After a number of meetings in the Southern League at the start of the 20th century, Albion’s Football League history with Tottenham Hotspur stretches back just 40 years to the 1977/78 season in the old Division Two.
The first encounter at White Hart Lane was watched by over 48,500 and a further 32,500 flocked to the Goldstone for the return fixture.
We renewed hostilities a couple of seasons later in the top flight and it’s a First Division match I’m looking at for this week’s column.
At the beginning of April 1983, our time in the first division was coming to an end but the FA Cup run of that season meant the players had places to fight for. In his ‘Jimmy’s Jottings’ column, Albion manager Jimmy Melia praises the “attitude and spirit” of the players, despite the precarious league position. He is “sure we will be able to fight our way out of the bottom three before the end of the season”.
In keeping with the positive attitude being shown by the players, the game itself was a thriller. Spurs had a certain Chris Hughton in their very attacking line-up, that included Steve Archibald, Alan Brazil, Mark Falco and Terry Gibson in a four-man strikeforce.
Albion had Graeme Moseley in goal, behind a back-four of Steve Gatting, Chris Ramsey, Steve Foster and Gary Stevens. Midfield duties were shared by Jimmy Case, Graham Pearce, Gordon Smith and Gary Howlett. Up front, Michael Robinson was supported by Terry Connor, in just his second Seagulls appearance.
Spurs took the lead in the first half, through Graham Roberts, and the score stayed like that until half-time. Despite a valiant effort in the second period, it looked as though Albion’s industry would go unrewarded. A victory seemed even more unlikely when Ramsey was sent off with just eight minutes remaining.
Then came the real turning point. Spurs’ Tony Galvin suffered a rush of blood to the head and was also sent off. As he was making his way down the tunnel, Albion swept forward and Steve Gatting popped up to beat Ray Clemence from the corner of the box.
The drama was not over. With just three minutes left on the clock, Albion substitute Gerry Ryan leapt to knock in the winner. This sparked scenes of bedlam on the terraces, reminiscent of the trouble at the same fixture in 1978.
Albion held on for the victory and Melia was delighted with the performance. As we know, it was not enough to save us from relegation but two weeks after that game, the players again dug deep to win the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday.
Hughton’s men will need similar reserves of character to get a result on Saturday evening.
Spurs may well be fatigued after their Champions League exploits and Albion will be buoyed by the recovery from a two-goal deficit at St Mary’s last Monday. It has all the markings of another thriller.
HAVE YOU READ?