TO CELEBRATE the anniversary of Coventry City’s famous FA Cup triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, the Observer teamed up with Coventry City’s Former Players’ Association (CCFPA) to re-capture the memories of players, managers and fans from the club’s greatest day on May 16, 1987.
Observer sports editor Steve Carpenter spoke to every member of the club’s winning team and management, as well as several key figures in the Spurs camp to get their stories from the day. Here he looks back and picks out his most memorable quotes from the series.
John Sillett – “I remember walking out of the tunnel alongside David Pleat and his coaching staff on the day of the game. Pleat turned to me as we made our way towards the pitch and said ‘we’ve been here seven times before you know, and never lost’. “I quickly replied, ‘we’ve been here before too and never lost’. He walked away laughing.”
David Phillips – “We had our trips to Bournemouth, which I don’t think would have worked at other clubs. I remember George Curtis on one of our trips turned to the lads and said ‘right, come on then kits off’, and he ran into the sea! It was freezing but I just did the same and I think Steve Sedgley followed and it became a bit of a tradition.”
Trevor Peake – “We were aware of Clive Allen’s ability. He’d scored a hat-trick against us earlier in the season and was on 48 goals for the season heading into the final so we determined not to let him get any more. But that plan went out of the window after three minutes when he blew us apart and headed Spurs ahead!”
Lloyd McGrath – “I found myself on the right wing for some reason. I don’t know what I was doing there but I just sprinted down the wing and managed to get a decent cross into the area. The ball hit Mabbutt and seemed to loop into the air. I was just waiting and waiting but it finally dropped into the net and the reaction from all the players and the crowd was just fantastic.”
Dave Bennett – “The critics say we were the underdogs because Tottenham had all these international players and I remember an article in the paper which said the only people who would know us on the day were our parents and our families, but we weren’t afraid of them.”
Micky Gynn – “Gary Mabbutt was a great defender who was never afraid to stick a boot in and it just so happens he tore mine that day. So I ended up playing most of the match wearing one studded boot and one moulded, which was strange to say the least, but I was playing in a cup final so it didn’t effect me too much.”
Keith Houchen – “The highlight for me was scoring at Wembley, but it took a few weeks to realise just how special that goal was. I remember losing my marker and sprinting into the area as quickly as I could. Benno (Bennett) whipped in a great ball and when I arrived I knew I had to throw myself at it, but I managed to time it perfectly.”
Brian Kilcline – “The only time I realised we had won was when I was actually walking up to collect the cup. I don’t know what the rest of the lads think but there’s that old saying ‘it’s never over until the fat lady sings’ and that was the case for Coventry City in 1987.”
Nick Pickering – “I’ll always remember John Sillett’s brilliant team talk at the end of the 90 minutes. He looked around at us and said ‘get on your feet, look how tired they are. This could be your last chance, you could get injured next season or move on elsewhere’. Those words inspired all of us to go on and we battered them in extra time.
Cyrille Regis – “I’ll always remember when we were on the coach leaving and I turned round and saw the electric scoreboard inside Wembley. It read Coventry City 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur, and that was the moment when we all knew we had won something.”
Steve Ogrizovic – “We won the cup that year for the fans. They were brilliant throughout the competition and have always been very good supporters. They deserved 1987 and there isn’t a day that goes by without someone reminding us of it.”
Greg Downes – “Spurs were like a who’s who of football, but we weren’t intimidated by them in Greg’s battle with Waddle was key the slightest, myself included. At the whistle I remember comforting Waddle. At times like this you don’t want to rub it into people’s faces. I felt there was a time and a place to celebrate and enjoy it together.”
Steve Sedgley – “I was a young player at the time and I was desperate to play a part but it wasn’t to be for me that year. It’s every players dream to play in an FA Cup final, especially back then, and walking out of the tunnel was an unbelievable experience.
David Pleat (Spurs boss) – “We were beaten by an own goal in extra time, so it was a terrible way to lose. “We were all absolutely distraught and it was very difficult to come to terms with a defeat on such a big stage. “It was pouring with rain on the Sunday morning and they had a reception on for us at the Town Hall whether we were winners or losers. It wasn’t a nice journey
Chris Hughton – “At the time it did feel like a surprise for Coventry to get to the final, but that’s the FA Cup and Coventry thoroughly deserved to go through and of course in the end they thoroughly deserved to win it.”