This was a fantastic time to be a Spurs supporter. There was a wonderful blend of style and courage in the team. Graham Roberts and Paul Miller provided the guts and determination, Hoddle and Ardiles could twist, turn and pass the ball majestically, while Crooks and Archibald would score goals for fun. Even though everyone in my hometown of Falmouth seemed to be supporting Liverpool, I just could not understand why they did not love Tottenham Hotspur.
1984 became a transitional time for Tottenham. Keith Burkinshaw, our no-nonsense, straight-talking manager from Yorkshire would be leaving Spurs at the end of the season. He might have seemed dour and dull, but he was responsible for bringing back the glory days at White Hart Lane.
Burkinshaw oversaw promotion from the old Second Division, the radical signing of Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa, two FA Cup’s (1981 and 1982) and now had earned a fitting finale in the shape of the UEFA Cup Final second leg at the Lane.
The first leg in Belgium finished 1-1. Paul Miller gave Spurs the lead after 58 minutes, but Anderlecht equalised from Morten Olsen with five minutes to go. That away goal by Miller gave Spurs a slight advantage. However, nothing is guaranteed and it would be far from easy in the second leg at White Hart Lane.
So on Wednesday May 23rd 1984, I caught the train to London to see what could be the biggest game of my life. The pre-match atmosphere in and around White Hart Lane was electric. I know this sounds like an overused cliché, but this was truly momentous. I had heard others speak of the special European nights at the Lane, but only now did I understand exactly what they had meant. Standing on the Shelf Side, with the old floodlights beaming down on to the green pitch, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. There was nowhere else in the world I would have preferred to be, than this place at this time.
I briefly contemplate the idea that Anderlecht might retain their cup. The previous season (1982/83), Anderlecht had beaten Benfica 2-1 on aggregate to win the trophy. On this occasion, there would be no Perryman, Hoddle, or Clemence in the Spurs side, but I tried to keep positive about our chances.
This positivity stayed with me until Anderlecht break away and score in the 60th minute with a confident finish by Alex Czerniatinski. The Belgian fans are now sensing victory and the Spurs supporters are sensing defeat and despair. Various half chances come our way, but none of these are converted. On 77 minutes, Keith Burkinshaw decides to bring on Osvaldo Ardiles in place of centre back Paul Miller. Surely, our Argentine legend could give us that extra thrust that we so badly needed.
In the 82nd minute, a corner is awarded to Tottenham. Some idiot from the Park Lane end throws an empty beer bottle on to the pitch. Graham Roberts picks up the missile and throws it safely to one side, before gesturing to suggest that whoever threw it was a complete lunatic. The corner was finally taken and fell to Ardiles… It had to be, surely… But unbelievably he hits the crossbar!
That is our golden moment wasted, but before I am given the chance to cry into my scarf, the ball is crossed in again. Graham Roberts controls the ball with his barrel-like chest, stumbles forward in the penalty area and then taps the ball into the Belgians net with his right foot.
For the next few moments I couldn’t see very much. Those moments of ecstasy resembled a mosh pit. Arms and legs, loose change, programmes are scattered everywhere in the melee. The feeling of delirium soon subsides and I find myself back with the jittery sensations of nervousness that I experienced before Robbo’s equaliser.
The game progressed into extra time and the thought of penalties entered everyone’s mind. With no Ray Clemence in goal, this prospect seemed daunting.
Finally, the whistle blew for the end of the game and it was decided that the penalties would be taken at the Paxton Road End. Up until this time, I had not experienced this scenario before. Of course, since 1984, we have become very familiar with the disappointment associated with penalty shootouts.
First to step up for Tottenham is captain Graham Roberts and his penalty is executed with no signs of nerves whatsoever. The same could not be said of Anderlecht’s first. Tony Parks, the rookie Tottenham goalkeeper from Hackney, dives to his left to palm away the feeble shot. A tremendous sense of expectation reverberates around the stadium, but I knew there was still a long way to go.
It was now the turn of Spurs centre forward Mark Falco, who slotted away his spot kick with no problems. Anderlecht’s second is converted, then Gary Stevens steps up to make it 3-1 to the Spurs. The Belgians’ third penalty is scored, before Stevie Archibald, the resilient Scotsman, holds his nerve. Anderlecht netted their fourth for 4-3. If Spurs could convert their last penalty, Tottenham would win their third European trophy.
Danny Thomas was the man chosen to make it a clean sweep for Tottenham. The pressure iss unbelievable. Future happiness is reliant upon this one spot kick. I will sell my soul to the devil for one more successful penalty. Danny steps up… it’s saved… A terrible feeling sweeps over me. I feel sick, I cannot speak, but the other Tottenham supporters show more courage than myself. All of the home fans inside the stadium start chanting, “There’s only one Danny Thomas”. This chorus clarifies to me why being a Spurs supporter is so special.
Arnór Gudjohnsen (father of Eidur) would take the last of the five Anderlecht spot kicks. This penalty had to be converted for the Belgians, or Spurs would win the cup. The pressure on this man was immense. Some players are able to ignore all distractions and concentrate on one thing; hitting the back of the net. I hoped and prayed that this burden of responsibility would get the better of him.
Gudjohnsen steps up to strike the ball and shoots… In one complete movement, the young Tottenham goalkeeper Parks, saves the shot, lands on the ground, rolls and rises to his feet with the style of a gymnast.
At this moment, I couldn’t control my anxiety any more, as my eyes filled with tears of pride and joy. Complete strangers surrounded me and I hugged everyone within a two-metre radius. Even after the celebrations, the lifting of the trophy and the ceremonial lap of honour, I did not want to leave this spot, even if it meant missing the last train from Paddington back to Cornwall.
Eventually I reluctantly walked away, with my heart still racing in top gear. The Tottenham High Road is completely gridlocked with supporters and traffic, with horns beeping and choruses of, “We Won the Cup”.
I know whatever happens in the future, this feeling – this ecstatic experience, will be with me for the rest of my life.