A Moment in Time – 1986-87 When Tottenham Almost Won the Treble

It could be argued this was Tottenham’s finest season since the double in 1960-61, although Harry Redknapp might be one to argue.

After the ignominy of relegation from the First Division in 1976-77, they bounced straight back and won the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982 and then won the UEFA Cup in 1984.  All these honours were under the tutelage of Keith Burkinshaw, who was also in charge when they went down.  But Burkinshaw moved on after the UEFA Cup win and his assistant, Peter Shreeves, was appointed.  A 3rd place finish in his first season was the club’s best League performance for 14 years but when this was followed by 10th place the following year, Shreeves was also off.  In stepped David Pleat

David Pleat had been manager of Luton Town, who were a mid-table Second Division side when he arrived and within four years were promoted to the First Division for only the second time since the late 1950’s. Pleat’s teams at Kenilworth Road had gained a reputation for exciting attacking football with players such as Paul Walsh, Brian Stein, Mick Harford and David Moss.  But Pleat couldn’t resist Tottenham’s advances in a period when English football still courted the idea of ‘the Big Five’ (Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham).

His first move was to bring in defender Mitchell Thomas from Luton and then signed Richard Gough from Dundee United.  Graham Roberts and Paul Miller, the defensive pairing in the two FA Cup Final wins, left the club as did striker Mark Falco.  But Pleat had plans for the formation of this squad which would see some of the most exciting attacking football White Hart Lane had ever witnessed.

English football was still traditionally 4-4-2 in formation, or sometimes 4-3-3.  The 1980’s had seen progression from a 4-2-4 with two wingers, to the two wide midfielders playing deeper.  But Pleat adopted a new style, 4-5-1.  Clive Allen was the perfect beneficiary of this new system.

As throughout the eighties, the team revolved around Glenn Hoddle, and Pleat’s system gave him licence to concentrate creativity rather than the boring part of midfield work, such as tackling or tracking back.  Around him were three hard-working players, Ardiles, Hodge and Claesen with Graham Roberts and Gary Stevens often filling in.  Claesen and Hodge were important additions to the team and both revelled in their roles.  Not only did they provide the protection for the defence, they were often able to join attacks with opposition defences distracted by Allen or Waddle.  Chris Waddle was also free to make the best of his talents, turning up on either wing as well as providing addition support for Allen.


Ray Clemence (aged 39, 55 appearances) – Liverpool signed him from Scunthorpe and he became arguably their greatest keeper.  After winning thirteen trophies including five league titles, three European Cups, and a couple of UEFA Cups, he moved to Spurs in 1981. Remained at the club until 1988.

Tony Parks (aged 26, 2 appearances) – Joined as an apprentice, making his debut in 1980. Never a first-team regular he helped Spurs win 1984 UEFA Cup, saving a penalty in the shoot-out.  Left for Brentford in 1988.


Gary Stevens (aged 25, 28 appearances) – Began career at Brighton where he made his debut at the age of 17.  Was part of the side which lost 1983 FA Cup Final.  It was his last game for the club as he then moved to Tottenham.  Stayed at the club for seven years before moving onto Portsmouth.

Mitchell Thomas (aged 23, 54 appearances) – Began his career at Luton under David Pleat, making his debut in 1982.  Spent four years at Kenilworth Road before Pleat brought him to Tottenham in 1986.  He went onto play over 150 times for Spurs before moving onto West Ham in 1991 and then back to Luton in 1994.

Graham Roberts (21 appearances) – -Born in Southampton, he was on the books of several clubs in the area including Southampton, Portsmouth, Dorchester and Weymouth.  Signed for Spurs in 1980.  Played over 200 times for the club before moving to Rangers at the beginning of this season.

Richard Gough (aged 24, 55 appearances) – A Scot who was born in Stockholm.  Signed from Dundee United during this season but then moved back up to Rangers a year later.

Gary Mabbutt (aged 27, 51 appearances) – Born in Bristol, he began his professional career with Bristol Rovers in 1979 before moving to Spurs in 1982.  Remained at the club until he retired from playing in 1998.

Danny Thomas (aged 25, 27 appearances) – Born in Worksop, he began his career at Coventry City in 1979.  Moved to Tottenham in 1983, remaining at the club for five years before a knee injury ended his career at the age of 27.

Chris Hughton (aged 28, 11 appearances) – Born in London, he made his debut with Tottenham in 1979 and was part of double-FA Cup winning side in early eighties.  Remained at the club until 1990 before he moved to West Ham.

Paul Miller (aged 28, 5 appearances) – Born in Stepney he signed as an apprentice at Spurs, making his debut in 1977 and was part of FA Cup winning sides of 1981 and 1982.  Played over 200 times for the club before leaving for Charlton in 1987.

John Polston (aged 19, 7 appearances) – Born in Walthamstow, he joined Spurs as an apprentice making his debut in 1985.  Remained at the club until he moved to Norwich in 1990, where he played over 200 times in an eight year period.

Tim O’Shea (aged 20, 2 appearances) – Joined Spurs from school and in five years only made three first team appearances.  Moved to Leyton Orient in 1988, before his most successful spell when he moved to Gillingham.

Mark Bowen (aged 23, 2 appearances) – Joined Spurs as an apprentice in 1981.  Spent six years at the club but only making 17 first team appearance before moving Norwich City in 1987.

Neil Ruddock (aged 18, 5 appearances) – Began his professional career at Millwall before moving to Tottenham in 1986.  Stayed for a couple of years before moving to Southampton and then back to Spurs in 1992.  He then spent five years at Liverpool.

Mark Stimson (aged 19, 1 appearance) – Joined Spurs as an apprentice in 1984, making his debut a year later.  Only appeared twice for the first team before he moved to Newcastle.


Glenn Hoddle (age 29, 49 appearances) – Joined Spurs as an apprentice in 1974 and made his debut in 1975.  Won Young Player of the Year award in 1980 and became the club’s best player of his generation throughout the eighties.  This was his last season at White Hart Lane before he moved to Monaco.

Chris Waddle (age 25, 54 appearances) – Began career at Newcastle United in 1980, and was prominent part of team which won promotion to the First Division in 1984 when he played alongside Kevin Keegan.  Joined Tottenham in 1985 and was at the club for four years before moving to Marseille in France.

Tony Galvin (age 30, 29 appearances) – Born in Huddersfield, he was playing for Goole Town when Keith Burkinshaw bought him in 1978 and he became an important part of their double-FA Cup winning side at the beginning of the eighties.  Left the club in 1987 to move to Sheffield Wednesday.

Paul Allen (aged 24, 52 appearances) – Became the youngest player to play in an FA Cup Final when he was in the West Ham team which beat Arsenal in 1980.  He spent six years at the club before moving to Tottenham in 1985.  Made almost 300 appearances before moving to Southampton in 1993.

Nico Claesen (age 24, 38 appearances) – Belgian-born, he began his career at Seraing before moving to West Germany with VFB Stuttgart.  He returned to Belgium, signing for Standard Liege for a season in 1985 before Pleat bought him to Tottenham.  Spent two years at White Hart Lane before going back home to Royal Antwerp.

John Chiedozie (age 26, 1 appearance) – Started his career at Leyton Orient, where he was a favourite with the fans.  Moved to Notts County in 1981 when they were in the First Division.  Joined Spurs in 1984 and stayed for four years before leaving for Derby County and then a second spell at Notts County.

Ossie Ardiles (age 34, 36 appearances) – Came to prominence in the successful Argentina side which won 1978 World Cup.  Joined Spurs right after the tournament and became an instant cult hero.  Finally left the club in 1988.

David Howells (age 19, 1 appearance) – Grew up in same school year as the author. He had pleasure of playing against me on several occasions, and even received a kick on the ankle for his trouble in a cup final where he was on the losing side.  Made his debut as an 18 year old in 1986 for Tottenham.  Remained at the club until 1998 when he moved to Southampton.

Steve Hodge (age 24, 25 appearances) – Joined Nottingham Forest as an apprentice and made his debut in 1981.  Played over 120 times before being sold to Aston Villa in 1985.  His spell at Villa Park wasn’t a happy one and during this season when Villa would be relegated, he was sold to Tottenham.  Was at the club for two years before going back to Forest.

Vinny Samways (age 18, 2 appearances) – Born in Bethnal Green, he came through the youth ranks at Tottenham making his debut in 1986.  Made almost 200 appearances before leaving for Everton in 1994.


Clive Allen (age 25, 54 appearances) – Began his career at QPR making his debut in 1978.  A prolific goalscorer he was signed by Arsenal in 1980 and then two weeks later was moved onto Crystal Palace.  Returned to QPR in 1981 before joining Spurs in 1984.  He left the club for Bordeaux in 1988.  Part of the successful Allen family, as his Dad played for Spurs in the 1960’s.  His brother, Bradley, played for QPR, his cousins, Martin and Paul had successful football careers too.

Mark Falco (age 26, 7 appearances) – Started his professional career at Spurs, making his debut in 1979.  Spent eight years at the club scoring 68 goals, before he left for Watford in 1987.

Shaun Close (age 20, 4 appearances) – Joined the club as a YTS trainee in 1986.  Stayed for two years moving onto Halmstad in Sweden.  He returned to England after one season joining Bournemouth before a spell at Swindon and then Barnet.

Paul Moran (age 18, 1 appearance) – Joined the club as a YTS student, making his debut in 1985.  Remained at the club until 1994 going out on loan to several clubs during that time.


The season began with a trip to Villa Park, with both Mitchell Thomas and Gough in the starting line-up.  Aston Villa had finished just 3pts above the drop the season before and so went into the new campaign nervous of their chances.  It had been four years since Spurs last lost at Villa Park and a Clive Allen hat-trick got Tottenham off to the best possible start with a 3-0 win.  Villa would eventually succumb to the pressure of the relegation battle come May.

The following Monday Tottenham welcomed Newcastle United.  Clive Allen again gave Spurs the lead but a second half goal from Peter Beardsley rescued a point for the visitors and it ended, 1-1.  Tottenham were at home again for their third match of the season whenManchester City visited.  Graham Roberts scored the only goal of the game as Tottenham won, 1-0.


The unbeaten start to the season came to an end at The Dell where goals from Colin Clarke and Danny Wallace saw Tottenham lose to Southampton, 0-2.  The following weekend saw the first North London derby of the season.  Arsenal had won just one of the previous five of these and the two sides were well-matched as they played out a 0-0 draw.  The disappointing run continued when Tottenham played host to another London club as Chelseawere the visitors.  On a day when six of the eleven fixtures produced at least four goals, Tottenham were undone by one of their old-boys when Micky Hazard scored a double, including one from the spot, as Chelsea ran out 3-1 winners.  Clive Allen also scored from the spot for his 5th goal of the season but the defeat found Spurs down in 12th from their opening six matches.

The run of one win in four and 1pt in their last three games came to an end when another double from Clive Allen gave them a 2-1 win at Filbert Street against Leicester City. Leicester had stunned Champions Liverpool earlier in the season with a 2-1 win but that remained their only victory.  Midweek saw League Cup action.  The competition was now sponsored by Littlewoods and Tottenham entered at the Second Round stage, drawn against Second Division side Barnsley.  The first leg at Oakwell was a thriller with Tottenham narrowly winning, 3-2 with goals from Clive Allen, Roberts and Chris Waddle.

English football was, at this time, dominated by Liverpool and Everton, who had won the last five titles between them.  Everton visited White Hart Lane at the end of September, 2nd in the table and unbeaten.  Clive Allen was again on target with another two goals as Spurs pulled off a vital 2-0 victory.


The month began with Tottenham welcoming their manager’s previous club, Luton Town. Luton had struggled in front of goal and so it continued as they earned an important 0-0draw.  In midweek, Pleat gave a debut to Shaun Close up front in place of Clive Allen and he was rewarded with Close scoring the opening goal in the Littlewoods Cup Second Round 2ndleg game.  Glenn Hoddle then scored his first goal of the season and by half-time Spurs were in control.  In the end the game finished 5-3 as Spurs struggled to keep Barnsley at bay, but Hoddle scored his 2nd of the game with Tony Galvin and substitute, Clive Allen, adding further goals.

Back in the League and now Spurs travelled to Anfield to take on Liverpool.  Pleat had made another signing when he bought Nico Claesen from Standard Liege and the Belgian would make an immediate impact with his first start coming at Anfield.  Back in March 1985 Tottenham had won there, ending a winless run which stretched back to pre-Titanic days. Clive Allen was again the hero and Spurs had beaten the reigning League Champions, 1-0away.  Tottenham were now up to 3rd place as newly-promoted Norwich hit the top of the table.  When Clive Allen scored Tottenham’s goal in their 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday, he had scored 11 of the club’s 12 League goals.  Since losing at home to Chelsea, they’d gone on a run of five games unbeaten but this then came to an end against another London club, Queen’s Park Rangers.  At Loftus Road, Clive Allen’s cousin, Martin, scored for the home side and then John Byrne completed the win as Spurs lost 0-2.  This pushed Spurs down to 7th at the end of the month

Before the month was out, they were up against another Second Division opponent,Birmingham City, in the Littlewoods Cup Third Round.  The game at White Hart Lane was a triumph for Spurs as they won easily, 5-0.  Allen again scored twice with Hoddle, Roberts and Waddle completing the scoring.


After defeat last time out against QPR, Tottenham’s League form didn’t improve whenWimbledon came to White Hart Lane.  Newboy, Mitchell Thomas, scored his first goal for the club but goals from John Fashanu and Alan Cork saw Wimbledon win, 2-1.  A week later they arrived at Carrow Road to meet Norwich, who’d been thumped 2-6 by Liverpool a week earlier.  The home side were able to turn their form around, Spurs weren’t.  Claesen scored his first goal for Tottenham but they lost 1-2 as Shaun Elliott and Ian Crook scored for Norwich, and Spurs had lost three in a row.  Leaders Nottingham Forest lost at Coventry and now Liverpool had moved to the top of the table, with Tottenham down in 11th.

Tottenham hadn’t won a League match since their visit to Anfield (4 matches) and so Clive Allen’s goal in the home match against Coventry was a welcome turnaround as Spurs won1-0.  It was mid-November and already Allen had 16 for the season.  A second successive win came when Tottenham met Oxford United at The Manor Ground.  Oxford were enjoying their second season in the First Division and were just 1pt behind Spurs, but the difference between the two sides on the day was greater than that.  Clive Allen scored again with Chris Waddle also getting in on the act as Spurs lead 2-1 at the break.  Both players then added to their tally and Tottenham ran out 4-2 winners.

Midweek saw a return to the Littlewoods Cup.  After two Second Division opponents, Tottenham were now up against Cambridge United who were in the bottom half of the Fourth Division and had already knocked out Wimbledon and Ipswich.  Clive Allen was again on the mark after he turned in a rebound off the bar from a Hoddle effort.  Hoddle, complete with his ‘Rambo’ headband, had tried to chip Branagan in the Cambridge goal, but the ball tantalisingly hit the underside of the bar and Allen was first to pounce.  Within minutes the home side had levelled.  Mark Cooper heading in a cross from almost the edge of the area.  In the second half 19-year old, Shaun Close put Spurs back in front.  Chris Waddle completed the scoring with an impudent chip from the edge of the area which could’ve been described as a cross.  There was time for Branagan, future Bolton keeper, to take a memory with him as he saved a Hoddle penalty.  Tottenham won 3-1 at Abbey Stadium and were through to the Quarter-Finals.

The month ended with disappointment as Nottingham Forest visited White Hart Lane and walked away with a win.  Forest’s form, like Tottenham’s, had been patchy in November but a penalty from Stuart Pearce cancelled out Clive Allen’s first half strike.  Then in the second half Chris Fairclough and Neil Webb scored for the visitors with Allen’s second goal not being enough and Spurs lost 2-3.  Allen now had 17 in the League and 21 for the season, and the rest of the team only contributing another 4 in the League.  By the end of November Tottenham down in 10th place


Tottenham travelled to Old Trafford at the beginning of December.  Manchester Unitedwere having a dreadful season, lying in 17th with just one win from their last six matches. They’d begun the season with six defeats in their opening eight games and were finding goals hard to come by.  Norman Whiteside put the home side in front after 12 minutes. Whiteside was returning after having missed the last four matches and was up front in place of Frank Stapleton.  The goal was a well-worked move from a free-kick with Whiteside turning it in from close range.  United were now more fluent and some defensive vulnerability from Spurs allowed Peter Davenport to double the lead before the break.

Spurs got a goal back after 57 minutes when Gary Mabbutt headed in brilliantly from a Hoddle corner on the right.  Within seconds Spurs were on the attack again with Hoddle sent clear.  He tried to chip Chris Turner but the United keeper got a hand to it and tipped it up in the air.  As the ball came down Kevin Moran got there first, but instead of putting it behind, it hit his knee and went in.  Spurs had scored two dramatic goals within a minute and the game was now level.  Then with 17 minutes to go, Waddle curled the ball in from the right and Clive Allen bundled the ball in for his 22nd of the season.

United had gone from 2-0 up at the break to trail.  But with two minutes remaining, Spurs substitute Danny Thomas inexplicably bundled Bryan Robson over in the area and Davenport scored his second of the game, and it ended 3-3.

Tottenham’s next outing was a home game against Watford, who were the side immediately below them.  Glenn Hoddle and Richard Gough gave Spurs a 2-0 lead at half-time, before former Spurs striker, Mark Falco got one back for the visitors but Spurs won, 2-1.

Their last game before Christmas was a trip to Stamford Bridge.  Chelsea had won at White Hart Lane back in September so Spurs were keen to avenge things.  Clive Allen scored another brace, the sixth time this season he’d bagged more than one goal in a game.  With Luton losing at Arsenal and West Ham and Norwich only gaining a draw each, Tottenham’s2-0 win moved them up to 5th.

Just before Christmas Pleat made one more foray into the transfer market and signed Steve Hodge from Aston Villa.  Hodge, a hard-working midfielder, began his career at Nottingham Forest but moved to Villa Park in 1985.  But Villa, League Champions in 1981, were a club in decline and he moved to White Hart Lane for £650,000.

Boxing Day and Tottenham had their third successive match against a London team, and recorded their third successive win.  West Ham had been as high as 4th but a run of one win in their last five matches, they’d slipped to 7th.  New signing, Steve Hodge was put straight into the starting line-up.  Clive Allen gave Spurs a half-time lead.  Then in the second half Tottenham put on a great performance with Allen scoring again and then Hodge scored on his debut.  Waddle completed the scoring to give Spurs a 4-0 win.  Tottenham remained in 5th place but were just 3pts off 2nd.

Sixteen clubs then played again the next day, with Tottenham visiting Highfield Road to play Coventry City.  Coventry had won just one in their previous four matches, but had been beaten just once at home all season.  Clive Allen gave Spurs an early lead after Waddle headed on a corner at the near post.  But the home side levelled when Keith Houchen headed in a Dean Emerson cross.  Just before the break a cross from the right found Allen unmarked at the far side of the area.  He took the ball down, found room for himself and curled the ball right-footed past Ogrizovic’s left hand post.  It was Allen’s 28th goal of the season and his 24th in the League.  In the second half Coventry put together a lovely passing move to put Dave Bennett in and he slotted the ball past Clemence to equalise.  Then Coventry took the lead for the first time when Houchen headed back a cross from the right and Dave Phillips header hit the post.  Fortunately for the home side, Cyrille Regis was on hand to turn the ball in.  But still Spurs came back and Hoddle’s cross from the right was volleyed against the post by Allen and there was Nico Claesen to knock in the rebound and the game was level again.  Then with minutes remaining, Houchen headed against the bar and Bennett turned the rebound in and Coventry had won a pulsating game 4-3.  Little did we know, at that point, these two would close the season with another fascinating encounter.

At the end of the year Tottenham were lying in 6th, 10pts off the leaders, Arsenal, but only 3pts behind Liverpool in 3rd place.


Tottenham began the New Year with a 2-0 win away at Charlton on New Year’s Day.  Nico Claesen, on his first start for six weeks, opened the scoring and then Tony Galvin came off the bench to complete the scoring.  With the three teams immediately above them drawing, Spurs were now up to 5th and just 1pt off 3rd place.

Three days later was the North London derby at White Hart Lane.  Arsenal were league leaders and unbeaten since they lost at Nottingham Forest at the end of September (15 games). All the goals came in the first half as Arsenal took the lead when Tony Adams bundled the ball over Clemence, after a knock-down from Niall Quinn. Spurs had just cleared the ball off the line from a corner but the subsequent ball in from Sansom resulted in the opening goal.  The visitors then doubled their lead when Paul Davis hit a free-kick through the wall, after Danny Thomas had cynically brought down Martin Hayes on the edge of the area when the Arsenal no. 11 was clean through on goal.  Minutes before the break Mitchell Thomas turned in Hoddle’s cross to give the home side a goal back.  Tottenham had the better of the play in the second half but were unable to find an equaliser and the 1-2 loss was their 2nd defeat in their last three in the league. Arsenal’s lead at the top was still 4pts and Tottenham had dropped back down to 7th.

Next up was the FA Cup and Tottenham were drawn at home against Scunthorpe, then a Fourth Division side.  This was Scunthorpe’s first ever visit to White Hart Lane and they put up a good fight.  Spurs won 3-2 with goals from Claesen, Mabbutt and Waddle but they had a nervous time in the end trying to see the game out.  Mabbutt put the home side in front in the first half but Johnson equalised for The Irons.  Claesen and Waddle looked to have secured the win for Spurs, but when De Mange got a goal back it looked as if they could force a draw, but it wasn’t to be.  The big shock of the round was cup holders, Liverpool, losing 0-3 to Luton Town in a Second Replay.

Bad weather meant there were only three First Division fixtures played the following week so Spurs had a week off.  They then met Aston Villa at home and saw them off quite comfortably with a 3-0 win.  Villa were second from bottom in a season which would see them lose their fight against relegation, but two goals from Steve Hodge and one from Claesen gave Tottenham the 3pts and they were back up to 5th.

Spurs ended the month in cup action.  Firstly was the Littlewoods Cup when they made the short trip to Upton Park to take on West Ham.  Clive Allen scored his first goal of the month to give the visitors a half-time lead but that goal was cancelled out when Tony Cottee equalised and the game ended 1-1.

Then at the weekend came the FA Cup Fourth Round where they were at home to Crystal Palace.  Palace, lying 7th in the Second Division, had knocked out Nottingham Forest in the previous round.  Gary Mabbutt again gave Spurs the lead, as he had done in the Third Round, and then former Spurs defender, Gary O’Reilly, put through his own net to give the home side a 2-goal lead at the break.  Clive Allen converted a penalty in the second half and then Claesen got on the scoresheet again.  The Belgian was proving a valuable addition to the side with his 5th goal in the last 7 matches and Tottenham ran out 4-0 winners.  That penalty for Clive Allen took his total of goals to 30 for the season.


The cup action continued into February as they played host to West Ham in the Littlewoods Cup.  This was the replay of their Quarter Final tie.  Nico Claesen was again on target when he gave Spurs a half-time lead.  Early in the second half, Glenn Hoddle doubled their lead before Clive Allen took the game beyond The Hammers.  He scored a second half hat-trick, including another penalty and the 5-0 win meant Spurs could now look forward to a Semi-Final tie against Arsenal.

They didn’t have long to wait either as six days later they arrived at Highbury to take on their arch rivals.  Clive Allen was on target again with his 9th goal in the competition and Tottenham took a 1-0 lead back home for the second leg.

Tottenham had played five successive cup ties and were finally back in League action when Southampton were the visitors.  Richard Gough and Steve Hodge scored the goals in a 2-0win as Spurs moved up the 6th.

A week later they were back to cup action when the FA Cup moved to the Fifth Round stage.  For the third successive round they were drawn at home as Newcastle visited White Hart Lane.  The tie was settled by a single goal and it was that man, Clive Allen, who scored it when he converted a first half penalty.  It was a feisty game, full of firm challenges and after one particular crunching tackle on Glenn Hoddle, the resultant free-kick saw the referee penalise the visitors for a foul on Gough.  A day later came another big shock as league leaders, Everton, were beaten 1-3 at Wimbledon.  Could this be Tottenham’s year in the cup?

They ended the month back in the league and yet another home match, their 8th in the last 10 matches.  Leicester City were the visitors and badly needed the points, but they were overwhelmed by a rampant Spurs side.  Nico Claesen opened the scoring in the first half and then came yet another Clive Allen penalty as Spurs scored three in five second half minutes.  Clive Allen got two of them with Paul Allen scoring the other.  Claesen rounded off the scoring to give them a 5-0 win.  Spurs were now up to 4th, just 2pts behind leaders Everton with a game in hand.

Paul Allen’s strike was his first of the season and Clive Allen had now taken his tally to 25 in the League with 15 games still to go.


Instead of a league match at the weekend, Tottenham travelled to Highbury to play their second leg of the Littlewoods Cup Semi-Final.  They were defending a 1-0 lead from the first leg and were in good spirits.  Arsenal had lost just 2 of their previous 30 matches in all competitions.  Tottenham increased their aggregate lead as Clive Allen scored in the first half and they were 1-0 up half-time.  Arsenal looked a beaten team, but at the break the home fans were given information over the tannoy on getting tickets to the final.  This had the effect of galvanising the visitors and Arsenal were a different side in the second half. Viv Anderson equalised and then Niall Quinn put The Gunners in front.  There was no away goals rule in the Littlewoods Cup back then so with the aggregate score, 2-2, a replay was needed.  Right after the game Tottenham called correctly on the coin toss for home advantage in the deciding game.

The tie was hurriedly arranged three days later.   The biggest crowd of the season packed into White Hart Lane and contributed to a fantastic atmosphere as both sides went at each other from the off.  Tottenham were without Glenn Hoddle for the replay and struggled to totally control the game.  After a goalless but pulsating first half, it was Tottenham who made the breakthrough.  Ardiles floated in a free-kick from the right wing, Gough rose highest to nod the ball down and Clive Allen was first to poach Tottenham into the lead.  It was his 3rd goal of the tie and his 12th in the competition so far, as well as his 39th in all competitions and as the game moved into the final 10 minutes it looked as if it would be enough.

With 8 minutes to go Charlie Nicholas was carried off injured and Ian Allinson replaced him.  Almost immediately Paul Davis played a ball over the top of the defence for Allinson to run onto.  As he made it into the area, Gough caught up with him, but Allinson managed to turn right round and hit his shot inside Clemence at the near post.

Once again Spurs fans had been dreaming of the final only to be denied.  Davis went close with a shot and then just as the game looked to be heading for extra time, David O’Leary floated a free-kick from the centre circle into the area where Quinn got up with Gough and the ball bounced out to the left where Allinson’s shot deflected into the crowded box. David Rocastle reacted first and controlled the ball on the run before firing a left-foot shot under Clemence and, in the most dramatic of circumstances, had won it for Arsenal.  It had been a titanic battle between two bitter rivals and eventually Arsenal came out on top right at the end, winning 2-1.

Spurs didn’t have long to wallow in their defeat as they had to play QPR at White Hart Lane three days later.  It was almost a month since they last played a match away from home.  It was their 6th successive home match in all competitions.  Since visiting Charlton on New Year’s Day they had played all but two of their thirteen games at home.  Former QPR striker, Clive Allen scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.  The 1-0 victory put Tottenham back up to 4th, heading three clubs on 50pts.

A week later they were back in cup as they travelled the short journey south to Plough Lane to meet Wimbledon in the FA Cup Quarter Final.  Wimbledon were competing in their first ever season in the top flight and were 9th in the table.  They already knocked out Sunderland, Portsmouth and Everton, then the league leaders, and their team included Vinny Jones, John Fashanu, Lawrie Sanchez, Dennis Wise, Nigel Winterburn and Dave Beasant.  The first half was cagey with Spurs having a decent call for a penalty turned down.  The second half was equally nervy as neither side seemed capable of making the breakthrough, until about 5 minutes to go when Chris Waddle, who had ventured over to the right, found acres of space to run at the Wimbledon defence.  When he got into the area, he twisted and turned Winterburn and fired a right-foot shot from a tight angle beating Beasant to give Spurs the lead.  Wimbledon were unable to get hold of the ball after the goal and as Spurs came forward again, Andy Thorn lunging assault on Waddle brought a free-kick for Spurs about 30 yards out.

Not keen to let anyone get a chance at taking the free-kick, Glenn Hoddle lined up and smashed the ball into the top left hand corner of the net and the tie was settled. Tottenham won 2-0 to take their place in the Semi-Finals.  The day before, Arsenal had their dream of a second cup final of the season when they were surprisingly beaten 1-3 at home to Watford.  Watford would be Tottenham’s opponents in the Semi-Final.

After the drama of another cup tie, Tottenham returned to league a week later when they were at home to league leaders, Liverpool.  Liverpool were unbeaten in the league since Boxing Day (12 matches), and were on a run of 5 straight wins.  They were 6pts clear at the top of the table, albeit having played a game more than Everton in 2nd.

The first half was fairly uneventful until about six minutes to go when Spurs took a quick free-kick in midfield and Chris Waddle picked up the ball on the right.  He turned inside, feigned to back-heel the ball and then fired a left-foot shot which bounced in front of Grobbelaar, skidding off the surface and into the net.  It proved to be the only goal of the game and Tottenham had pulled off a memorable 1-0 win to keep the title in the balance. Tottenham remained in 7th place but their cup exploits meant they had 4 games in hand on the teams above them.

Tottenham now needed to make up some of the fixtures they’d missed due to their cup adventures.  On the following Wednesday they had to play Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.  Newcastle were bottom of the First Division having lost six straight games over Christmas and New Year and eight in nine before they beat Aston Villa at the beginning of the month.  They also welcomed back Paul Gascoigne for his first game since the beginning of November.  Glenn Hoddle gave Spurs a half-time lead but his goal was cancelled out by Paul Goddard in the second half and the game ended, 1-1.  Spurs run of five straight league wins had finally come to an end.

At the weekend, their six match unbeaten run in the league also went when they were beaten at Luton Town.  Luton were having their best season in the top flight, lying in 6thplace.  The biggest crowd of the season at Kenilworth Road saw Mick Harford give the home side the lead.  Goals from Mike Newell and Darren McDonough in the second half secured a fine win, despite a consolation goal from Chris Waddle and Spurs had been beaten, 1-3. Waddle now had ten goals for the season and he and Hoddle had scored each of the team’s last five goals in all competitions.

Luton moved above Tottenham, into 3rd with Spurs dropping to 5th.


Clive Allen had struck 40 times so far that season, yet his last goal was almost a month ago. He made up for that when Norwich City were the visitors to White Hart Lane.  A hat-trick from him took his tally to 29 in the league and the 3-0 win moved Spurs back up to 4th as Arsenal didn’t play and Forest drew.

With their fifth game in fifteen days, Spurs now travelled to Hillsborough to take onSheffield Wednesday.  Wednesday had struggled in front of goal and so it continued as Tottenham won 1-0 with Clive Allen scoring his 30th league goal of the season.

It was Tottenham’s 91st goal of the season and Allen had contributed 44 of them.  Reaching 30 goals in the First Division has always been considered a significant threshold.  Allen was now only the fourth player to achieve the feat in the last fifteen years (Lineker 1985-86, Rush 1983-84, Latchford 1977-78).

Tottenham were now up to 3rd in the table, 7 pts behind the top two, Everton and Liverpool with games in hand.  But now attention returned to the FA Cup and their Semi-Final clash at Villa Park against Watford.  Watford were beaten finalists in 1984 and included former Spurs striker, Mark Falco.  They had put out favourites Arsenal in the last round and Chelsea in the Fourth Round.

Watford were experiencing a goalkeeper crisis.  Regular keeper, Tony Coton broke a finger two weeks earlier and manager, Graham Taylor, was keen to find some cover for his replacement, Steve Sherwood (who’d played in the 1984 Final).  Taylor asked his friend, Eddie Plumley a director at Watford, if his son would play for them. Plumley had been Newport County’s keeper at the end of the 1970’s and early 1980’s, which included their famous cup run in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.  Plumley had retired from football but agreed to make himself available for Taylor.  Then Sherwood broke his finger too and Taylor had no choice but to select Plumley for this crucial match.

Eleven minutes into the game and Clive Allen fired a shot from the right hand side of the area, which Plumley got down to, but couldn’t hold.  Steve Hodge got ahead of David Bardsley and bundled the ball under Plumley for the first goal.  Barely a minute later and Allen again picked up the ball outside the area on the left.  As he moved inside he fired a right-foot shot which hit John McClelland’s foot and wrong-footed Plumley giving him no chance and suddenly Tottenham were two goals up.  With ten minutes of the half remaining, Paul Allen took on and beat Bardsley on the left of the area and his left foot shot from a tight angle beat Plumley at his near post.  Tottenham went into the break 3-0 up and it seemed like game over.

73 minutes gone and Tottenham put the result beyond doubt with a well worked move which Watford could not be blamed for.  Hodge, Waddle and Ardiles were involved before Claesen touched Ardiles pass back for Hodge to curl a left foot shot past Plumley for his second of the game and Spurs’ fourth.  Hodge, who’d had a difficult time at Villa Park when an Aston Villa player, had returned and made a major contribution to his new club reaching their third FA Cup Final of the decade.

Two minutes later, substitute Malcolm Allen (no relation to Paul or Clive) became the third Allen on the scoresheet as he headed in a consolation goal from a free-kick, but Watford were well beaten and Spurs good value for their win.  The 4-1 win made up for the disappointment of losing the Littlewoods Cup Semi-Final to Arsenal.  A day later they discovered who their opponents would be when Coventry beat Leeds United, 3-2 at Hillsborough.

The euphoria of the cup success over, Tottenham returned to the league where they travelled to Maine Road to take on Manchester City.  City had dropped to the bottom of the table.  City hadn’t won since former Spurs player, Neil McNab scored the only goal of the game against Oxford at the beginning of January (11 games).  It was McNab who got the home side off to a great start when he converted another penalty in the first half.  But Nico Claesen equalised and the game ended, 1-1.

After one relegation-threatened opponent to another, Charlton Athletic.  Charlton visited White Hart Lane third from bottom, having won just two games all year.  Clive Allen was yet again on target as Tottenham won a tight game, 1-0.  It was an important win as every other team around them also won, so they remained in 3rd.  This was the Easter weekend, so two days later they had another game, this time at Upton Park against West Ham.  The Hammers were in 14th yet had only scored in two of their previous eight matches.  Frank McAvennie put them in front only for Clive Allen to equalise.  Then Tony Cottee converted a second half penalty and Tottenham’s four-game unbeaten run in the league had come to an end.  The 1-2 defeat meant they were now joined on 64pts by Arsenal, but they still had games in hand.

Their third game in five days came when they made another short trip to meet Wimbledonat Plough Lane.  David Pleat shuffled his pack giving Waddle, Hoddle and Hodge a rest. Nico Claesen gave Spurs the lead from the penalty spot but then the match boiled over in the second half as Brian Gayle was sent-off, wrongly as Wimbledon claimed, for kicking a ball at Claesen.  Unsurprisingly, it was likely Dennis Wise was the culprit, but as usual he did all his work out of sight of the officials.  Mark Bowen, making his first start of the season, put Spurs 2-up but then Glyn Hodges scored twice, once from a free-kick and then another from the penalty spot.  2-2 was the result and it gave them a 1pt advantage over Arsenal in 4th and they still had a game in hand.

For their fourth game in a week they were back at home when they welcomed Oxford United.  Chris Waddle headed in a Steve Hodge cross in the opening quarter of an hour.  The Allen family combined to put them further ahead when Clive crossed for Paul to scramble the ball over the line.  Dean Saunders then scored for the visitors when Clemence inexplicably failed to deal with a Kevin Brock corner and the Welshman was able to turn the ball in.  Tottenham were leading at the break and then Glenn Hoddle scored one of my favourite goals ever.

The passage of play began with Oxford on the attack as Ray Houghton fed Dave Langan, making the overlap from right-back.  Langan’s cross was headed away purposefully by Gough and the ball bounced to Hoddle in midfield.  Hoddle picked the ball up in the centre circle as he jogged downfield.  He had Allen in front of him, marked by two Oxford defenders.  Allen moved out to the left and Hoddle just slipped the ball between the defenders as if they weren’t there.  Now he was faced with Peter Hucker in goal and as the keeper came out to meet him, Hoddle feigned to shoot, committing Hucker to try and stop the shot, and as the ball continued past the keeper, now on his backside, Hoddle just passed the ball into the net.  It was a goal of pure class and a run of about 60 yards where Hoddle probably touched the ball about 5-6 times.  Most of the move was created simply by a drop of the shoulder or a swing of the hips, and Tottenham had completed a 3-1 victory.

Arsenal were well beaten at bottom club, Manchester City, and Liverpool beat Everton so Tottenham were 4pts clear of Arsenal in 4th with a game in hand, and 8pts off leaders Everton.  They were 5pts adrift of Liverpool in 2nd, and had a game in hand on them too.


Into May and just four league games to go.  Nottingham Forest were up next at City Ground.  Forest had just one win in their previous six but second half goals from Neil Webb and Johnny Metgod meant Tottenham were beaten 0-2.  The top two both dropped points but Arsenal won and this defeat appeared to leave Tottenham’s outside chance of the title in tatters, but the race for third place was definitely hotting up.

May Bank Holiday saw another full programme and Tottenham were at home to Manchester United.  United were down in 11th and under a new manager, Alex Ferguson.  Mitchell Thomas scored twice and goals from Paul and Clive Allen gave the home side a crucial 4-0win.  Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal all won so the top remained the same, but Everton’s victory over Norwich was enough for them to claim the League title for the second time in three years.  Tottenham still had an outside chance of 2nd place, but needed to win their final two matches and hope Liverpool lost at Chelsea.

The final full league programme took place on May 9th.  Tottenham travelled to Vicarage Road to meet the side they beat in the FA Cup Semi-Final, Watford.  The game was decided by a penalty from Kenny Jackett and Tottenham had lost 0-1 and with Liverpool gaining a point at Chelsea, their chance of 2nd place had gone.  But Arsenal also lost at home to Norwich and so Tottenham could be assured of third place.

Tottenham’s final league game was against away to Everton and scheduled for two days after the Watford defeat and with the FA Cup Final looming at the weekend, Pleat had little choice but to rest many of his squad.  Chris Hughton was the only player who would start at Wembley, on duty that night and the second string team finally lost 0-1 when Derek Mountfield scored the only goal of the game.

The League campaign had been a success with a 3rd place finish, but had fizzled out as they struggled to fit all the games in.  Three defeats in their final four matches put paid to any title or 2nd place hopes they might have, and they’d picked up just 7pts from a possible 21pts from their last 7 matches.

After the league programme was completed attention then turned to the FA Cup where Tottenham were overwhelming favourites to beat unfancied Coventry City.  Coventy had yet to win a trophy of any kind and this was their first ever Final.  However, they had remained in the First Division since 1967 and only Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool had spent a longer continuous period in the top flight.  They had only ever reached one Semi-Final before when they were beaten by West Ham in the League Cup in 1981.  Tottenham were looking for their third FA Cup success of the 80’s, and a record eighth FA Cup having never lost an FA Cup Final.

Coventry were managed by the partnership of John Sillett and George Curtis and contained ten Englishmen in their line-up, including Dave Bennett, who had been in the Manchester City side beaten by Spurs in 1981, Cyrille Regis, part of the impressive West Brom side of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, Nick Pickering who’d been in the Sunderland side which lost the League Cup Final in 1985, and Greg Downs who’d been in the Norwich team which prevailed that year.

Tottenham could boast four players (Hoddle, Waddle, Hodge, Stevens) who’d been in England’s World Cup squad the previous summer, as well as Ossie Ardiles (Argentina) Nico Claesen (Belgium) and Richard Gough (Scotland) who had also been at the same tournament.  Not to mention Clive Allen who had 48 goals so far that season and Ray Clemence who was still considered one of the best keepers in the country.  Ironically enough, Coventry’s keeper was Steve Ogrizovic who moved from Liverpool to Coventry as he couldn’t get past Clemence into the first team at Anfield.

Spurs, in all white, kicked off and looked keen to take control of the game from the off. Two minutes into the game and Chris Waddle crossed from the right and Clive Allen got his head to the ball first and he scored his 49th goal of the season.  Allen seemed to epitomise this team as the spearhead in front of an exciting, creative midfield.  He’d finally shaken off the memory of the man who spent a two weeks as an Arsenal player in a bizarre transfer merry-go-round in 1980.

But Coventry managed to compose themselves and gradually built an attack down the left where Greg Downs crossed, Keith Houchen flicked it on and Dave Bennett raced in to get there before Clemence and tuck the ball away for the equaliser.

Then Coventry had a goal disallowed after a long throw from the right, was again flicked on by Houchen and Regis rose highest to head the ball past Clemence’s outstretched right hand.  Houchen was penalised for his push in the back of Mitchell Thomas.  Then towards the end of the half, Ogrizovic was sold short on a backpass and he had to come out of his area to dribble the ball past the predatory Allen.  His left foot clearance fell straight to Hoddle, but the man the whole of Tottenham relied on, scuffed his shot straight to Peake who was the only player between him and the goal.  Remarkably, the danger wasn’t over as Peake was also far too relaxed in his pass to Ogrizovic, who was scrambling back into the area, and Allen was again able to nip in and steal the ball but his shot hit the side netting.

With five minutes to go, Hoddle floated a free-kick in from the right wing, Ogrizovic missed it and Mabbutt turned the ball into the empty net.  Replays then seemed to prove the ball bounced off Kilcline’s shin, but Mabbutt has often been credited with the goal.  Tottenham went into the break in front but it had been a fascinating half and was by no means over as a contest.

Just after the hour, Bennett crossed from the right for Houchen to head in the equaliser unchallenged.  The goal was remarkably similar to Tottenham’s first and the game was level again.  The game had been played in a great spirit and was keenly contested and it seemed inevitable it would go to extra time.  Both teams attacked in the extra period and five minutes in Lloyd McGrath crossed from the right and the ball deflected off Gary Mabbutt’s knee and looped over Clemence into the net.  Coventry had come from 1-2 down to lead in their first ever cup final.  No matter how they try Spurs just couldn’t get back into it and Coventry City had won the FA Cup for their one and only time, with a 3-2victory.

Tottenham could be proud of their performances that season.  They were a late goal away from the Littlewoods Cup Final, they finished third in the league and were so close to winning the FA Cup.  Pleat had put together a team which played an exciting brand of football, boosted by the incredible goalscoring feat of Clive Allen.  His exploits earned him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award as well as the FWA Footballer of the Year.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the start of a great dynasty at White Hart Lane as Glenn Hoddle was sold to As Monaco in July.  Richard Gough was sold to Rangers at the beginning of October and then towards the end of that month David Pleat resigned as manager after allegations of kerb crawling.

With Hoddle gone they struggled for goals as Allen only hit 13 in the league the following season as they finished down in 14th.  Terry Venables arrived as manager and a whole new chapter was beginning.

Guest Blog by the famous Liverpool fan Pete Spencer.


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