The late seventies and early eighties are most memorable for fantastic music, questionable outfits and Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. However, the period also heralded a new dawn for English football in Europe.
Manchester United and Celtic had triumphed in the European Cup in the late sixties and English clubs continued to emerge as a European superpowers throughout seventies resulting in English football dominating the European Cup by the end of the decade. From 1977 to 1982 the European Cup was retained in England. Inconceivable to ever happen again to such an extent, this truly was the time that English clubs dominated Europe and one of those teams that rose to European glory were Tottenham Hotspur.
Often ridiculed nowadays for not winning many trophies, Tottenham Hotspur winning on the European stage would seem a strange concept for some. But in 1984, Spurs did just that as they won the UEFA Cup for the second time.
Spurs’s first foray into Europe came in 1961 after they won the First Division and qualified for the European Cup. In 1963, Tottenham triumphed winning the Cup Winners Cup, before in 1972, winning the inaugural edition of the UEFA Cup. Those two successes came under legendary Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson, who won eight trophies whilst in charge of what was the club’s most successful period in their history.
However, after a poor start to the 1974-75 season, Nicholson resigned. He had wanted to be succeeded by Danny Blanchflower as manager and Johnny Giles as player-coach, however, chairman Sidney Wale was angered by Nicholson approaching the duo without informing him first. His successor, in the end, was Terry Neill who narrowly avoided relegation in his first season in charge and enjoyed a better second season. But Neill, a former Arsenal player, was never accepted by the Tottenham fans and he left in mid-1976 to manager the Gunners.
His replacement was Neill’s assistant manager Keith Burkinshaw.
Burkinshaw got off to a far from ideal start in charge as Tottenham were relegated from the First Division in his first season in charge. Despite the club slipping into the Second Division for the first time in 27 years, the board stuck with Burkinshaw and their faith in him was repaid the following season as the team immediately won promotion back to the top flight.
Tottenham’s promotion was far from a walk in the park and a sudden dip in form at the tail-end of their campaign meant that they scraped into the First Division on goal difference.
So, then, it was quite the shock when upon preparing for their first season back in the First Division, Burkinshaw rocked the footballing world with the double-signing of Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. The signings of the Argentinian internationals were a statement of Tottenham’s intent to rediscover their glory days of the early sixties.
During this time, Burkinshaw also put a lot of impetus on the youth system and players were brought in from the youth team like Chris Hughton, Mark Falco, Micky Hazard and Paul Miller. On top of this Burkinshaw also managed to sign top-class players from other clubs like the strike force of Garth Crooks and Steve Archibald.
The young players, new signings, and foreign flair, compiled with the already impressive talismanic figure of Glenn Hoddle meant that Burkinshaw was able to create one of the best and most stylish footballing sides in not just England but in Europe also.
In 1981, Tottenham won the FA Cup in a replay against Manchester City that is most memorable for Villa’s stunning winning goal. The following season, Tottenham retained the trophy, beating QPR in the final, and narrowly missing out against Liverpool in the League Cup final and against Barcelona in the Cup Winner’s Cup semi-final.
Tottenham, by now, had established themselves as an exciting side that were hungry for success.
In the 1982-83 season, a 4-1 victory over Stoke City on the final day of the season ensued that Keith Burkinshaw’s side finished fourth and would be competing in the UEFA Cup the following season. It would be Tottenham Hotspur’s first outing in the UEFA Cup – the competition they had won in 1972 – under Burkinshaw.
In the first round, Tottenham faced Irish side Drogheda United, who they swept aside, winning the first leg 8-0 and the second 6-0 to claim a comprehensive 14-0 aggregate score line and to progress to the next round.
The next round would prove to be a sterner test for Spurs as they faced the legendary Johan Cruyff and Feyenoord. However, in the first leg, at White Hart Lane, Tottenham rampaged to a 4-0 lead, with Steve Archibald and Tony Galvin both scoring first-half braces. The Dutch giants rallied after the break, though, with Cruyff pulling a goal back for the visitors and minutes later Feyenoord scored again to make the score 4-2. A nervy second leg would have been expected to ensue, however, Tottenham produced a composed 2-0 victory in Rotterdam to progress into the third round where they faced Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich were the side that knocked Tottenham out of the Cup Winner’s Cup the previous season and it looked as though they would be victorious again after beating Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg. The defeat in Munich set up a magical European night at White Hart Lane for Tottenham as they saw off Bayern, with an early goal from Archibald and a late winner from Mark Falco that sent the home fans delirious and Tottenham into the quarterfinals.
After beating Bayern Munich in a classic encounter, the quarterfinal was a slightly more routine victory for Tottenham, who were now without the injured Ray Clemence in goal with young goalkeeper Tony Parks filling in for the former Liverpool ‘keeper. Spurs beat Austria Vienna 2-0 in the first leg and a 2-2 draw was enough in the second leg for them to progress into the semi-finals.
Tottenham faced Hajduk Split in the semi-final and after an edgy 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane that was won by an early goal from Micky Hazard, Spurs travelled to Split for the second leg. Prior to kick off in the second leg a bizarre incident occurred when a Hajduk fan ran onto the pitch with a live rooster – in reference to Spurs’s club symbol – before proceeding to kill the bird by snapping its neck. The odd moment did not deter Falco from scoring to double Tottenham’s aggregate lead. However, the evening took a turn as Hajduk Split scored two goals within 10 minutes to lead on the night and level on aggregate. Spurs held on, however, and edged through on away goals to reach the final.
In the other semi-final, two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest were knocked out against Anderlecht in a match that in 1997 UEFA admitted was fixed after the referee took a bribe. So, Tottenham faced the Belgian side in a two-legged final – their first European final in a decade.
The first leg saw Paul Miller thump an unstoppable header into the back of the next from a Hazrd corner to give Tottenham the lead in the final. Anderlecht replied instantly, though, as Olsen equalised from a Parks error. The game was tied at 1-1 going into the second leg but Tottenham had an away goal to take back to White Hart Lane.
The second leg was a far cagier affair and Tottenham’s away goal paled into insignificance when an Anderlecht breakaway was finished off by Alex Czerniatynski to leave Tottenham trailing and in huge trouble. Burkinshaw brought on a half-fit Ossie Ardiles as Tottenham desperately searched for an equaliser and the Argentinian rattled a shot against the crossbar as the minutes ticked by. It looked as though it would be an agonising defeat for Tottenham but with six minutes remaining, Graham Roberts, up from the back, coolly fired home to level the scores.
With a now booming atmosphere at White Hart Lane, both sides, no doubt exhausted, played a further 30 minutes of extra time before the dreaded inevitability of a penalty shoot-out occurred.
After four perfect penalties from Tottenham, Danny Thomas missed and gave Anderlecht the opportunity to equalise after Olsen had missed their first penalty. Anor Guojohnsen was the man to step up if he scored it would be sudden death, if he missed Tottenham would win the UEFA Cup. He shot to his left. But Parks, the vastly inexperienced 21-year-old goalkeeper stretched out his arm and tipped the shot past the post to become the hero in the final and to win Tottenham the trophy.
The UEFA Cup triumph was a testament to Tottenham’s exciting and adventurous way pf playing under Burkinshaw, who had transformed the side into a side that could perform against any team in Europe.
However, the trophy – Tottenham’s third major trophy under Burkinshaw – would be the last under Keith Burkinshaw, who several weeks later announced he would leave the club after disagreements with the directors.
Tottenham returned to a European final in 2019, losing against Liverpool in the Champions League final. However, the club have not won a trophy since 2008 and their 1984 UEFA Cup triumph remains as their last European trophy.