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Feature article - Comparing 2015-16 and 1977-78

My good friend, and regular contributor to Spurs Odyssey, Declan Mulcahy, is an ace spurs statistician, who offers this comparison of our season just ended (2015-16) with the promotion season of 1977-78:-

"There are certain parallels between the 1977-78 promotion season from Division 2 and this season.

In both seasons the team enjoyed success until the last few weeks of the season. Then with glory in sight the wheels fell off and the team ended up staggering over the finishing line. Nothing new there.

Before commenting on that season I should draw your attention to two major differences from now.

Teams played 42 league games in a season and there were two points for a win not three.

For the first 34 games (more than 80% of the season) Spurs did very well.

On Wednesday 22 March 1978 Spurs beat Stoke City 3-1 at White Hart Lane. Garth Crooks had given Stoke an early lead but three second half goals gave the victory to Spurs. It was their 17th league game in a row without losing.

At that point the league table looked like this.


           P	W    D   L  GD	Pts
Spurs      34   18  13	 3 +36	49
Bolton     33   19   8	 6 +23	46
South’ton  32	17   9	 6 +18	43
Brighton   32	15  11	 6 +16	41

Things looked good. Even though the other teams had games in hand even if they won all those games Spurs would still be ahead and they had the best goal difference by a considerable amount.

Next up was the Easter weekend. Spurs were away to Mansfield Town (22nd) and Millwall (21st). Games against the two bottom teams in the division should not have posed a problem you would think.

Away to Mansfield a player called Dave Syrett scored a hat-trick for them. He later became a milkman. Mansfield also missed a penalty. A last minute free kick from Glenn Hoddle levelled the score at 3-3.

Two days later at White Hart Lane the same thing happened. At one point Spurs were 1-2 down but came back to draw 3-3. Overall the Easter results were not good and the table looked like this.


           P   W   D	L   GD	Pts
Spurs      36  18  15	3  +36	51
Bolton     35  20   9	6  +24	49
South’ton  34  19   9	6  +23	47
Brighton   34  16  11	7  +17	43

Spurs still led the table. However if Bolton and Southampton won their games in hand they would be level on points but behind on goal difference.

The following Saturday Spurs went to Turf Moor, never a lucky ground, to play Burnley. They scored first. Burnley drew level and scored the winner from a free kick conceded by Hoddle. It was Spurs first league defeat since November - a run of 19 games.


            P   W    D	L   GD	Pts
Spurs      37   18  15	4  +35	51	
Bolton     36   21   9	6  +26	51		
South’ton  36	20   9	7  +27	49		
Brighton   35	17  11	7  +18	45	

The gap was now closing and Bolton would go ahead of Spurs in the table if they won their game in hand.

Saturday 8 April was a critical day. Spurs entertained Bolton at White Hart Lane and attracted the biggest crowd of the season. McAllister (signed from Bolton in 1975) gave Spurs a first half lead with a diving header from a Pratt corner. Hoddle cleared a Bolton effort off the goal line. Spurs probably should have had two penalties. They kept a clean sheet for the first time in the league in 1978 and won 1-0. The win gave them some breathing space at the top of the table.


            P   W    D	L   GD	Pts
Spurs      38   19  15	4  +36	53		
Bolton     37   21   9	7  +25	51		
South’ton  37   20  10	7  +27	50		
Brighton   37   18  11	8  +17	47

The following Saturday 15 April Spurs faced a difficult fixture away to fourth placed Brighton. The latter were managed by former Spurs legend Alan Mullery. It was Spurs' first visit to Brighton for a competitive game and it was during the hooligan era. There were pitch invasions and there was some fighting on the terraces. After 13 minutes the referee had to take the players off the pitch for 14 minutes after the disturbances caused spectators to spill onto the pitch. There were 85 casualties and 35 arrests. There was also trouble in the town.

In the first half Brighton scored, Spurs equalised, Perryman cleared two efforts off the line but Brighton led 2-1 at half time. Brighton scored a third goal which should have been disallowed for offside. McAllister was sent off for Spurs and there was more crowd trouble.

It was a bad weekend for Spurs. Brighton’s 3-1 win made them promotion candidates while Bolton and Southampton were now level on points with Spurs and Bolton had a game in hand.


            P    W   D  L   GD	Pts
Spurs      39   19  15	5  +34	53	
South’ton  39	21  11	7  +30	53		
Bolton     38   22   9  7  +28  53		
Brighton   38	19  11	8  +19	49

The weekend of 22 April should have been a good one for Spurs. They were at home to Sunderland. They had beaten Sunderland 2-1 at Roker Park earlier in the season and Sunderland had won only two away games all season.

Spurs started well scoring in the first minute. They then fell 1-2 behind and conceded a third while seeking an equaliser. They pulled one back but lost 2-3. It was the first home defeat of the season and a shocking result on the day.

The league table did not look good now. Spurs had dropped from first to third - two points behind Southampton and Bolton and had Brighton breathing down their necks.


            P	W    D  L  GD	Pts
South’ton  40   22  11  7  +31  55		
Bolton     40   23   9  8  +29  55		
Spurs      40   19  15  6  +33  53		
Brighton   40   20  12  8  +23  52

The final midweek home game against Hull City (second from the bottom) was a must-win game. Spurs totally dominated the game to the extent that they had 30 corners but could not put the ball in the net.

With nine minutes remaining a Spurs player appeared to foul the Hull goalkeeper as he knocked the ball from his grasp. Perryman forced the ball home. The goal stood. It was Perryman’s first of the season. Spurs had another goal chalked off for offside but squeaked home 1-0.

Going into the final round of games the table looked like this. Spurs were in third position with three teams to be promoted. However Brighton were only a point behind and if Spurs lost they could miss promotion. The final game was a difficult one away to Southampton who were a place above them.


            P   W    D  L GD   Pts
Bolton     41   24   9  8 +30   57		
South’ton  41	22  12	7 +31   56		
Spurs      41	20  15	6 +34   55	
Brighton   41	21  12	8 +24   54

The final game on Saturday 29 April was a tense one with very little exciting football that ended 0-0. The closest that either side came to a goal was Southampton’s Tony Funnell hitting the post. Brighton won their last game and finished level on points with Spurs but the latter had the better goal difference.

So a Spurs team which after 34 games was leading the table and on a long unbeaten run ended up stumbling to promotion in third place on goal difference.


            P   W    D  L GD   Pts
Bolton	   42   24  10  8 +30   58		
South’ton  42   22  13	7 +31   57		
Spurs      42   20  16	6 +34   56	
Brighton   42   22  12  8 +25   56	

There are conspiracy theories out there that Southampton were prepared to accept the draw that suited both teams out of fear for an outbreak of hooliganism which might have damaged both the ground and the town. Whether there is any basis for these suggestions is another matter."

regards

d.c.a. (declan) mulcahy

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