a variety of positions and was not a regular in the side in any of them, but taking Steve Perryman's place in defence for the second leg of the 1984 UEFA Cup final, he put in a sterling performance, doing his absent captain proud in the nail-biting match, which Spurs won on penalties.
When David Pleat took over, he brought in Richard Gough to partner Mabbutt and they made a formidable pairing. Both good in the air and in the tackle, with an ability to read the game and break up moves before they got too near the goal. Unfortunately, the team of 1986-87 played some fantastic football, but failed to have anything to show for it, with Mabbutt scoring at both ends in the FA Cup final against Coventry City. Having put Tottenham 2-1 ahead with a header just before the break, he deflected Dave Bennett's cross and it looped up over Ray Clemence and into the net to give Coventry City a 3-2 win.
However, the following season, with Gough Glasgow bound, Mabbutt took over the armband and his captaincy added a responsibility to his game, which rubbed off on his team-mates. Respected by them, he led by example and took the team to the 1991 FA Cup Final, where against all adversity, Spurs won in extra time with Des Walker heading into his own net from a corner, with Mabbutt right behind him to apply the finishing touch had he missed the ball. His pride in lifting the cup wiped away the memories of four years earlier, when he was distraught at having scored the winner for the Sky Blues.
In the 1994 New Year's Day Honours list, Gary was warded the MBE.
As the seasons went on Mabbutt's partners in defence changed as he became the senior professional at the club, but suffered some serious injuries, including a fractured eye socket and cheekbone by an elbow hitting him in the face, when he jumped for the ball with Wimbledon employee John Fashanu in November 1993 that threatened Mabbs' career and a broken leg in a challenge by Graham Fenton on the opening day of the 1995-96 season.
On 10th May 1998, Gary Mabbutt came on as a substitute in Tottenham's final game of the season to make his final appearance for the club, taking the captain's armband to huge cheers from the Spurs crowd. A popular player with the fans, he had turned down the opportunity to move to Liverpool and Manchester United to remain at White hart Lane, with his loyalty a fast-fading attribute of the modern footballer, Gary Mabbutt was Tottenham through and through.
His consistency over a period of 11 years was the mainstay of the club's side through the Eighties and Nineties. He was a regular, missing few games either through injury (a broken leg was picked up at the start of the 198-8 season) or through the diabetes that he suffered from. However, playing has taken it's toll and at the time of his retirement, his left knee cap had become fragmented and he was no longer able to stand up to the rigors of a Premier League campaign.
So much so that in interviews after leaving the club, he still referred to Tottenham as "us" and was to go on to act as a major part of the campaign to win the staging of the World Cup for South Africa in 2010 and then became an ambassador for Tottenham to promote the club.
A gentleman on and off the field, Gary Mabbutt will be regarded as a Spurs legend for his service to the club. A player who was brave on and off the pitch too, he always gave his all for the team and did so fairly, often in the face of others who did not.