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Spurs and the FA Cup 5th Round


Progress through the FA Cup 5th Round game and supporters and players start to believe that an appearance in the Final is possible.  Defeat and another season is consigned to history with little to play for through the coming months.  With the prospect that the Final will return to Wembley this year there is an added incentive for Spurs to renew acquaintances with the ground that was like their second home for a period in the 1980s. 


As Spurs prepare for the game against Fulham, a team they have never lost to in an FA Cup game, they must realize that it will not be an easy task as Fulham’s impressive home record shows especially when it is compared with Spurs’ current form and their season-long malaise away from White Hart Lane.  While Martin Jol is talking up Spurs’ prospects by saying that Spurs haven’t lost over ninety minutes in a Cup game this season, he will need more that statistics to see his team progress to the next round.


Success in the 5th Round game means that a club is only two wins from a Final appearance and three from the ultimate success of lifting the trophy.  It can all seem so easy on paper but there can be many a twist before the task’s completed.


In 1901 Spurs were drawn away to Reading, the only other non-League team left in the competition, in the 3rd Round game, the equivalent of today’s 5th Round.  Spurs had lost at Reading in the Southern League in November so although they had defeated League opposition in the previous rounds, this match was not going to be easy and so it proved.  Every Cup winning team has a moment when they could so easily have gone out of the competition and it happened for Spurs at Reading.  A goal down early on to a robust home team, Spurs were struggling to make any impact on the game.  Early in the second half Spurs recovered for a brief period and equalised through winger John Kirwan but then Reading took control again.  Spurs were forced to hang on but when goalkeeper George Clawley failed to hold a shot, full-back Sandy Tait punched the ball clear – a certain penalty.  Everyone saw what had happened except the referee the linesman and when a goal-kick was awarded the 3000 Spurs’ supporters gave a collective sigh of relief.  Spurs held on and in the replay the following Thursday Spurs were a completely different side.  David Copeland gave them an early lead and Sandy Brown scored two more to give Spurs a comfortable win.  Brown had kept up his record of scoring in every round of the Cup.  As Spurs looked forward to a semi-final tie against West Brom the question being asked was - Could this be Spurs’ year to win the Cup? 


The 1921 3rd Round game seems to have been more straight forward with a 4-1 win over Third Division, Southend United.  However, while the score suggested a comfortable win, Spurs’ performance was not as impressive and they again required that element of luck every Cup winning team experiences.  Spurs were lethargic and Southend went ahead after ten minutes.  Spurs rallied and equalised through Jimmy Cantrell, only to allow the home team to take control again and earn a penalty just before half-time.  The referee was not happy with the placing of the ball for the penalty and interfered on two occasions.  This angered the Southend penalty-taker who argued with the referee and when he stepped up to strike the penalty he sent it wide of the post.  After the interval Southend again took charge but in the last thirty minutes Spurs scored three times through Jimmy Banks, Jimmy Seed and Bert Bliss.

Spurs’ 5th Round opponents in 1961 were Aston Villa at Villa Park.  A week earlier Spurs had won there in the League and recorded another victory in the Cup.  No matter what Villa attempted Spurs had an answer with a display of football at their very best.  Having constantly pulled the home defence apart, Spurs went ahead after seventeen minutes when a defender deflected a Cliff Jones’ shot into his own goal.  Just before the interval the game was effectively over when Jones scored and Spurs comfortably controlled the rest of the game.


The following year Spurs travelled to The Hawthorns to play West Bromwich Albion.  In a typical Cup tie Bobby Smith gave Spurs an early lead but the game continued from end to end with both goalkeepers being kept busy.  Smith doubled Spurs lead just before half-time.  An injury to Cliff Jones restricted his movement and effectiveness and West Brom pulled a goal back at the start of the second half.  Jimmy Greaves restored Spurs two goal lead with fifteen minutes remaining only for West Brom to strike back again.  Spurs’ victory was secured by Greaves’ second with one minute remaining.


The 1967 Cup winning trail gave Spurs a home game against 2nd Division Bristol City and it was that man Greaves who again secured Spurs’ passage to the next round.  Greaves put Spurs ahead after ten minutes but then the good fortune of Cup winners was again evident in Spurs’ victory as City missed a number of goal scoring opportunities and Pat Jennings was required to save a Bristol penalty in the second half.  The penalty was retaken because Jennings moved too soon and the re-take was hit wide.  To add insult to injury Greaves scored Spurs’ second goal from the penalty spot in the final minute.  Captain Dave Mackay put the win in perspective, ‘We should have won more easily but few top teams manage to win convincingly against lesser opposition.’


It was less of a struggle in 1981 against fellow 1st Division opponents, Coventry City at White Hart Lane.  Goals from Chris Hughton, Ossie Ardiles and Steve Archibald gave Spurs a 3-1 victory and dreams of Wembley were becoming less fanciful.


The following year the 5th Round game was Spurs’ third home tie against 1st Division opponents and their third single goal victory.  Mark Falco provided the solitary strike that defeated Aston Villa.


In 1991 Spurs’ hero was Paul Gascoigne.  Before the game at Portsmouth Spurs lost full-back Terry Fenwick who broke his ankle in the pre-match warm-up sessions.  Gazza required a hernia operation but was being nursed through the Cup games and he again proved the match winner with the two goals that took Spurs past the 2nd Division club.


The 1999 FA Cup 5th Round tie against Leeds United is memorable for the quality of the goals that Spurs scored in the replay at White Hart Lane.  A goal from Tim Sherwood had earned spurs the replay but Darren Anderton and David Ginola scored two goals of outstanding quality to take Spurs into the quarter finals.  Another amazing strike from Ginola which went narrowly past is equally remembered for the reaction of George Graham and the Spurs’ bench as they leapt to their feet in celebration, thinking that it was a goal.


The 1996 5th Round game at Nottingham Forest is remembered by travelling supporters for their lengthy journey home through thick snow after the game was abandoned after fifteen minutes due to the snow.  Spurs drew the re-arranged tie but lost the replay at Tottenham on penalties.


On 1st March, 1995 an unlikely hero stepped forward to rescue Spurs in a 5th Round Replay.  Spurs and Southampton had drawn 1-1 at White Hart Lane and when the Sheringham/Klinsmann team found themselves two goals down just before half-time at the Dell, their Cup dreams looked to be over.  Ronnie Rosenthal was brought on as sub just before the interval and in the second half he scored twice in two minutes to bring the scores level, the second from twenty five yards.  He outdid that goal in extra time with a shot from thirty yards to put Spurs ahead and then goals from Teddy Sheringham, Nick Barmby and Darren Anderton completed the 6-2 rout.  ‘Rocket’ Ronnie had made a name for himself in Spurs folklore.


Defeat to clubs from lower divisions was a feature of Spurs in the 1950s.  They lost in 1959 to Norwich City who were in the 3rd Division and had beaten Manchester United and Cardiff City to reach this stage of the competition.  Held 1-1 at home in the first game Spurs lost the 5th Round replay by a solitary goal as Norwich progressed to the semi-finals.


Two years earlier it had been Bournemouth who had knocked Spurs out at the 5th Round stage.  Managed by former Spur Freddie Cox, the 3rd Division side took the lead only for Terry Medwin to equalise.  Bournemouth who had won at Wolves in the previous round did everything to unsettle Spurs and scored another two goals to win 3-1 and earn a home tie against Manchester United.


Another two years earlier and it was York City who removed Spurs from the Cup with a similar 1-3 score.  George Robb put Spurs ahead but the home side scored twice before half-time and then added a third in the second half.  York who were in the 3rd Division (North) reached the semi-finals where they lost in a replay to Newcastle United, the eventual Cup winners. 


The 1937 5th Round Replay against Everton was one of those games that Cup memories are founded on.  Spurs were a 2nd Division team and the match in Liverpool had seen Spurs score through Jimmy McCormick with five minutes remaining, only for their 1st Division opponents to equalise in the last minute.  The Replay on the following Monday, surpassed that for excitement as Spurs looked to be going out of the Cup until a dramatic comeback.  The pitch had been flooded and conditions were poor but Everton took control and went into a two goal lead.  Spurs scored through Johnny Morrison in the 27th minute but in the second half after a Morrison ‘goal’ was disallowed, Everton extended their lead. With seven minutes remaining, Everton were awarded a penalty but the referee changed his decision as Everton had taken a throw-in incorrectly. A minute later Morrison scored Spurs’ second, then with two minutes remaining Joe Meek equalised with a great solo goal and in the last minute Morrison scored the winner.  46,972 spectators witnessed a Cup ‘classic.’


Spurs’ fans would enjoy a Cup ‘classic’ that would see Spurs into the next round but at the moment they would gratefully accept any result against Fulham to revive their season.  Recent Premiership results have brought echoes of discontent and further dismay from a Cup exit is not what Martin Jol needs.  The early season optimism brought about by the UEFA Cup success has evaporated and progress against Fulham is needed to calm the nerves, so that the UEFA Cup is not the only goal at the end of what has been a mixed season which had started with such high expectations last August.  Can the excitement of the FA Cup save the manager and raise his standing among the supporters who are concerned about his negative, cautious style of football and can the players raise their game to the pre-Christmas level that brought success across Europe? 


The FA Cup has saved many a manager and many a season but will it be Spurs’ turn this time?  Many a Cup success has hinged on a moment of good fortune and perhaps now is the time for it to fall Spurs’ way as they struggle to re-build confidence after a disappointing start to 2007.  We can but hope.

Logan Holmes





Spurs and the FA Cup, by Logan Holmes