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Spurs Odyssey Worthington Cup Final Preview - Spurs v Leicester, 21.03.1999

Previous Cup-ties with Leicester City :

FA Cup

1913-14 1  A  5-5  Bliss (2), Middlemiss, Minter, Cantrell
        1R H  2-0  Bliss, Walden
           (as Leicester Fosse)
1927-28 5  A  3-0  O'Callaghan (2), Dimmock
1947-48 5  H  5-2  Duquemin (3), Cox (2)
1956-57 3  H  2-0  Blanchflower, Robb
1957-58 3  H  4-0  Smith (2), Stokes, Medwin
1960-61 F  W  2-0  R Smith, Dyson
1973-74 3  A  0-1
1981-82 SF VP 2-0  Crooks, Wilson (o.g.)

We have never previously met in the League Cup.

And so we're on our way to Wembley. Eight years of anger, bitter disappointments, frustrations and humiliation are hopefully going to be cast away in the euphoria of a Cup Final victory. Hopefully, we are going to see big Sol Campbell trotting up the stairs to collect the League Cup Final trophy on Sunday afternoon. And the huge irony of it all is that we are achieving this with a management duo that claimed so many victories at Wembley with our deadliest rivals from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road ........ Who in their wildest nightmares at the height of our troubles in the early '90s would have dared to have predicted that kind of scenario? Anyone predicting that kind of forecast would have been fitted out with appropriate kit and consigned to a lunatic asylum ...... And yet, and yet, here we are, singing "Bloke in a cashmere overcoat's blue and white army!" simply because we can't bring ourselves to say *HIS* name!!!

Time was when we travelled to Wembley anticipating lots of flair, panache, glory and all those memories of Chas 'n' Dave, 'Ossie's Dream' and all the rest of it. Who has forgotten Hoddle's free-kick and Hutchinson diverting the ball behind Corrigan in 1981? Or Villa's surging run in the replay when he seemed to skip past the entire Manchester City defence? Or Graham Roberts' surging run a year later that led to Hoddle's penalty? Or Paul Stewart's vital goal in 1991 after Gazza had been taken to hospital?

But this year my memories will come from May 1961 when we played Leicester at Wembley and completed the Double. It was never a classic Final. The big pre-match shock was that Matt Gillies, Leicester's manager, decided to drop the experienced Ken Leek, who was dropped in favour of the inexperienced Hugh McIlmoyle. He only played 20 senior games for Leicester before he moved elsewhere, beginning a tour of the lower divisions in a 16-year career in football. It was a big shock as Leek had scored in each of the rounds that season. Leek promptly demanded a transfer and left for Newcastle without kicking another ball for Leicester.

Spurs were tired after the tension of clinching the Championship and were looking forward to taking a break from football. Leicester, led by Frank McLintock, were good value for money and were playing very well up to that awful moment when Chalmers was trying to wrest the ball from Bobby Smith and Allen accidentally clattered him.

There was no intent as Allen dashed up to help Bobby Smith to win the ball but Allen clattered him on the shin and in the same instance Chalmers wrenched his knee as he collapsed in agony. The Leicester trainer found he had severe abrasions and bruises from just below his knee right down his shin bone. Chalmers refused to go off for treatment, well aware of the Wembley hoodoo for injuries. Everyone had assumed it would be Spurs who would hit by the hoodoo. It might have been better for Chalmers had he gone off for treatment and had an injection to ease the pain he must have been undoubtedly feeling.

That was undoubtedly the turning point of the match. In those days substitutes were not allowed. It was to be another three years before substitutes became a part of the game but it was the 1961 Cup Final that prompted a serious debate about them. As far as I can recall, we have only seen two serious injuries in a Cup Final since then. One was Mick Jones in the 1972 Cup Final, who dislocated a shoulder against Arsenal. The other was, of course, Gazza in 1991.

Spurs could and should have been ahead long before that unfortunate injury. Manager Nicholson planned the final impeccably. Well aware how the springy turf could sap the energy of his tiring players, he gave instructions they were only to attack Leicester's goal for the first five minutes of the game. If they could score in those five minutes, well and good. If not, they were to contain Leicester and make them do all the running, tiring themselves out, allowing Spurs to conserve their energies for the final fifteen minutes or so of the game.

So, Spurs roared into the attack from the start of the game. After four minutes, the late great John White found himself eight yards out from Gordon Banks' goal with the Leicester defence confused. White drove the ball wide and the chance of an early goal was gone. Blanchflower promptly called his troops back to midfield, leaving the rotund Smith to patrol a lonely furrow up field.

Leicester played well for the next quarter of an hour. They had been able to relax since the semi-final as they were safe from relegation and were not involved in the title hunt. They were thus fresher and more relaxed than Tottenham.

Once Chalmers was injured, that was that. Spurs knew that provided they did not incur any injuries themselves and kept Leicester quiet, they would win. Leicester were forced to reshuffle their side. McLintock dropped back to right back, Keyworth to right-half and Chalmers hobbled about on the wing nearest the trainer's bench in front of the Royal box.

Spurs finally had the ball in the net in the 38th minute when Dyson provided a low cross for Jones to drive in. As Cliff raised his arms in celebration, he spotted Mr New, the linesman, holding his flag up to show that he had been offside. We did not have the benefit of slow motion replay in those days on TV but few thought Cliff had been offside. It was more likely his pace had deceived the hapless Mr New.

Half-time came and went with still no sign of a goal. But Danny Blanchflower was watching for the first signs of approaching tiredness and when he spotted it, Spurs began to press forward again. It soon became obvious that Spurs were going to score.

With twenty minutes or so left, Allen pushed the ball to Dyson, who pushed it out to the unmarked Smith on the right of the Leicester goal area. Smith pivoted with all the grace of a ballet dancer and smashed the ball behind the despairing Gordon Banks.

Seven minutes later, Chalmers, hobbling on the wing, could not prevent the ball rolling to White. The Scot pushed it on to Smith, who lumbered to the bye-line before centring the ball to the oncoming Dyson, who outjumped King, who was twelve inches taller than him, to head a spectacular goal.

At that moment, with Spurs having one hand firmly on the Cup, Chalmers cut a sorry figure as he limped off the pitch, keenly showing his disappointment. The Spurs hordes at one end of the ground were singing as Spurs played out time. Then, Blanchflower was climbing the stairs to be greeted by the late Duchess of Kent, Princess Marina, to receive the FA Cup for the third time in Spurs' history and to complete the coveted Double for the first time in the club's history.

Spurs : Brown; Baker, Henry; Blanchflower, M Norman, Mackay; Jones, White, R Smith, Allen, Dyson.

Leicester : Banks; Chalmers, R Norman; McLintock, King, Appleton; Riley, Walsh, McIlmoyle, Keyworth, Cheesebrough.

Referee : Mr J Kelly (Chorley)

There were undoubtedly better Cup Finals. But this was a historic Cup Final. But let us look at three other Cup Finals : the three Football League Cup Finals.

Our first was in 1971 when we beat Third Division Aston Villa at Wembley, 2-0. Villa gave us a torrid time and it was not until late in the match that Chivers scored the two goals that won us the tie. Indeed, Spurs almost lost the game when Lochhead and Peter Collins collided and collapsed in a heap. Everyone stopped playing to tend to the two players whilst the ball ran loose towards Spurs' unguarded goal. Perryman took no chances and blocked the ball on the goal-line and hoofed it to the nearest wing. When play resumed, with the score still 0-0 at that point, the referee awarded a throw-in to Villa ............

Two years later, Spurs beat Norwich City in a very disappointing match. Pratt was injured after only 9 minutes and limped off to his bitter disappointment. Coates came on and scored the only goal of the game when he mis-hit the ball when Keelan had it perfectly covered where Coates had intended his shot to go.

Our last appearance in the Final of this competition was in 1982. No serious student of our game will want to recall that match as it was the very first time we lost a domestic Cup Final at Wembley. We were winning 1-0 with just a few moments to play, thanks to a goal by Archibald. At that point, with minutes left, Archibald saw his shot hit an upright and bounce the wrong way, and Liverpool broke away to equalise. From being inches away from leading 2-0, we lost 3-1 in extra time.

So to Sunday's Final .... Much will depend on which side settles first. It depends very much on who scores the vital first goal and the timing of that goal. It is well known that a goal scored just before half-time can give a side a psychological lift as the teams go into half-time. Another factor that will be taken into account by George Graham as he decides tactics will be the state of the Wembley pitch as it can be tiring to play on, as he will remember from his own experiences as a player in two League Cup Finals for Arsenal. Leicester have been hit by injuries in the run up to the Final but they have had the advantage of not playing in the week going in to Sunday's game. Tottenham might find that their game at Barnsley will have an effect on their performance on Sunday's game.

I think the outcome of Sunday's final may be closer than many people imagine. I can visualise it going to extra time. I think that may well be when the tie is finally settled. I hope I'm wrong and that we win the game in the normal ninety minutes. And the score? I think it may well be 1-0.

Cheers, Brian

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