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Tottenham Win 1981 FA Cup Final Having Defeated Coventry City in 5th Round


Tottenham and Coventry City meet in the FA Cup on Saturday but they have previously met in the competitions on three occasions. Two are of great significance – the 1981 meeting was as Tottenham progressed to their sixth FA Cup win and the 1987 Final saw Coventry unexpectedly end Tottenham’s undefeated record in FA Cup Finals. The last occasion was in the 3rd Round at Coventry in 2002.

Ricky Villa’s Wonder Goal Wins FA Cup for Tottenham!

Thursday, 14th May, 1981 marks the night Ricky Villa became a Tottenham ‘Legend’.  He came back from the disappointment of a poor performance and being substituted in the first game the previous Saturday, to score twice, the winner being one of the best goals ever seen at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham’s 1981 FA Cup Win Final Win

The 1981-82 season had been just another step in Tottenham’s endeavours to re-establish themselves as one of the top clubs in the country. Keith Burkinshaw had slowly brought together a group of players who were capable of playing football in the style associated with Spurs. After the club’s relegation in 1976-77 and promotion the following season it had taken time for the team to blend together and in the League, Tottenham were only to finish the season in 10th position.

From early January and the 3rd Round of the FA Cup, however, the players grew in confidence and belief in themselves that they progressed to Wembley for the 100th FA Cup Final. That small step during the 1980-81 season had turned into a massive stride forward for the manager, the players and the club as they went on to enjoy more success in the coming years.

The Road to Wembley

3rd Round: v Queen’s Park Rangers (a)  Draw 0 – 0

Replay: v Queen’s Park Rangers (h) Won 3 – 1  Galvin, Hoddle, Crooks

Happy to leave Loftus Road with a draw against 2nd Division QPR, Spurs ensured their progress to the next round with a comfortable win at White Hart Lane. Ricky Villa missed the home game through an injury sustained in the first game.

4th Round: Hull City (h) Won 2 – 0  Brooke, Archibald

A visit from another 2nd Division side but the two strikers signed the previous summer, substitute Garry Brooke and Steve Archibald, scored the goals in the last seven minutes as Spurs avoided a tricky replay at Hull to progress to the 5th Round.

5th Round: Coventry City (h) Won 3 – 1  Hughton, Ardiles, Archibald

Another home tie but against 1st Division Coventry City who were sent packing after Spurs took control with first half goals from Ardiles and Archibald. A third from Chris Hughton after the interval had  Tottenham supporters considering the possibility of the FA Cup returning to White Hart Lane as the year did end in ‘1’.

6th Round: Exeter City (h) Won 2 – 0  Roberts, Miller

The draw once again proved favourable for Tottenham with a home game against the last lower League team left in the competition. Exeter, however, proved more difficult than had been expected but two second half goals from central defensive partners Paul Miller and Graham Roberts took Spurs to the semi-finals for the first time since 1967.

Semi-Final v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Hillsborough) Draw 2 – 2 (aet)  Archibald, Hoddle

Ricky Villa returned from injury to start at Hillsborough in his first game since the 3rd Round. Steve Archibald gave Spurs an early lead only for Wolves to draw level. Before half-time Spurs went ahead through Glenn Hoddle and retained their lead until going into the final minutes when Wolves were awarded a controversial penalty. Hoddle was penalised for a tackle which took place outside the penalty area. Wolves scored from the spot taking the game went into extra time but neither team could settle the tie so a replay was required.

Semi-Final v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Highbury) Won 3 – 0  Crooks (2), Villa

Tottenham took over Highbury and Garth Crooks scored twice with the third coming from Ricky Villa – a fierce drive following a run from halfway.

Final v Manchester City (Wembley) Draw 1 – 1 (aet)  Hutchinson (o.g.)

In a game that was rather dour, Manchester City’s non-stop commitment and effort denied Tottenham and they took the lead through Tommy Hutchinson after half an hour.  It was a disappointing display from Spurs who couldn’t get their game going and with twenty minutes remaining Ricky Villa was substituted. The lasting memory is of the Argentine forlornly and slowly making his way past the Wembley stands to the dressing room – dejected and disappointed with his contribution to the game. Eleven minutes from time, however, good fortune favoured Tottenham. They were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area and when Hoddle struck it, Hutchinson in trying to defend it only succeeded in deflecting it into his own goal. Tottenham had been given a second chance.

Replay v Manchester City (Wembley) Won 3 – 2 (aet)  Villa(2), Crooks

For the replay, manager, Keith Burkinshaw, made a brave decision to include Ricky Villa as many had expected him to be dropped after his poor display on the Saturday.  Having been given a reprieve, Villa immediately set about proving the manager correct by scoring the opening goal after eight minutes, a good strike as the ball fell to him in the penalty area. The lead was short lived as three minutes later City equalised with a well struck shot from the edge of the box. In a game that was much more open than the first match, City went ahead with a penalty early in the second half. Tottenham battled on and equalised with a goal from Garth Crooks. Level with twenty minutes remaining either team could have won but seven minutes later, Tony Galvin made a short pass to Ricky Villa wide on the left just inside City’s half. Villa set off on a run that took him past the City defenders and on into the penalty. He continued his mazy dribble with team mates waiting for a pass, until finally getting past the last defender he placed the ball beyond the despairing keeper to score the winning goal.

That wonder goal not only won the FA Cup for Spurs for the sixth time but it turned Ricky Villa into an instant Tottenham ‘Legend’ and provided supporters with a moment in their lives that they will never forget, whether having been at Wembley or simply watching on television.

Team: Aleksic; Perryman, Roberts, Miller, Hughton; Ardiles, Hoddle, Villa, Galvin; Archibald, Crooks. Sub: Brooke (unused)

Ricky Villa Cup Hero

Ricky Villa’s 1981 FA Cup winning goal against Manchester City

Ricky Villa had arrived at Tottenham in the summer of 1978 with fellow Argentine, Osvaldo Ardiles, having helped their country win the World Cup. Spurs had just won promotion from the 2nd Division after one season out of top flight football. The news of their arrival caused great excitement not just at Tottenham but throughout English football as grounds were packed to see the two World Cup winners. The reality, however, was that Spurs were finding it difficult back in the 1st Division and the two new players needed time to adjust to English football. In time Ardiles settled into the team but it was more difficult for Villa who was missing his home country and on occasions struggled with injury. The manager struggled to find a suitable position for his new player who was not guaranteed a start in every game whereas Ardiles had quickly become an influential member of the team. By the start of the Cup winning season, however, Villa had become a regular in midfield but injury in the first game of the Cup campaign saw Villa missing until the semi-finals. What a contribution he made to the drama and excitement of the FA Cup in those four games which led to Tottenham enjoying a period of success not seen since the days of Bill Nicholson.