The lads really had a hell of a slog that year. Following the 1981 Cup win, the team initially seemed to improve still further for the first half of the 1981-82 season. We were in serious contention for everything until after Christmas. At times, the football was scintillating and as a supporter made your heart skip with excitement. What a team, a mixture of class and dedication wherever you looked. Glenn Hoddle at times was imperious. Garth Crooks and Steve Archibald up front, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa in midfield, Steve Perryman a fantastic leader, more skilful than he was credited for at the time and deserving of many more England caps.
The fixture pile up though became really serious.
The League Cup Final
Liverpool had been the top team for years but I honestly believe that Spurs team at its best were better. The League Cup Final would have been the opportunity to prove it. Fate was against us though. I know teams come up with hard luck stories – you could write a whole book on ours – but never before or since has this country committed to a war which robbed a top 1st Division team of two World Cup winners right at the crucial conclusion to the season. The Falklands war. I never saw that coming. It would have been difficult enough with a fully fit, all present squad but to keep winning in those circumstances really was impossible. I think we were 3rd or 4th until after Christmas but from memory, as players became fatigued, our league performances and results started to slip first. Steve Archibald seemed to struggle and was not as prolific as the previous season.
Before the FA Cup Final came the League Cup Final against Liverpool on 13th March. Already tired and carrying injuries, Tottenham got an early goal and led until about five minutes to go when a new Liverpool youngster called Ronnie Whelan got an equaliser. Liverpool cleaned up 3-1 in extra time. The season had started to slip down the pan.
European Cup Winners’ Cup – BarcelonaWe had to play Barcelona in the Cup Winners Cup semi-final. The first leg at White Hart Lane was on 7th April. Again, I was there. Despite the fatigue Barcelona, in total contrast to today played like a team of thugs. They kicked Spurs players up in the air all night and yet only had one player sent off. Ray Clemence also made a rare and uncharacteristic error. All who were watching were stunned. I was especially so as in yet another coincidence that seems to happen to me so many times down the years at pivotal Spurs moments I was behind him in the goal at the Paxton Road end. A Barcelona defender hit a harmless speculative looping shot/cross which Ray raised his hands to catch. To me he already seemed to be thinking and looking where he was going to distribute it to, as I was – probably a long throw out to the right wing to set up an attack? I think he must have taken his eye off the ball, almost as though he had taken catching it for granted and was already glancing to where he was going to put it next. He fumbled the catch though and the ball dropped through his hands and into the net. It was like a kick in the guts – which is basically what the Barcelona players did for the rest of the match.
It’s funny, the memory does play tricks but I could swear that Maradona played for them in that game. He was a young starlet just making his name but he just seemed to be one of a number of dirty little players of similar appearance kicking our players instead of the ball. Graham Roberts got an equaliser and the game ended 1-1. We were mugged. Barcelona were desperate to get through because the final was at the Nou Camp and they had clearly decided to qualify by fair means or foul, which caught us on the hop.
It left a bad taste in the mouth. Totttenham manager, Keith Burkinshaw said,
“We didn’t expect them to play like that…we had heard about them being a good side technically but it never showed through.”
FA Cup Final
I was lucky enough to be at the 1982 Final and the replay against Queen’s Park Rangers. I lived in London at the time and being there, it somehow seemed easier to get hold of a ticket – even though I actually got it from a friend of my London boss who lived in Wigan! I remember both games well, although neither were classics, like the Ricky Villa Final the previous year. That match was on my birthday and I had a fantastic party, watching it on the tele but that’s a story for another time.
When I took my seat which was quite high up looking down on the goal that Spurs defended in the second half, I experienced one of those strange coincidences in life. The guy in the seat next to me was an old school friend and fellow Spurs fan who I had not seen since 1975 when I moved to Poole in Dorset. Even stranger, the same thing happened about 25 years later when I bumped into him again in a South Kensington pub on a by now rare for me visit to the Capital. We had both stopped off for a quick drink before attending an Eric Clapton concert at the Royal Albert Hall just around the corner. Health permitting I plan to return for one of Clapton’s concerts in May 2013. If you are reading this Vic, I’ll probably see you there!
Back to 1982 and the first FA Cup Final game.I think I must have both bitten my nails to the quick as we suffered another tired but courageous performance by a Spurs team that was clearly on its last legs. It was 0-0 at full time. In the 110thminute Glenn Hoddle got a goal, deflected off Tony Currie, QPR’s skilful opposite number. Steve Perryman, who had been voted Footballer of the Year two weeks earlier was as steady as ever but even Ray Clemence was carrying a calf injury. I felt as exhausted as the players, as if I had kicked every ball with them throughout the season, let alone the match. We all ran out of steam and QPR got a headed equaliser from Terry Fenwick, a defender five minutes from the end of extra time. I trudged dejectedly back to the tube station. It felt like a loss.
1982 FA Cup Final Replay
I queued up at Wembley, I think it was the next day, to get a ticket for the replay. It was quite straightforward. I was behind one of the goals. It was at ground level, dead in line with the corner of the goal that Glenn Hoddle scored the winning penalty in. Being Wembley, it was a long way back from the pitch but I opened my arms as he shot – “Come to Daddy” It was like he tried to pass the ball to me, right through the net. I felt like I had sucked it in, my heart leapt.I had another one of those weird moments at the 1982 finals. I thought it was in the first game but the official records say it was in the replay. Well it was 30 years ago after all. I distinctly recall QPR having a looping shot from a long way out that looked a goal all the way. I know it sounds crazy but I so believed in the power of positive thought I believed I could affect the movement of the ball if I really concentrated. It came from so far out, like it was in slow motion that I had time to concentrate for a second or so. The ball deviated and hit the bar when it had beaten the goalie and looked like it was going in! You’ll never convince me I had nothing to do with it. I felt instantly drained, I had put so much emotional effort into it, stuff and nonsense or not. If they ever prove scientifically that telekinesis is real, I swear I exercised it in that moment and did my bit for Spurs!
I often say, only partly in jest, that Maggie Thatcher was responsible for Tottenham Hotspur not dominating English football throughout the ’80s. The timing was so precise and unfortunate. Surely the Arsenal supporting mandarins and politicians in Whitehall would not have allowed their bias to affect the timing of such World moving events as the declaration of war? Or would they?
Over To You!
What are your memories of the 1981-82 season?