For your auricular pleasure
The cup-final songs are excellent this year. Go For It City features a virtuoso whistle solo by Trevor ‘At His’ Peake …
… while Chas, Dave and the drummer from Chas ‘n’ Dave celebrate “David Pleat and his blue-and-white army” in their usual vocally dexterous style. A deep cut for those who enjoyed Rabbit.
Both clubs had to make decisions at right-back. Coventry’s Brian Borrows hurt his knee against Southampton last week and as expected misses out. He’s currently in hospital, recovering from an operation. David Phillips moves back from midfield to deputise; Micky Gynn, usually a livewire sub, starts in his place. Spurs go with Chris Hughton; their first choice Gary Stevens is only fit enough to make the bench.
Sky Blues winger Dave Bennett will be hoping it’s second-time lucky in the cup final, having been on the losing side with Manchester City in 1981 against today’s opponents. Tottenham artist-in-residence Glenn Hoddle, who has designs on a move to the continent, will be desperate to sign off with a flourish.
Up front, Clive Allen will be hoping to add to his unreal haul of 48 goals in all competitions this season. He’s Tottenham’s most likely match-winner, and will be hoping for better luck than he had as a QPR player in 1982, when he twisted his ankle very early on and missed both second half and replay.
Coventry will look to their most recognisable name, Cyrille Regis, for heroics. But it should be noted that the much less heralded Keith Houchen is their cup go-to guy this season, having scored the winner at Manchester United, two at Sheffield Wednesday, and another against Leeds in the semi.
Coventry City: Steve Ogrizovic, David Phillips, Brian Kilcline, Trevor Peake, Greg Downs, Micky Gynn, Nick Pickering, Lloyd McGrath, Dave Bennett, Cyrille Regis, Keith Houchen.
Subs: Graham Rodger, Steve Sedgley.
Tottenham Hotspur: Ray Clemence, Chris Hughton, Richard Gough, Gary Mabbutt, Mitchell Thomas, Paul Allen, Steve Hodge, Ossie Ardiles, Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle, Clive Allen.
Subs: Nico Claesen, Gary Stevens.
Referee: Neil Midgley (Manchester).
On Tuesday 15 December 1970, the 12th episode of the second series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC1 at 10.10pm. Several sketches destined to become legendary were premiered that evening. Spam, for example, or the one about the Hungarian phrasebook that deliberately mistranslates “Can you direct me to the station?” as “Please fondle my buttocks”. Cutting-edge entertainment that earned a thumbs-up from this very paper:
“Monty Python gets better and better!”
“My hovercraft is full of eels.”
Also part of that episode: World Forum, with guests Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Che Guevara and Mao Zedong. Ostensibly a summit meeting of political heavyweights, it quickly transpires that World Forum is in fact a quiz, and most of the questions are about football, stumping the communist intellectuals entirely. Quizmaster Eric Idle asks Guevara: “Coventry City last won the FA Cup in what year?” A look of bewilderment washes across the revolutionary’s face. “I’m not surprised you didn’t get that,” Idle smiles unctuously. “It was in fact a trick question, Coventry City have never won the FA Cup.”
Sixteen-and-a-half years on, Coventry finally have the chance to ruin that particular punchline for eternity. They’ve reached the FA Cup final for the very first time in their 104-year history. In some style, too, winning at Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday, then seeing off Billy Bremner’s resurgent Leeds United in a five-goal thriller at Hillsborough. George Curtis and John Sillett’s team have enlivened this year’s FA Cup from the get-go; only the partial would begrudge them a maiden victory today. They go into this final as underdogs, and as such a fair chunk of the nation will be behind them this afternoon.
Mind you, plenty of neutrals will be behind Tottenham Hotspur as well. David Pleat’s team have been this season’s most entertaining side by some distance, Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle mesmerising, Clive Allen relentless. But much good it’s done them so far. Everton outlasted them in the race for the title, while Arsenal won a Littlewoods Cup semi-final marathon of such rich narrative bedlam that somebody very clever will surely base a book around it some day. In a parallel universe, Spurs are looking to complete an unprecedented domestic treble; back on Planet Reality, they’re searching for that elusive piece of silverware, just one prize to reward their stellar efforts during the season. Most expect them to get the job done today, especially as Tottenham’s record in FA Cup finals is sheer perfection: seven wins out of seven.
But this is the FA Cup, and you just never know. Kick off is at 3pm. It’s on!