The 1987 FA Cup Final was meant to be the glorious finale to a season where Tottenham Hotspur had for large portions been in contention for silverware, including a decent, but ultimately unsuccessful tilt at the title.
Stars such as Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle and the season’s Player of the Year, Clive Allen strode onto the sun-kissed Wembley turf in their shiny all-white Hummel kit expecting to win Spurs’ third FA Cup in six years and a record eighth overall.
Coventry City, managed by the charismatic John Sillett, were surely only there for the clichéd day out under the famous Twin Towers. After all, the Sky Blues had finished in mid-table and weren’t blessed with the same quality at the disposal of Tottenham’s boss, David Pleat.
The preparation to the game had been memorable for City’s keeper Steve Ogrizovic, who became a father two days before the big game, while the Spurs build-up had been less memorable for their foray into the pop charts with the song ‘Hot Shot Tottenham’, a collaboration/aberration with hairy, Cockney knees-up merchants, Chas and Dave.
The game itself burst into life after only two minutes when England international Waddle comprehensively bamboozled Coventry’s balding left back, Greg Downs, who is still currently looking for the mulletted winger.
His pinpoint cross was met at the near post with a bullet-header by Clive Allen. The frontman had enjoyed an incredible season, by far the best of his career, and this was the 49th he netted in all competitions that year. Things were looking ominous for the underdogs.
However, it did not take long for Coventry to strike back. Full back, Downs, currently still looking for Chris Waddle, chipped in a cross from the left which was flicked on at the near post. Dave Bennett, complete with ‘Soul-Glo’ hairdo, nipped in between the daydreaming Steve Hodge and Ray Clemence to slot the ball home and ensure we were about to witness one of the most entertaining cup finals for decades.
The rest of the first half saw both sides take the game to each other in the classic end-to-end cup final we all reminisce about when we get older. Just before the break it was Tottenham who nudged themselves back in front. A free-kick down the Spurs right was swung in by legendary God-botherer Hoddle, and as Ogrizovic and his back four flapped about, the ball fortuitously struck a combination of Brian Kilcline and Gary Mabbutt and into the net. Mabbutt’s left leg would make another key contribution later in the day.
The second half continued in much the same vain as the first, with both teams going for it and for a second time, Sillett’s boys got back on level terms.
Winger Bennett curled in a superb cross from the right which was met with a majestic diving header by Coventry’s Keith Houchen, a big lump of a centre forward from the North East. Houchen has probably dined out on that effort ever since, which was voted BBC’s Goal of the Season.
Despite their best efforts, neither team could secure a win before the end of the 90 minutes, which meant extra time was needed for the third consecutive final.
The decisive moment of the game came in the 95th minute as Sky Blues midfielder, Lloyd McGrath, strode down the right wing and drove the ball across the Spurs box. The ball struck Mabbutt’s outstretched left knee and looped over the helpless veteran Clemence and into the goal to give Coventry an unlikely lead in their first ever major final.
Tottenham tried, and failed, to peg their opponents back and it would be Coventry skipper Brian Kilcline who would have the honour of receiving the cup from perennial royal trophy presenter/freeloader, the Duchess of Kent.
This cup final had it all: Goals, great attacking play, sportsmanship, an upset, terrible haircuts and moustaches. A true classic.