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Spurs Odyssey FA Cup Preview - Spurs v Barnsley, 24.01.98

"It was Twenty Years ago today!"
article published January, 2018, but first written in 1998 by the late Brian Judson

Tottenham and Barnsley have never previously met in the FA Cup.

I thought that I'd write about some past FA Cup ties where Spurs were regarded as favourites yet stumbled to defeat. I think we need to be cautious about regarding Tottenham as certainties for Round 5 after easily beating Barnsley just before Christmas.

The classic Cup tie is the 4th Round tie against Derby County in January 1973. We reckoned we'd done the hard bit by surviving on the mud heap at the Baseball Ground. In fact, as I recall it, Tottenham came within 10 minutes or so of winning the match thanks to a Chivers goal. At Tottenham we were winning 2-1 with some 10 minutes left when we were awarded a penalty which Mike England successfully converted. Many people left the ground at that point, convinced Spurs had won the game. Roger Davies, who had broken into the Derby team that season, had other thoughts and inspired Derby to a 3-3 draw in normal time and drove Derby on to a 5-3 win in extra time. I can recall Bill Nicholson criticising the attitude of his players. He reminded them that a game is never cut and dried until the final whistle echoes.

Another game we really ought to have won was the match at Port Vale in January 1988. As I recall, it was a wintery Saturday afternoon. Venables had only been in post for a month and was still in the process of evaluating his inheritance. He'd already started to make some changes, bringing in Terry Fenwick, arguably the most unpopular player ever to be signed by Tottenham, and bringing in youngsters like Brian Statham and Neil Ruddock. But on the day Tottenham's heart wasn't in the game and Port Vale could have won by a heavier margin than the 2-1 victory they earned. If I correctly recall, Mimms was at fault with one of the goals that Tottenham conceded.

We really should have won the 1987 Cup Final. We were the better team for quite long spells of the game. But I still find it a very painful match to recall, as no doubt do other Spurs supporters. It was a shame that David Pleat's side did not receive any tangible honours for providing the best football seen from a Tottenham side since 1960-61.

One game that we ultimately won but so very nearly lost was the Fourth Round tie at Notts County in January 1986. This was the second season that Peter Shreeve and John Pratt had been in charge. We were awful that day. For a long time it looked as if Notts County were going to pull off a shock win but very late in the day Clive Allen snatched an equaliser and later still, Notts County missed an open goal when it looked simpler to score. We won the replay but lost in the 5th Round at Everton, when we were lifeless for much of the match.

A cup tie we should have won in January 1975 was one I missed due to a domestic arguement. We were home to Nottingham Forest on the day Brian Clough took over as manager of the Midland side. They were at the wrong end of the old Division 2 table whilst we were deep in relegation trouble at the bottom of Division 1. All was not well in the dressing room as Terry Neill tried to impose his ideas on the club. As far as I can recall from the match reports in the press, Forest apparently had only one attack that night and scored the only goal of the game.

Another cup tie we really should have won was the one against Crystal Palace in January 1970. We were awful against Palace at Tottenham and never looked like scoring. The mud heap may have had something to do with our terrible performance but we really should have won. Our performance in the replay was even worse after Gerry Queen rose to nod home what proved to be the winning goal. I have discussed the subsequent fallout from this result elsewhere. (Ed:- 4 key players were dropped, and Jimmy Greaves never played for Spurs' first team again)

Perhaps, as a reminder, that one should never take the likely outcome of a cup tie for granted is the result of a cup tie played in January 1933 when Walsall beat our anonymous neighbours from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road 2-0. At that time, Walsall were in the old Division 3 (North) whilst their guests were leading the championship.

And, of course, we've all been battered to death by the Beeb with countless re-runs of that famous victory of Hereford over Newcastle United in January 1972. And if you haven't .... Macdonald heads Newcastle ahead with nine minutes left ... "I've dunnit, fook it!" the muddy Macdonald squawked. Then, with less than a minute to go, Radford played a one-two before slamming home a 40-yard shot that I doubt McFaul in the Toon goal saw coming. All hell broke loose as Hereford's fans invaded the pitch. Then in extra time George scored the winner with a simple tap-in and all hell broke loose again in Hereford's joyous celebrations.

And how do you plan to prevent a goal such as Mickey Thomas scored at the Racecourse ground a few years ago when Wrexham beat Arsenal? Even from 40 yards out, Arsenal should never have conceded the goal but their wall broke a fraction too soon, enough to give Thomas the chance to score. And that against a defence commonly recognised as one of the most efficient and Scrooge-like over the last 10 years.

And Saturday's game? Fortunately, Barnsley signed Jan Aage Fjortoft too late to qualify for this week's match. I'm not sure whether he is cup-tied playing for Sheffield United. All I'm glad about is that he won't be in Barnsley's line-up as he is a very wily player.

Spurs hope to have Les Ferdinand back for the match. Whether you like him or not, it will help Klinsmann, who has, so far, had to shoulder all the responsibility on his own up front. Klinsmann will want to do his best to get Tottenham to the Cup Final now that he has announced he will be retiring after the World Cup finals. (Ed:- Klinsmann's announcement related to International football, although he did indeed effectively retire from club football too in 1998. He had a brief spell playing football in the USA in 2003) Whether he achieves that particular ambition depends on the luck of the draw and the chances that are created. Spurs ought to win but I suspect it will not be as easy as it was last month when we won 3-0. I suspect we will have to settle for a narrow victory with nails bitten low before we can relax.

Cheers, Brian

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