When we think of English football in modern times we think of the lucrative wages, the Premier League and its multi-national players and England’s abysmal performances in World Tournaments. Let me take you however to a different time, back before all the dodgy agents, super injunction and footballer’s wives; a time when passion prevailed and people came together to watch the FA Cup finals every May. The Coventry- Tottenham final is a rare vintage, full of drama and background which deserves revisiting.
Coventry vs Tottenham FA Cup Final 16th May 1987
After a great league and cup run by Tottenham it looked as is with a few games left they was sure of some silverware. Steered by the respected manager David Pleat, the club enjoyed their best season for years with Clive Allen scoring a massive 33 league goals (49 in all competitions) however after a bad run in the last few games they ended up finishing 3rd and after London rivals Arsenal resoundingly knocked them out of the league cup in the semi finals meaning their only chance of a trophy lay in the FA cup final against Coventry. Coventry had a fairly average season, loitering around the mid table for most of it. Apart from an amazing cup run which led them to this showdown with Tottenham it had been a fairly pedestrian season it's fair to say and without any major international player compared to a Tottenham squad with the likes of Chris Waddle, Ray Clements and future England manager and (psychic fanatic) Glenn Hoddle they went into the game as the underdogs.
On May 16th and with a full house at Wembley Stadium (90,000) the game kicked off which Tottenham taking it straight to the Blues and within two minutes Clive Allen had headed in a fine goal from an inch perfect Chris Waddle cross. Coventry may have crumbled but there was something about the occasion that made them fight back and their tenacity was rewarded minutes later with an equaliser by Dave Bennett. Both teams tightened up defensively after those quick goals and the deadlock wasn't broken until Gary Mabbott got a rare but important goal for Tottenham giving them a 2-1 lead into the interval. Tottenham came out in the second half looking for one more goal to put the game past Coventry however it was Keith Houchen who smashed in a flying header which even to this day ranks among one of the finest F.A cup goals of all time. Coventry and Tottenham played out a 2-2 draw and the game went into extra time when Gary Mabbutt knee deflected a Lloyd McGrath shot straight past Ray Clemente in the Tottenham goal. Whilst it was an unlucky touch from the guy who had put Tottenham back in it just before the break no one could argue that Coventry deserved the cup on the day and those in attendance couldn't recall such an exciting final.
For Coventry this was their biggest win to date in any competition and it's a shame in a way that because of the Heysel Stadium disaster two years back (FA Cup Coventry which left 39 dead and all English clubs banned for five years in all European competitions) that they never got the usual winners right of a chance to play in the European Cup the following season. For Tottenham it was the start of a poor run of form seeing them finish 13th the following year and a change of management in the Autumn but whatever the result this final went down in the history books as the one of the all time greats.