My thanks go to Declan Mulcahy, who wrote the following piece, offered in conjunction with my preview of the Spurs v Watford game on 6th February, 2016
Watford have been a lower league team for most of their history. Their most successful period was during the 1980s when they spent six seasons in the top division. This was the first time Spurs encountered them in the league.
Watford managed by Graham Taylor were promoted to Division 1 at the end of the 1981-82 season. Two of their most notable players were John Barnes and Luther Blissett.
During their first three seasons in the top division Spurs achieved a curious feat. They won each year at Vicarage Road but managed to lose the home fixture at White Hart Lane. Hopefully this will not be an ominous portent for Saturday.
1982-83 was Watford’s miracle year. They came to WHL on 6 November 1982. At the time Spurs were in 5th place and Watford 8th in the table.
Spurs fielded a team of Clemence, Hughton, Miller, Brooke, Lacy, Perryman, Mabbutt, Hoddle, Villa (Hazard), Hoddle and Crooks. There was a crowd of 42,634 the biggest attendance so far of the season. Three days earlier Spurs had been eliminated from Europe losing 4-1 to Bayern Munich (and 5-2 on aggregate) in the European Cup Winners Cup. Glenn Hoddle was making a welcome return from injury having been out for two months.
Watford had a reputation as a long ball team but to their credit did not come to defend. Jackett harried Hoddle throughout in a fast paced game. Amazingly Watford won 19 corners during the game. Both teams had opportunities and the two goalkeepers Clemence and Sherwood were kept busy.
Going into the final quarter the score was still 0-0. Then Blissett took a long throw. Jenkins evaded a couple of tackles and had a shot. The ball rebounded to Les Taylor who scored the only goal with a shot.
The media reports were somewhat critical of Watford’s style of play and their physical harassment of Hoddle. In March 1983 Spurs won the return fixture at Vicarage Road with Mark Falco scoring the only goal. At the end of the season Watford were runners-up in the league (something Spurs have not managed since 1962-63) eleven points behind Liverpool. Spurs were two points behind Watford in fourth position.
In September 1983 Spurs won 3-2 at Vicarage Road. Watford came to WHL on 2 January 1984. Spurs were in 11th position at the time and Watford six places lower in 17th. Spurs were on a poor run having lost 4-2 at home to Arsenal a week previously, drawn with Villa the next day and lost 4-1 to West Ham away three days before the Watford game. Spurs fielded a team of Clemence, Bowen, Hughton, Stevens, O’Reilly, Perryman, Thomas, Archibald, Falco, Hoddle and Cockram (Brooke). Cockram was making his debut.
Spurs continued to be error prone in this game which was not helped by a strong wind and rain in the second half. After six minutes Barnes put Mo Johnston clear and he was able to bundle the ball past Clemence. Ten minutes later a misunderstanding between Clemence and Hughton allowed Barnes to dispossess Hughton and cross for Johnston to head the ball into an empty net.
Spurs were much stronger in the second half. Hoddle and Bowen unlocked the Watford defence and Archibald set up Hughton to score a fine goal. Spurs were level on the hour when Hoddle equalised from the penalty spot after Jackett handled. Spurs then looked odds on to win. However they conceded a late penalty which Barnes converted to win the game for Watford. Both teams improved in the second half of the season Spurs finishing eight, Watford eleventh and the latter lost the FA Cup final to Everton.
In 1984-85 Spurs won 2-1 at Vicarage Road with Falco and Crooks scoring the goals in Spurs third successive victory at Vicarage Road. Spurs had a very good season and were contenders for the league until the beginning of April when they lost at home to Everton. Unfortunately in the final run of games they lost four out of six home games including Everton.
Watford came to WHL on 11 May 1985 the final Saturday of the season. Unlike the present Premier League set up the league did not finish on the final weekend as there were still rescheduled games to be played. Spurs fielded a team of Clemence, Thomas, Hughton, Roberts, Miller, Perryman, Ardiles, Falco, Leworthy, Hoddle and Galvin.
Spurs were in third position and Watford down in 15th so it should have been an easy game for Spurs but unfortunately it did not work out that way. Spurs were 3-0 behind within 30 minutes. The score remained the same until midway through the second half when Hoddle converted a penalty. However there was still time for Spurs to concede two more goals and lose 5-1. Shreeves was quoted afterwards describing the game as a humiliation and that the only saving grace was the performance of Hoddle.
Although the result was disappointing it was completely overshadowed by events elsewhere. Third Division Bradford City had already been promoted and were playing their final home game of the season against Lincoln City. Their old wooden main stand caught fire and 56 people died. In the light of this tragedy the Spurs defeat paled into insignificance.
As if to demonstrate that the result was not a fluke two days later Watford hosted Manchester United at Vicarage Road and won 5-1 again. United may have had their eyes on the FA Cup final against Everton five days later. Spurs won their two remaining rearranged fixtures and finished in third place in the league.
A few weeks later came the Heysel tragedy where another 39 people died. Although Spurs had qualified for Europe no English teams would be playing there next season. Thus a season which promised much had ended in disappointment.
Spurs have not lost a league game at home to Watford since then though they did lose the second leg of a league cup-tie in October 1994 although the result was already assured after a big win at Vicarage Road. In the last league game at WHL on 17 March 2007 goalkeeper Paul Robinson scored the second of three goals with a long kick as Spurs won 3-1. If Spurs do win this Saturday it will be their first ever ‘league double’ over Watford at the ninth attempt.
· Spurs v Watford match preview - 06.02.16
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