Tottenham began life back in 1882 when members of the Hotspur Cricket Club decided on playing football over the winter. For the first few years Hotspur played simple friendlies as well as the odd cup game but managed to rally an impressive following thanks to the attractive football that they played. This entertaining style has remained a trait of the club’s ever since and continues to win over admirers the world over.
The club changed its name to “Tottenham Hotspur Football & Athletic Club” in 1885 to avoid any confusion with another London football team named Hotspur. Three years later they moved away from playing on the Marshes in public to a proper rented location in Northumberland Park where they built their first stadium. They were already attracting crowds of more than 4000 and were still not yet playing regular competitive matches even. Tottenham Hotspur became a professional football club in 1895 and joined the Southern League the very next season where they could compete with the best teams from the South of England and entered the FA Challenge Cup for the first time.
They consistently finished in the top 4 of the Southern League until they eventually won their first title in 1899. A greater success was to follow just two years after when Spurs defeated First Division giant’s Sheffield United in the FA Cup Final to become the first team outside of the Football League to triumph in the competition. Tottenham continued to be a strong team over the next few years but failed to replicate those early successes, only winning lesser titles in the 1902-3 London League and the 1903-4 Western League. However, it was enough to convince the FA to elect them into the Football League’s Second Division for the 1908-9 season. Spurs instantly repaid the gesture by achieving promotion at the first attempt, finishing in second place.
Spurs maintained a position in the First Division up until the First World War when they were relegated for finishing bottom. The League was suspended after 1914 up until 1919 when Spurs again showed their worth by winning promotion at the first try before following it up in 1921 by attaining the FA Cup for the second time. However the Twenties were less auspicious and Spurs floundered in mediocrity until finally losing our First Division status in 1927-28 with just 1 point separating Tottenham in 21st place and Sheffield Wednesday in 14th.
It took Spurs until 1932-33 to rejoin the top division where they finished 3rd in 1933-34, only to again finish bottom the following year and find themselves back in Division Two where they languished for the next decade, despite the intervention of the Second World War. It took the appointment of a certain Arthur Rowe as manager to turn things around for Tot-tenham and, in his first season in charge, Spurs took the Second Division title by a stag-gering 9 points. Arthur Rowe really focused on Tottenham’s entertaining approach to the game and moulded his team around it, developing the ‘Push and Run’ variety of football that they were to become known for. Their first season back in the top flight Spurs ran the show and won the First Division title for the first time in their history. However, despite coming second in 1952-53, Rowe was never able to repeat that achievement in spite of managing to re-establish Tottenham a true First Division side. Toward the end of the Fifties Spurs started to show once more the quality they possessed and regularly finished within the top three.
A player under Rowe, Bill Nicholson had assumed managerial responsibilities at the end of the decade and built a team that was one of the greatest in the history of the game. He achieved a third place finish in his first full season, missing out on the top spot by just 2 points. Spurs were not to be denied in the next season when they pulled off the domestic double, a feat that had not yet been achieved by any other team. They cruised to the 1960-61 Division One title by 8 points before sealing the double by defeating Leicester City 2-0 in the FA Cup Final.
Those wins also meant that Tottenham were to compete in Europe for the first time the following season. Spurs managed similar rewards in 1961-62 as they retained the FA Cup by beating Burnley 3-1 in the Final before going on to be the first English team to accomplish a European trophy by outplaying Benfica over two legs. Although not actually repeating these achievements of the early sixties, Tottenham Hotspur remained one of the best clubs in the country for the rest of the decade, despite losing our impetus in the league. Only in 1967 did Spurs manage anything by winning the FA Cup by beating Chelsea in the competition’s first ever London derby final.
Bill Nicholson’s team had changed a tremendous amount since they produced that famous double in 1961 and, although he had cunningly acquired quality replacements, he had not been able to fully replicate the rewards. Football had also changed, moving away from a skillful, entertaining style to accommodate a more workmanlike ethic that concentrated on defence, a switch in stark contrast to Nicholson’s approach and one that he was not initially prepared to make. English teams became increasingly difficult to break down, prepared to settle for a draw rather than go for the win and Tottenham began to suffer domestically. However, Bill Nicholson forced himself and his team to adapt and they started the Seventies by winning the League Cup for the first time by defeating Aston Villa at Wembley. The competition had gained weight when it was decided that its winners would be offered a place in UEFA’s new European cup competition.
In 1971 Europe’s main governing body for football, UEFA, wanted to sanction a competition that would pit team’s from across Europe against each other and it replaced the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup with its own UEFA Cup. Rules of the original competition meant that only one team could represent each city and Tottenham became London’s entrants on winning the 1970-71 League Cup. Spurs went on to be the UEFA Cup’s first ever winners when they won against fellow English contestants, Wolverhampton Wanderers, in the final, notching up a 15-1 aggregate victory against Keflavik in the first round and brushing aside European giants AC Milan in the semis along the way. The last trophy Spurs won that decade was again the League Cup in 1972-73 but, despite again reaching the UEFA Cup final in 1974, things were about to rapidly go downhill.
Bill Nicholson resigned as manager after a succession of poor results at the start of the 1974-75 campaign. It signified a particularly dark period of our history as the Spurs board inexplicably distanced itself from Nicholson and introduced a saboteur from down the road. Terry Neill was an unpopular choice at the time due to his strong Arsenal connections and only went on to consolidate his reputation as an infiltrator by wrecking the infrastructure at Tottenham that had been so carefully crafted by Nicholson over the years. He only lasted a couple years before he ran back down the road to take charge at Arsenal but the damage had already been done. Youth team coach Keith Burkinshaw took his place and immediately moved to bring Bill Nicholson back to White Hart Lane as a consultant.
However, the two of them could not prevent Spurs from relegation following Neill’s chaotic tenure. Burkinshaw was a much more suitable successor and won back Tottenham’s place in the top flight at his first attempt. He built a truly talented squad and in his attempts to return Spurs to the entertaining, attacking football they were once known for, Burkinshaw pioneered the use of foreign players as the foundations of the team. In 1978 he brought a South American flair to North London by enticing two of Argentina’s World Cup winning heroes away from their homeland to ply their trade at White Hart Lane. Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa became huge stars at Tottenham and quickly settled into life in England, developing dreams of taking their new club to Wembley.
Those dreams soon materialised when, in 1981, Spurs beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in a semi-final replay to book their place in the FA Cup final where they would meet Man-chester City. The final also went to a replay when Spurs equalised late on and Ricky Villa, despite having a tragic first game in which he was substituted, was instrumental in the Spurs victory when he scored one of the competition’s greatest ever goals. Both he and Ossie had achieved their ambition of taking Spurs to Wembley but both were set to miss out on repeating the trip the following year when the Falkland’s War broke out, effectively ending Villa’s career at Tottenham and nearly ending Ossie’s also. Spurs did not need them this time though and still managed to retain the trophy when they narrowly defeated Q.P.R thanks largely to a young player who had developed fast under Burkinshaw’s guidance to become a linchpin within the team, Glenn Hoddle.
Ossie did return to Spurs soon after and remained an integral part of the team for the next decade. He got another opportunity to experience glory in a Tottenham Shirt when, in 1984, Burkinshaw led them to their third UEFA Cup final. They played Belgian side Anderlecht over two legs and beat them dramatically at White Hart Lane over penalties to bring European success back to North London. Sadly, Burkinshaw had already announced his departure from White Hart Lane and at the end of that same season he left the club that he had so successfully turned around and where he had achieved so much.
Tottenham again failed to benefit from the position they had been left in by Burkinshaw and, despite having a highly talented team that were often a joy to watch, they did not win anything for the rest of the eighties. They did come very close in the 1986-87 season un-der the guidance of David Pleat however, coming within a whisker of achieving the triple but ending the year with nothing once again. They had initially looked very strong in the league but could not hold off eventual winners Everton and succumbed also to Liverpool and finished in third place. The focus turned to the two cup competitions up until the League Cup semi-final where we fell to our closest rivals, Arsenal, leaving just the FA Cup to salvage anything. Spurs reached the final and were massive favourites over their opponents Coventry City. Tottenham had never lost an FA Cup final and were far superior to Coventry in all areas of the pitch but Spurs should have known better than anyone not to underestimate any challenge in this competition.
Despite leading and dominating play, Spurs lost out to a Coventry fight-back that left us with nothing to show for such a promising season. Terry Venables was the eventual choice to takeover managerial duties for the 1987-88 season and, after a couple years of mediocrity in the league, by 1989-90 he had again guided Spurs to the top of the table, finishing third behind Aston Villa and title winners Liverpool. The league form did not persist though and the following year Spurs again began to fall on hard times as the club descended into huge financial difficulties. The then chairman, Irving Scholar, had lost a fortune when the property market slumped in 1990 and the club went into catastrophic debt. Venables relieved some of the pressure by taking Tottenham to their ninth FA Cup final when he famously defeated arch-rivals Arsenal in the first semi-final ever to be played at Wembley. Tottenham owed much of their successful cup-run that year to Paul Gascoigne who had scored in every round except the third and it was extremely sad when he had to be stretchered off in the first few minutes of the final game against Nottingham Forest. Tottenham still won the cup though, coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 with Paul Stewart scoring the winner.
An ex-Spurs player, Terry Venables had decided to rescue Tottenham by teaming up with tycoon Alan Sugar to bring Tottennham back from the brink of bankruptcy. This ended his reign as manager as he moved into the boardroom, prompting the return of Peter Shreeves to Spurs. Nevertheless, the club were forced to sell some of its prized assets and Gascoigne went to Lazio for £8.5 million and Gary Lineker also left the following season in 1992 to claw back some of the £20 million they owed.
It was a new era for Spurs and for English football in general and in 1992 the Barclay’s Premier League was formed out of the old First Division. It was a transition that was sup-posed to signify the quality of the league and give it added impetus amongst the other great European leagues like Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A. However, this failed to transpire through to the Tottenham team and the club has remained the Premiership’s chronic underachievers. Not until 1999 did Spurs again win anything of note, with just one player still present from their 1991 FA Cup triumph, right-back Justin Edinburgh. The 1999 League Cup final however was not such a happy occasion for Edinburgh after he found himself sent-off after an hour but Spurs came through with just 10 men to beat Leicester City 1-0 in the 93rd minute.
The new millenium saw Alan Sugar sell his remaining interest in Tottenham Hotspur to Enic Sports PLC who are still the club’s primary shareholders. Their first move was to bring club legend Glenn Hoddle back as manager with a wave of sentiment and expectation. It was not too be though and the club sacked him just two years later after his relationship with the players deteriorated. Tottenham have not settled since, twice thinking they had located the right manager to lead them back to their previous glory. Martin Jol arrived in 2005 and notably led Tottenham to 2 consecutive top 5 finishes making him the most successful, popular and longest serving manager of this period but a dire start to the 2007-8 campaign left Spurs in the relegation zone and got Jol the sack. His replacement, Juande Ramos, arrived from Spain with high accolades and he quickly got the team playing again and moving up the table. He took Spurs to Wembley for the first time since their loss in 2001, beating Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup final to bring back the club’s first silverware since 1999 and earn a place in next season’s UEFA Cup. However, his fortunes quickly deteriorated, winning just 3 more games that season. Ramos spent the summer completely changing the squad and started the 2008-9 campaign with high hopes but Tottenham failed to win a single game in what was to be their worst league start ever, leaving them stuck to the bottom of the table with just 2 points after 8 games . . .
. . . enter Harry Redknapp. COME ON YOU SPURS!