In another Tuesday Throwback piece, we republish this article by David Nesbit looking at how close Tottenham came to the quadruple back in 1981-82. This originally featured on our sister site, Tale of Two Halves.
Chasing the Quadruple?
The first side to win the double of league and FA Cup in the same season was Tottenham Hotspur in 1960-61. This has been achieved by a number of clubs since. Yet more have won different combinations of two trophies in one season.
To win more than two major trophies in any one season is rare, however. In fact, it has only been done three times*
In 1983-84 Liverpool won the first-ever treble of major trophies when they won the League, European Cup and League Cup.
This achievement was eclipsed in 1998-99 by Manchester United winning the FA Cup in place of the League Cup to go alongside the other two trophies.
Finally, Liverpool once again won a treble two seasons later when they won the cups of FA, League and UEFA in 2000-01.
*since this piece was originally published, you might have heard that another English club has achieved this…
Other than these three occasions, no English team has ever won three major trophies or more in the same season. Many have come close, (Liverpool in ’77 in winning the League, European Cup and being beaten FA Cup finalists spring to mind, as do Everton in ’85 – League, European Cup Winners Cup and beaten FA Cup finalists) but nobody else has succeeded.
What though of a largely unheralded team chasing not just a treble but a quadruple as the season approached its climax?
Step forward the Tottenham Hotspur team of 1981-82.
Make mine a Quadruple
When Spurs met Liverpool in the League Cup final on 13 March 1982, they lay in 6th place in the First Division table, eight points behind leaders Southampton but with five games in hand. Spurs were also two points behind Liverpool who had played three games more at that stage.
‘The Boys from White Hart Lane’ (TM: Chas and Dave) at that stage of the season were also safely through to the FA Cup semi-final, having won a titanic quarter-final battle at the Stamford Bridge home of Second Division Chelsea the week before. To complete matters, they were also in the midst of a European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final against Eintracht Frankfurt in which they led 2-0 from the first leg.
Thus, heavily involved in all four competitions open to them, the prospect of an unheard of quadruple was a distinct possibility.
Two months later, and Spurs collapsed over the line in an FA Cup final replay to win their only trophy of the season courtesy of a rather undeserved single-goal victory over Terry Venables’ QPR side.
So, what went wrong? How did Tottenham go from being in with a shout of four trophies to being fortunate to secure one in a matter of weeks?
Let’s start by going back to the start of the season. Spurs came into 1981-82 as FA Cup holders, following a 3-2 victory over Manchester City in the 100th Cup final. This victory was achieved following the first-ever Wembley replay of an FA Cup final courtesy of a Ricky Villa wonder goal.
However, despite winning their first trophy in a decade, Tottenham were not among the pre-season favourites to challenge for the title. It was thought that Liverpool, Bobby Robson’s Ipswich and reigning league champions, Aston Villa, would be amongst the pace-setters, with other usual suspects such as Arsenal and Manchester United being mentioned in some quarters.
In the summer of 1981, however, Tottenham made what was to some rather a surprising signing. Seemingly against all the odds, Ray Clemence and Liverpool decided to part company and Tottenham promptly snapped him up.
It was a decision that raised eyebrows at the time, as although Clemence was 33 years of age, and Liverpool had just signed a certain character by the name of Bruce Grobbelaar, it was thought that Clemence still had many years left in him. The fact that he played for another six seasons at Spurs before injury finally brought the curtain down on his career would seem to bear this out.
The Season Begins and Wembley (1)
Anyway, Clemence went straight into the team for the opening game of the season; a Charity Shield meeting with league champions, Aston Villa.
A somewhat shaky start with 10 goals conceded in his first four games then followed. A 2-2 Wembley draw was followed by a 3-1 opening-day victory at Middlesbrough but then came home drubbings at the hands of West Ham (0-4) and Villa again (1-3).
Notwithstanding this less-than-convincing start, Clemence and his new back four of Graham Roberts, Paul Miller, Chris Hughton and captain Steve Perryman soon gelled and performances and results picked up.
A strong run before Christmas saw Spurs tucked in sixth position on Boxing Day with 29 points from 17 games. The leaders at that point were Swansea City who were sitting on 33 points having played 2 games more. Liverpool meanwhile were stuck in twelfth with 24 from 17.
Much of Tottenham’s team play in this period was built around the midfield artistry of Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles. A good decade and a half before Hoddle shot himself in the foot with his infamous comments regarding the disabled, he was content to let his football do the talking.
In that, at least, he was very eloquent indeed.
A naturally two-footed player, Hoddle had the intelligence and ability to be a true visionary and he excelled in that Spurs team. Given his head to roam by manager Keith Burkenshaw in the playmaker role, Hoddle did just that. Together with the industrious Ardiles by his side, Hoddle’s Spurs quite often simply passed teams off the park during this spell.
Three victories over Manchester United in the autumn set the tone for the first half of the season, and the turn of the year also saw Spurs safely into the quarter-finals of both the League Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup.
A famous 6-1 aggregate win over Ajax was accompanied by a rather less convincing 2-1 two-legged success over Dundalk.
Into January and the defence of the FA Cup won the previous May began with a hard-fought 1-0 home derby victory over Arsenal. Similar home victories over Leeds (2-0) and Aston Villa (1-0 again) saw Spurs into the quarter-final and an away tie at Chelsea, conquerors of Liverpool in the previous round.
While Hoddle and Ardiles were pulling the strings in midfield, ably assisted by the likes of Tony Galvin and Mickey Hazard or Ricky Villa, the forward duo of Steve Archibald and Garth Crooks was rapidly becoming one of the most successful in the top flight.
At Chelsea, Archibald got one of the goals in their narrow victory, and it was the same player who opened the scoring at Wembley in the league cup final against Liverpool in the 14th minute.
Liverpool, as was their wont in those days, then laid siege to the Spurs’ goal but the Tottenham defence held firm. With less than five minutes to go, Spurs were still leading by the only goal of the game and seemingly on their way to the first quarter of the impossible quadruple.
It was then that Archibald missed a golden opportunity to score his second of the game and put the result beyond doubt. Instead of placing the ball into the empty net with Grobbelaar beaten, he somehow contrived to hit Graeme Souness on the line. Inevitably, Liverpool cleared the resulting corner, broke down the other end of the pitch, equalized and then won the game in extra time.
It could be said that Tottenham’s season never really totally recovered after that.
However, there were some mitigating circumstances.
The following midweek they were just about able to hang on to their 2-0 first-leg advantage against Eintracht Frankfurt following a 2-1 defeat in Germany and thus progress to the semi-final of the Cup Winners’Cup where they were to meet Barcelona.
Before that coming together, however, there was the little matter of an FA Cup semi-final against Second Division Leicester City at Villa Park. A Garth Crooks goal gave Tottenham the lead, and a rather spectacular own goal from the unfortunate Leicester defender Ian Wilson sealed Spurs’ return to Wembley for the fifth time in 12 months.
This Villa Park success came on 3 April, 1982. Just 24 hours earlier, the Falkland Islands, a rather bleak British dependency in the South Atlantic, was invaded by troops loyal to Argentina and its acting president General Leopaldo Galtieri. Britain’s response was immediate. A task force was duly dispatched by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to take the islands back by force if necessary.
All of this had an immediate impact on Tottenham and their two Argentinian players, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa. Ardiles elected to leave Spurs temporarily almost at once, while Villa continued to train and play for the side while negotiations continued between the two countries.
The home leg of the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final was Ardiles’ last game for Spurs that season. A cracking game before more than 40,000 supporters saw a late Graham Roberts equalizer ensure the sides went into the second leg a fortnight later on level terms.
A quick-fire league double-header against Arsenal brought four points, and with 30 games played Spurs were still very much in the running for the title being nine points behind leaders Liverpool with three games in hand.
The Wheels Come Off
One week in the middle of April finally put the spoke into Tottenham’s wheel and brought their trophy hunt down from three to one. First a disappointing 2-2 home draw against Sunderland allowed Liverpool to open up even more of a gap at the top, and then a 3-1 defeat at Manchester United served as the final nail in the league coffin.
Worse was to come in the return leg of the semi-final against Barcelona. A supreme effort in the Nou Camp was to no avail as Tottenham succumbed to the only goal of the game, and so also to a 2-1 aggregate defeat in heartbreaking circumstances.
So it came to pass that a season that had promised so much was now threatening to peter out in a whimper. The only chance for redemption lay at Wembley in the FA Cup Final against unfancied Queens Park Rangers, led by future Spurs boss Terry Venables. Queens Park Rangers had made it to the final in no small measure due to being drawn at home four times and so enjoying the benefits of their controversial plastic pitch.
Immediately before Cup Final day hostilities in the South Atlantic escalated, and it was decided to leave Ricky Villa out of the Tottenham team.
Wembley (3 and 4)
On a rain-soaked day, and with both sides wearing their change strips due to an archaic FA rule, Spurs were the better of two average-looking sides but could not find a way past an inspired Peter Hucker in the Rangers goal.
Deep into extra time it looked as if Glenn Hoddle had won the cup for Spurs, when after winning the ball in a tackle (yes, really) he went on to fire past the distraught Hucker. However, QPR had other ideas and another future White Hart Lane hero, Terry Fenwick, duly equalised a couple of minutes later.
The replay held five days later was another drab affair, but this time it was QPR who did all the running and were the better side. A 66-game season finally caught up with Tottenham and although an early Hoddle penalty put them in front, they had to withstand heavy QPR pressure for pretty much the rest of the game.
That they were able to do so, and so run out winners by the only goal of the game, ensured that Spurs didn’t finish the season totally empty-handed.
However, the single trophy they did win seemed a scant reward for the exhilarating football they played throughout most of that season.