Tottenham Transfer Coup! (1) 10th July, 1978


Keith Burkinshaw introduces Villa and Ardiles

On this day, 10th July, 1978, Tottenham Hotspur made the headlines in every news bulletin and in every newspaper as they shocked the football world with the announcement that they had signed two stars of the successful Argentine World Cup team – Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. Manager, Keith Burkinshaw had gone out to Argentina to sign the players. The club had just won promotion after one season in the 2nd Division and this announcement brought a great lift and buzz to the club which was looking to re-establish itself in the 1st Division. They made their first appearance for Spurs in a friendly against Royal Antwerp in Belgium that August and fans, all round the country, clamoured throughout the season to see Tottenham and their two World Cup winniers. Ossie and Ricky became firm favourites at White Hart Lane and although taking time to acclimatise to English football they were important members of the successful team of the early 1980s.

Ossie Ardiles

Ardiles was signed from Huracan and he was a slightly built, skilful midfield player whom many thought would be unable to cope with the rigours of English football. He proved his doubters wrong and made over 220 League appearances for Spurs. His debut was on the opening day of the 1978 season at reigning Champions Nottingham Forest and he helped Spurs take a point in a 1 – 1 draw. For the first home match an Argentinian style World Cup ticker tape welcome was prepared for Ardiles and Villa at White Hart Lane. The ground was throbbing with excitement and anticipation but the wrong Villa made the headlines. Aston Villa came to spoil the party and ruined Spurs’ and the Argentinians’ big night. Spurs had come back down to earth with an almighty crash – they lost 1 – 4 and discovered that life back in the First Division was going to be very difficult. There were difficult periods at first but Ardiles went on to help Tottenham win the 1981 FA Cup and played in the next season’s competition until the semi-final stage. He missed the Final as he had returned to his homeland to prepare for the 1982 World Cup. In 1984 he was part of the UEFA Cup wining team. He left Tottenham in 1988 but returned as manager in 1993.

After a successful season managing West Bromwich Albion he was appointed manager of Tottenham by Alan Sugar.  The chairman was trying to appease irate fans who were displeased at the departure of Terry Venables.  It was difficult for Ardiles to take over in such circumstances and while supporters enjoyed his ‘Famous 5’ attacking team of 1994-95 which included Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, Nicky Barmby, Darren Anderton and Ille Dimitrescu, the team lacked consistency and he was sacked in October, 1994.

Although as a manager Ossie Ardiles was not a success, he is still remembered for his successful time as a player at Tottenham.

Ricky Villa

Ricky Villa on his way to scoring his memorable winning goal

Villa joined from Racing Club and was a much more powerful midfield player than Ardiles. It was assumed that he would adapt quickly to English football but that was not the case. He did, however, score a goal on his debut at Forest but it was some time before Spurs supporters saw the true player. In 1981 he made a name for himself and earned a place in the Tottenham history books and the hearts of supporters. In the FA Cup semi-final he scored a brilliant goal as Spurs defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers in a replay. In the Final against Manchester City, Villa failed to perform and was substituted with Spurs a goal down. The abiding memory is of Villa trudging forlornly around Wembley, making his way to the dressing rooms, totally dejected. Spurs equalised and earned a replay. It was expected that Keith Burkinshaw would omit Villa for this match but the manager decided to show faith in the player who responded with two goals. The second a spectacular mazy dribble which produced a memorable goal to win the Cup for Spurs.

Villa left Tottenham in 1983 but is still fondly remembered by Spurs supporters and is always given a very warm welcome when he returns to White Hart Lane.

Tottenham made the headlines that day which was the start of the introduction of foreign players into English League football. It was a massive gamble by Keith Burkinshaw but one which proved to be very worthwhile and successful.