Saturday, October 1, 2016

TODAY'S OPPONENTS: TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

White Hart Lane has been the venue for some stirring City performances in recent years with Edin Dzeko notching 4 goals there in a stunning 5-1 victory in 2011, an emphatic score reproduced just three years later.

Spurs old stamping ground was also the venue for perhaps the most stunning FA Cup comeback of all time, when City won there 4-3 after being three-down at half time, a match that involved a taster for the future, when Joey Barton availed himself of an early career red card for chatting unnecessarily to the referee. Barton it was who also scored his first ever City goal on this ground in the 2003 league game in a surprise late season 2-0 win for Kevin Keegan's side.

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It was a year ago almost to the day that Manuel Pellegrini took his fast-starting side south to take on Tottenham in a game lost 4-1 by City. Aided and abetted by old friend Mark Clattenburg, City's collapse was quite the eye-opener. Having led through Kevin de Bruyne's goal, City fell apart with a number of dubious decisions leaving them trailing 4-1 by the 79th minute. This match confirmed that the previous week's home collapse to West Ham had not been a flash in the pan, after City's coruscating 5-win start to the season under the Chilean. Although big wins over Bournemouth and Newcastle were to follow, it was clear that Pellegrini's side did not have quite the iron grip on proceedings that people wanted to believe they had.

Spurs completed the double over City in the game at the Etihad with yet another dreadful display by Clattenburg, giving the away side a crucial penalty when an innocuous-looking cross was belted straight at Raheem Sterling's kidneys.
Kit troubles in 85-86

Before this double calamity, City's record against Spurs had been near-exemplary, losing just once in the previous ten games and scoring a hat-full of goals along the way. The mere mention of Tottenham sent Sergio Aguero scurrying to the boot room for his kit.

In the 20 years prior to that, City had found Spurs hard going, but the overall picture is incredibly even, with both sides enjoying longish periods of supremacy over the other. Out of a grand total of 151 meetings, City have won 58 to Tottenham's 59. A win this season would thus not only maintain City's four point lead at the top, but also even things off perfectly.

No History Whatsoever: Spurs have been chugging along nicely since 1882 and, although they only have two league titles to their name (1951, 1961), they have built a sturdy reputation as a better bet in the lottery of knock-out football.

Like the City of old, it takes a particularly quixotic profile to become a "good cup side". They managed to enhance this hard-won reputation even further last season, by capitulating in the run-in to the Premier League, when it looked like their win at the Etihad might help catapult them past Leicester.

Gerry Gow at Wembley
Average gates in the mid-80s trailed off badly to the 20,000 mark and City played there in both 1973 and 1986 in front of crowds as low as 17,000. Throughout much of the 70s, however, White Hart Lane, with the magnificent Shelf running down the length of one side of the pitch much like the Kippax did at Maine Road, regularly housed crowds around 50,000, as Spurs sides containing Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman, Martin Peters, Alan Mullery, Glenn Hoddle, Ozzie Ardiles and the dinner-plate handed Pat Jennings strutted their stuff.

Quirks: Spurs played City twice in the 80s and 90s at Maine Road when the home side had to change kit. In 1985-86 referee George Courtney deemed their white kit and sky blue shorts too close to City's wearing of the reverse on a sunny August afternoon and the Blues were forced to wear their red and black stripes. Eight years later the weather - this time thick mist - was again the reason for City having to change again, as the TV cameras could not properly distinguish one side from the other. City changed to all maroon that afternoon. Curiously both games were won 2-1 by City.

Playlist: In 1980-81 Spurs's night time midweek visit brought John Bond's first victory as new manager, after Big Mal had been shown the door by the eager Peter Swales It was debut night for Bobby McDonald and Tommy Hutchison, Bond's double capture from Coventry, as City ran out 3-1 winners. Bond's first game in charge had been a dull home defeat to Birmingham the previous Saturday. The win over Tottenham kick-started City's season, going on a run that carried them up into mid-table, a League Cup semi-final with Liverpool and the centenary FA Cup final, against Tottenham.

The final replay - lost 3-2 by City - is remembered to this day as one of the greatest-ever FA Cup finals, with Ricky Villa's slalom winner casting an unnecessary shadow over a volleyed equaliser by Steve Mackenzie, which was one of the most majestic seen at the old stadium. The first game, ending 1-1 thanks to Hutchison scoring at both ends (just as Sterling did with unerring timing in midweek), was perhaps midfield schemer Gerry Gow's best performance in a sky blue shirt. Bought from Bristol City just too late to play in the above-mentioned league game, Gow was an absolute stalwart during City's resurrection and spent his time at Wembley snapping at the heels of danger man Ardiles.

In the early 90s, Ardiles returned to Spurs briefly as manager and produced a side with his infamous "diamond" formation, which shone more like anthracite when Spurs shipped up at Maine Road.








Ardiles had attempted to construct his side around Romanians Gica Popescu and the talented but flaky Ilie Dumitrescu, with Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinsmann further forward. With artists Micky Hazard and Nick Barmby doing the midfield holding, Spurs were as secure as a tutu in a hurricane. On 22nd October 1994, City manager Brian Horton decided to match Ardiles's wild caution-free football with his own deeply fantasy formation. The result was one of the best adverts for attacking football even these two advocates of style had mustered down the years.

City and Spurs had always been known to put on a show when playing each other, as the frequently still do, but this cavalcade of slip-sliding topped the lot.

Horton matched Ardiles with a front four of Nicky Summerbee, ex-Spurs man Paul Walsh, Niall Quinn and the man of the match left winger Peter Beagrie. City ran out 5-2 winners in the end, the first time they had reached five against Tottenham since Spurs' relegation season of 76-77 when a Peter Barnes-inspired City had hit them 5-0 at Maine Road. As then, City had prospered down the flanks. For Barnes and Tueart, read this time the names of Summerbee and Beagrie were writ large.


"This was a throwback to how the game used to be played" - BBC Match of the Day commentator, John Motson. 

With the Kippax demolished and the rain teeming down, the City and Spurs fans housed in the open got an absolute soaking but the game had been so enthralling, few people had even noticed the discomfort.

Two seasons earlier City and Spurs had produced another memorable game, this time in the FA Cup and this time for all the wrong reasons. City had reached the quarter finals for only the third time since winning the cup in 1969 (the others had been a rain drenched drubbing at the hands of Liverpool in 1988 and the never-to-be-forgotten replayed tie with Everton on the way to the final with Spurs in 1981) and a home tie with Spurs allowed the faithful to think of further progress. However, despite an early lead through Mike Sheron, Peter Reid's side imploded in time-honoured style and by the time the crowd emptied onto the pitch in scenes that the Guardian's David Lacey called "a disquieting image, turning the clock back to hooliganism's worst excesses of the 70s and 80s..." the dirty deed of another cup exit had been secured.


In truth Lacey's description was something of an over-reaction. At no time during a five minute pitch invasion by 2-300 supporters did the scene resemble Millwall's best efforts at Luton or many other notorious images from the decades before. What it did confirm was that the spectre of Hillsborough, still so fresh in the minds, had not been enough to quell certain elements from taking things to the brink. City's day and their cup hopes lay in tatters among the impressively large dollops of horse manure on Stan Gibson's pitch. On a day to supposedly celebrate the opening of Peter Swales's woeful new Platt Lane Stand and see City into the last 4, the headlines were made of grimmer stuff. City would not have the merest sniff of the FA Cup semi-finals again until 2011 when a victory over Reading took the club on to face Manchester United at Wembley, nearly 20 years later.


"There is nothing like being knocked gloriously from the cup and this for City was nothing like it." - Gideon Brooks, Daily Express

In 2003, City played in both cup competitions at White Hart Lane. Although the achievement in the FA Cup match was extraordinary, the League Cup exit (1-3) in the November before had something of the night about it too, with City managing to succumb to a goal from Tottenham's infamously shot-shy Helder Postiga. The £6.25 million transfer from Porto had not troubled the netting one single time before this game and indeed would never trouble the goal again in his time at the Lane. One goal in England and it came against City.

The second cup tie that season is well documented in many places, including the book And He's The Left Back Remember by Howard Hockin and some other fellow. City's stirring comeback will be remembered vividly by all who saw it, a testimony to the club's utter refusal to conform with anything approaching what the long-suffering fans expected from them. Things have changed a bit in the 13 years that have passed and City under Pep Guardiola threaten to become a beast that everyone can rely on to do the expected. Tottenham too have added a degree of consistency that had long been absent, as these two maverick clubs with matching reputations for the flamboyant and the frivolous look to a serious future of proving people's hopes in them to be correct.

1990-91 First game of the season after the 1990 WC. A new start for football? A brave new world of popularity? Two years later the Premier League would be inaugurated. For City, with Niall Quinn, and Spurs, with  Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker, returning World Cup heroes would add to the sparkle. By the end of this season Spurs would have won the FA Cup (against Nottingham Forest), but within five years, City would be heading to the second tier and, within seven, preparing to visit the third. For some the brave new world would be a shrieking, catastrophic false dawn. 





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