Football League Division 1, 6/11/82
Tottenham Hotspur 0(0)
Team: Clemence, Perryman, Miller, Lacy, Hughton, Brooke, Mabbutt, Hoddle, Villa, Crooks, Archibald
Subs: Hazard (for Villa)
Team: Sherwood, Rice, Rostron, Taylor, Sims, Bolton, Callaghan, Blissett, Jenkins, Barnes
A cardinal sin
Report by Richard Mortimer
The Hornet's first ever league visit to White Hart Lane attracted a capacity crowd of over 42,000. The attendance was not, as you might reasonably imagine, due to the attractive visiting opposition - but rather the much vaunted return of a certain Glenn Hoddle from injury. Four days before Spurs had been swept out of Europe on a foggy night in Munich (1-4) and this was very much the game in which they were to bounce back. Indeed, Tottenham's pre-match radio adverts on Capital (does anyone else remember them) promised that "Barnes and Co would be chased back up the M1". Ha! Were the Lillywhites were in for a shock...
Looking back, this result - more than any other - was the start of the media hysteria regarding our style of play - long ball, kick and rush, route one - call it what you like. For the unfortunate Taylor, it was a tag with which he would be associated for the rest of his managerial career.
Watford went into the game sixth in the league, mainly on the back of excellent home form, and had produced varying performances on their travels. This was the biggest away game of the season so far and 9,000 Watford fans packed the away end behind one of the goals. Amongst them, were myself - a sprightly 18 year old back for the weekend from college in Plymouth - and my father, a Birmingham City fan as a lad converted to Watford by Mike Keen's infectious passing game. But I digress.
The game was superb. The Horns, fielding the classic team of the era in 4-2-4 formation, attacked all afternoon. Spurs did not know quite what had hit them. Far from turning in the virtuoso midfield performance the press demanded, Hoddle was swept aside by the passion and energy of man-of-the-match Kenny Jackett and eventual matchwinner Les Taylor. Barnes and Callaghan ran riot down the wings, helping Watford to force 19 corners - more than in any other game of the campaign. In the centre of defence Bolton was majestic. Archibald fed on scraps from Sims, and the full backs were rarely troubled by Tottenham's midfield, who were constantly tracking back to cover the Watford wing play. Indeed the WO recalls that Bolton and Sims hardly gave a free kick away all afternoon - and that against two (at the time) highly rated strikers Crooks and Archibald.
The match was played at an incredible pace and Spurs found Watford's all action game plan impossible to contain and somewhat infectious. Rather than using their (undoubted) superior skills to 'out pass' the Horns, they spent much of the afternoon punting long balls forward to their own strikers who expected the ball played to the feet.
A fair number of clear cut chances fell to both teams. Sherwood, enjoying the best period of his Watford career, looked the better keeper - saving well from Crooks and Hoddle in the first half and Archibald (twice) in the second. At the other end, Clemence had far more to contend with - particularly in the last quarter of the game saving from Blissett, Barnes and Callaghan.
Despite the Horns clearly deserving better for repeatedly taking the game to Spurs, the game seemed to be drifting to a 0-0 draw. Then it happened. From Blissett's long throw, Jenkins slipped two tackles in the Spurs area and looked likely to score, but his attempt on the turn was blocked. The ball rebounded to Taylor who stabbed the ball past Clemence who was left prostrate, groping air (See picture). The terrace erupted - I turned to embrace my father but couldn't find him. The next five minutes were constant celebration. I didn't see any of the match following the goal. The final whistle went and as it did I caught sight of my father - some ten metres away, a broad grin across his face.
So we, and the thousands of others who had made the short trip others went home happy. We had a skinful of Benskins in the Oddfellows and slept sound in the knowledge that a visit to the newsagent in the morning would bring sheer joy on the backpages.
But hang on! What's this? A cardinal sin had been committed. We had beaten mighty Spurs on their own patch - this would not do. Fleet Street castigated the Hornets for the way they played - ignoring the result. Taylor and Jackett were accused of 'disrespectful tackling' on Hoddle. The team as a whole were likened to a pack of wild dogs. Spurs manager Burkinshaw crowed 'I'll never play their way', and asked 'How will they fare in Europe ?'. Well, he had his answer the following year, didn't he.
Terry Challis cartoon
Les Taylor's goal