Bittersweet 1981

In 1981, I was 16 years old, and had been a Spurs supporter in earnest for 5 years. We were good In a flimsy way, we made pretty patterns across the turf and the crowds loved it, the great entertainers in English football with the likes of Roberts, Houghton, Ardiles, Villa, Archibald and Crooks gracing the team with the mercurial Hoddle pulling all the strings.

We (Spurs) reached the FA Cup final in 81, which was during a time that winning the cup actually meant something.

It was a strange run up to the May final because of an unexpected encounter that was deeply connected to the game of football in a place far removed from sport.

It all began about 2 miles from where I lived with my parents. A well known construction company were building a new housing estate, which brought with it workers from all parts of the country. My dad, on the days when he wasn’t on one of his boozing binges, would push a wheelbarrow around the local area to collect wood for the open fire in our house.

When dad realised there would be off-cuts of timber and broken pallets in abundance around the new estate, he would push his barrow 2 miles on the off-chance that the workers would allow him to take the wood that was useless to them, and they did.

I would go with my old dad to help collect as much wood as possible, and it was during our scavenger hunts that we became friendly with 2 of the bricklayers. Their names were Andy and Joe, they were from London and they were both Spurs supporters.

The further Spurs went in the cups’ early stages, the more Andy and especially Joe we’re convinced the ‘Year of the 1’ coincidence was inevitable, that Spurs were pre-destined to win the cup in a year that ended in ‘1’.

I had a gut feeling we would go on to win it and when we were drawn against Wolves in the semi final I was very confident we would reach the final. I remember talking to Andy and Joe the week after we had beaten Wolves and they told me they couldn’t wait for the tickets to go on sale because they would be the first in line. I couldn’t afford it but was very happy they would be at Wembley to watch the final .

A few weeks later I went with dad to collect some wood and saw Andy working alone. Joe had suffered a heart attack and died. Andy was visibility heartbroken, he didn’t say much more after telling us about Joe. I walked away and never saw Andy again! It was 2 weeks before the final. Sometimes when I think about the 81 cup final, I can still remember Joe shouting to me as I carried some wood away from the scaffolding he was stood on “It’s our year son”, which was the last time I saw him and heard him.

When the winning goal went into the back of the net I cheered, shouted and jumped around and thought about Joe and his absolute certainty the cup had Spurs name on it.

It’s a bittersweet memory, but it still makes me smile and remember him jumping around singing the name of Tottenham.

29 thoughts on “Bittersweet 1981

      1. Not enough. It is the greatest sport in the world except here in the states. I played a year in college but really just into it during tournament time these days. I love anything excellent! Funny story, I was in Panama watching World Cup (Germany vs Argentina) room full of people, lots of beer, and when Germany scored the late goal I jumped and shouted gooooaaal!!! The entire room went quiet and all eyes on the gringo. Oops! Forgot where I was for a moment. Lucky I survived. American soccer is hard to like. I went to a lot of Seattle sounders games as a kid.

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      2. Panama is my team. I live there half time. What I love about it? It’s a country smaller that most states, players from the city and poorest regions of every backwater village, and they compete with the US within a goal. That’s football! ⚽️ tenacious!

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  1. What a golden time, with Ardiles, Hoddle and Villa. I remember Hoddle hitting 70 yard passes with ease, and then of course Villa jinking through the Man City defence for that wonderful goal. Every Spurs fan I know holds that day dear in their hearts. Thanks for sharing the poignancy of your memories.

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  2. Great story, John. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for liking one of my memories. When it comes to London based soccer teas I’m a bit of a Fulham fan thanks to a family connection to Hammersmith. My memory goes back to Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Hill (as player, not pundit!). I’m not mych into s;port at all b ut there is nothing like the feeling you get when your team is doing well.

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      1. When i’m talking to you my friend it will always be Rosie. I read your blog to Rich (or is that Danny? As in a famous soap actor who my husband adores!) over our tea on a Sunday morning.

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