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Time for Spurs to Renew their Love Affair with the FA Cup - Spurs and the FA Cup 3rd Round


The first Saturday in January and the FA Cup 3rd Round go together hand in hand and has always been a special day in the football calendar. The Final in May is a memorable occasion for two clubs and their fans but 3rd Round day includes everyone.  The excitement would have started a few weeks earlier when the draw was made on a Monday lunch-time in early December – there was so much more tension listening on the radio as the reporter entered the inner sanctuary of FA headquarters than there is now with former players trying to put on a show.  Then on 3rd Round Saturday as it used to be, there was the excitement of scouring the papers to see if any of the journalists would tip your team for success at Wembley and there was always a new sense of expectation and hope for every fan as they truly believed that, no matter how poorly their team had performed over the first five months of the season, that ‘this could be the year’ when their team would win the Cup.  


The 3rd Round weekend reminds us of the true romance of football – the Premiership clubs finding it uncomfortable when visiting some of the less well off teams, the opportunity for the ‘giant-killer’ to have their day or a player returning to a former club to show what he could have done had he not been released.  All the ingredients are there and they’ll be put into the mix again this weekend. 


Incredibly, it is almost sixteen years since Spurs last won the FA Cup.  The images are also still so vivid in the memory that it’s hard to believe it is so long ago - Gazza and his free-kick in the semi-final at Wembley, followed by his celebrations after the win over Arsenal and then his self-inflicted injury at Wembley before it all turned out right on the day with Gary Mabbutt lifting the Cup.  On that Saturday in May, Spurs were collecting the trophy for the record equalling eighth time, drawing level with Manchester United for the record number of wins and Spurs’ reputation as a ‘Cup’ team was further enhanced.


However, it had only been in the previous thirty years that Spurs had acquired that reputation – in the first seventy eight years since formation they had only won the Cup twice, as a non-league side in 1901 and twenty years later having just escaped the 2nd Division the previous summer.  At the start of the 1950s, Arthur Rowe’s ‘Push and Run’ team won the 2nd and 1st Division championships in consecutive seasons but the fans clamoured for the cherry on the top of the cake, an FA Cup success – but it wasn’t to be.


A team that wins the Cup will have its moments of good fortune and often they can occur in that very early round.  In Spurs’ last Cup win in 1991 the 3rd Round tie was a game made for a Cup shock.  Spurs who were having an indifferent season were drawn away to 4th Division Blackpool.  To make matters worse the game was played in extremely stormy conditions and there had been doubts over whether the game would even take place.   Spurs were not known for handling such a tricky situation but they showed determination and character.  They managed to overcome the weather and Blackpool with a goal from the former Blackpool player, Paul Stewart.  It was to everyone’s relief that they had safely negotiated the first hurdle on a possible road to Wembley.


In 1901, the 3rd Round equivalent was the 1st Round and the match wasn’t played until early February due to the death of Queen Victoria.  Spurs were defending Southern League Champions and their first opponents were the might of the 1st Division, Preston North End, the team they had so admired that they had adopted their colours two seasons previously and who had defeated them in the same round a year earlier.  Having lost at Preston the previous year, Spurs were hoping for revenge but when the visitors took the lead midway through the first half the prospects were not looking good.  Spurs increased the pressure in the second half but the Preston goalkeeper played exceptionally well to deny them until nine minutes from time when Sandy Brown equalised.  The return of inside forward David Copeland, the previous season’s inspiration, from long term injury just prior to this game, had been a great boost to the team and they set out for the replay at Preston with another injured player returning, captain John Jones.  In the replay Spurs looked a different side going ahead through Cameron and Brown then added another two before the interval.  Preston pulled a goal back but Brown completed his hat-trick and although Preston scored again, Spurs were safely through to the next round – the giant-killers were on their way.


Twenty years later, following promotion, Spurs, after a disappointing start to the season, were coping well in the 1st Division.  Their first game in the FA Cup (1st Round) saw them drawn at home to Bristol Rovers who were in the 3rd Division, their first season in the Football League.  The two clubs had met at Bristol the previous year at the same stage of the competition. Spurs won 4-1 on that occasion and this again turned out to be one of Spurs’ easiest opening rounds – they were one up after four minutes and four ahead by half-time, ensuring a comfortable victory.  Having taken an early lead through Jimmy Seed they added to it with a Tommy Clay penalty. Goals from Bert Smith and Fanny Walden gave them a 4 – 0 lead by half-time.  Rovers scored early in the second half, before Jimmy Cantrell scored and then after Rovers’ second, Bert Bliss added a late sixth.  These names were to become part of the illustrious history of Spurs.


Over the next forty years Spurs reached the semi-finals on a number of occasions but always fell short and so it was not until the ‘Double’ year that Spurs managed to get to another Final.  On that occasion in 1961 their 3rd Round opponents were Charlton Athletic from the 2nd Division.  As Spurs were well ahead at the top of the 1st Division, this game was regarded as a formality but Charlton had other ideas and made the mighty Spurs fight all the way.  It took two goals from Les Allen and one from Terry Dyson for Spurs to come through with a 3-2 success.


The following year as Cup holders Spurs were drawn to play 1st Division opponents, Birmingham City at St. Andrews.  It was a very difficult tie on a pitch that had been covered in snow for much of the previous week.  Spurs took a three goal lead by the 32nd minute.  However Birmingham fought their way back into the game by scoring a minute later and then equalized with two second half goals.  The ‘Double’ winning team of the previous season had been strengthened by the signing of Jimmy Greaves who scored the first and third goals, the second a header, with Cliff Jones scoring the second.  Spurs won the replay 4 – 2, with goals from Terry Medwin (2), Greaves and Les Allen.


The opening to the 1966-67 had seen little of note or any sign of impending success but then in mid-January Spurs struck a rich vein of form which took them all the way to Wembley.  Spurs 3rd Round opponents made it very difficult for them at The Den.  Millwall were in the 2nd Division and it was a typical cup-tie and Spurs were glad of a number of saves from Pat Jennings to foil the home side and with relief escaped back to White Hart Lane with a scoreless draw.  The only goal in the following Wednesday’s replay was scored by Alan Gilzean.


In similar fashion, the 1980-81 season had proceeded through the opening months with little of note when Spurs were faced with a 3rd Round game at Loftus Road against Queen’s Park Rangers.  After what was called a ‘sterile’ contest ended in a scoreless draw against the 2nd Division side, few would have expected Spurs to make much progress in the competition.  Spurs won 3-1 in the replay with the goals scored by Tony Galvin, Glenn Hoddle and Garth Crooks.


It was different twelve months later as it was a season when Spurs were striving for trophies in four competitions.  Also the 3rd Round game had so much extra importance as Spurs as Cup holders were given the tie of the round – at home to North London neighbours, Arsenal.  The two clubs had only met on one previous occasion in the FA Cup, Arsenal having won 3-0 in a 3rd Round game at Highbury in 1949.


A crowd of 38,421 watched a match that was settled by a Garth Crooks goal which went under the body of former Spurs goalkeeper, Pat Jennings. That unusual mistake was only part of Jennings’ misery that day as an injury saw him substituted later in the game.


The romance of the FA Cup came to White Hart Lane in 1993 when Spurs were drawn against non-League Marlow Town in the 3rd Round. The game should have been at Marlow but the club agreed to play at White Hart Lane to increase their financial wind-fall from the 26,636 spectators in attendance. Marlow performed well but were beaten by goals from Barmby (2), Samways (2) and Sheringham.  However, the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the Marlow Town scorer who got his team's thoroughly deserved consolation goal a few minutes from the end.


Another non-League opponent was Margate in 1973.  The UEFA Cup holders having been to the vast San Siro Stadium to play AC Milan the previous spring had to adapt to the closeness of the Margate ground but ran out easy winners through goals from Knowles, Peters, Chivers (2), Pratt and Pearce.


Not all 3rd Round games have been so fortuitous for Spurs, last season they contrived to lose a two goal lead at Leicester at a time when the home side hadn’t won in seven games and had been goal-less in the previous three.  Two seasons earlier, the players capitulated at Southampton and lost by four goals, demonstrating the level to which the club had sunk in those Hoddle times. 


In 1999 Spurs departed the FA Cup before Christmas.  The 3rd Round ties were played in December and after drawing 1-1 at home with Newcastle, they lost the replay 1-6 so Spurs didn’t play an FA Cup game in the year 2000.  Thankfully, the authorities returned the 3rd Round games to their rightful place at the beginning of January. Neither have they avoided the embarrassment of suffering at the hands of lower level teams – in 1923 in the 1st Round Spurs were dawn at home to Worksop Town, a team from the Midland League.  Spurs - Cup winners in 1921, semi-finalists in the Cup and runners up in the League in 1922 and with six members of the Cup winning team still playing - failed to score and overcome determined opposition.  Wintry weather conditions made the pitch difficult to play on but the non-League team showed determination and bravery to earn their place in Cup history.  The Worksop ground was thought unsuitable for the replay and Spurs readily agreed to play it at White Hart Lane.  So, on the Monday after the first game, Worksop sent out the same eleven players to face Spurs.  Relieved at having an opportunity to put things right, Spurs won 9-0.  Playing conditions had improved and Spurs were six up by half-time. Their goals were scored by Alec Lindsay (4), ‘Tich’ Handley (3), Jimmy Seed and Jimmy Dimmock. 


More recently, in 1953 Spurs met Tranmere Rovers, a mid-table team in the Third Division North and they held Spurs to a 1-1 draw at home. The replay was a different matter as Spurs won 9-1 through goals from McClellan (3), Duquemin (2), Hollis (2), Baily (2).  The successful team of the early 1950s had not made any impact in the F.A. Cup and many thought that this could be their year but after nine games, including four replays, having scored 21 goals, Spurs failed in their fifth semi-final.


In 1979, Keith Burkinshaw’s side suffered a similar fate as they drew 1-1 with non-League Altrincham at White Hart Lane.   The goal scored by Peter Taylor from the penalty spot enabled them to try again at Maine Road where the replay was played.  This time a Colin Lee hat-trick saw Spurs into the next round.


In 1993-94 Spurs were grateful for penalties as they defeated Peterborough United at home after two 1-1 draws.  Spurs held their nerve and scored all five penalties. 


Other memorable 3rd Round ties were games against Manchester United.  In 1968 a difficult 3rd Round tie at Old Trafford saw Spurs earn a replay in a thrilling action-packed game through a last minute equalizer from Martin Chivers.  Mike England returned, having been out for two months with injury but Jimmy Greaves was left out and Phil Beal played as an extra defender.  Chivers scored for Spurs after four minutes but United equalized within two minutes.  Half way through the second half, United took a lead which they looked like holding until Chivers’ last minute strike.  The replay was a very tight and combative affair.  Jimmy Greaves was re-instated to the Spurs team but the match remained scoreless after ninety minutes.  Meeting four days after the original match, some old scores had to be settled and in the second half Joe Kinnear and Brian Kidd were sent off for a tussle in the Spurs penalty area. In extra time the match was settled by a disputed goal from winger, Jimmy Robertson – United players felt that England had impeded their goalkeeper.


In January, 1980 Spurs and United had drawn 1-1 at Tottenham in the 3rd Round, Ossie Ardiles scoring, but Spurs progressed the hard way.  The replay was scoreless, in spite of Glenn Hoddle having to take over in goal for the injured Aleksic.  Hoddle played confidently and as extra time was drawing to a close, Ossie Ardiles managed to summon a last ounce of energy to score the winner.  Spurs, under Keith Burkinshaw, were now beginning to re-establish themselves in the 1st Division although further Cup success would have to wait for another season ending in ‘1’.


The FA Cup 3rd Round memories are endless, so perhaps it’s time for Spurs to rekindle their love affair with the competition and make a successful trip to the Final wherever it’s played.  The 3rd Round games are so much more memorable when there’s a winning Final at the end of all the effort.  Cardiff City will do their utmost to spoil that idea and I may have to wait another year before drawing together the 4th Round recollections.




‘Spurs are on their way to Wembley’

Logan Holmes





Spurs and the FA Cup, by Logan Holmes