The forthcoming Europa League fixture against Anderlecht cannot help but conjure up memories of the 1984 UEFA Cup Final played over two legs home and away. This of course was in a time before neutral ground one off finals and back when the UEFA cup tournament was actually the pre-cursor to what is now the Champions League without the need for group stages. Back then if you finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th you entered the UEFA Cup tournament which is testament to how hard a competition it used to be to win.

So permit me a moment of indulgence and this trip down memory lane to thank a couple of centre backs, and of course a stand in goalkeeper, for our victory that year. The first leg was just a vague and blurry recollection for me. I wasn’t part of the fortunate few that made the trip to Belgium as I was still fairly young; and as the game was not even televised live as far as I can recall (we had to wait for the midweek sports highlights programme that evening) I went off to play football instead to keep me occupied, breaking off from time to time to sneak to the car and catch some radio commentary as I just couldn’t stand the suspense either way. All I remember about that game is that Paul Miller had put us ahead with a header only for Anderlecht to equalise with a scrappy goal. That is my sole recollection of that leg, although getting a 1-1 draw after the first leg to take home to WHL put us in such a great position.

Game day for the second leg came and it meant a day off work (don’t worry I booked it off properly). There’s no way I would have been able to contribute anything useful for my employer anyway on that day. The nerves would have had me likely replicating a monopoly chance card all day and ensuring a “bank error in your favour collect £xxx” that would have proved costly for me and my bosses. So a friend and me had a free day and we killed some time playing snooker (yes a popular and credible pastime in the 80’s) and got to WHL for about 3pm I think for a 7.45pm KO. You see you could still pay at the turnstile back then, I know that’s just crazy right, and yes there was already a queue building. We joined the Paxton road queue. It was sunny. We sat on the pavement reading programmes, sharing conversations until the turnstiles opened at about 6pm. Once inside we made our way to the front of the shelf but not in our usual spots for some strange reason.

Then the game finally kicked off. Spurs in white. Under the lights in a European game with the WHL crowd making that noise was something to behold. But the fans had a shock when the game didn’t go to plan. Anderlecht took the lead. Silence. You could hear the collective intake of breath, the puffing of cheeks and the hard blow of air from everyone. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This can’t be right. Wasn’t that guy off side or something? We’re at home……Pause….. Composure…. Sing up….. Let’s go. The stadium roared and the WHL engine ignited back into action.

I’m sure we pummelled them after that. It felt like we did anyway, and the longer it went on without us scoring the more anxious everyone got. Then late in the game the ball fell to Ossie just a couple of yards out. This is it……yes……no….groan…what? How did that not go in? What? The bar? He was two yards out!! Dear God we are never going to score…..we are going to blow it aren’t we……. I just know……………YEEEEESSSSSSS!! Eruption. The ground shook. Players, fans, everyone went mental as good old Micky Hazard had the presence of mind to put the resulting cleared ball straight back in to the penalty area and Graham Roberts pounced. Chest, jink, knock, back of the net. Surely we would go on and win it now.

Extra time was an agonising stalemate and so on to penalties. If only Ray Clemence was fit. We got this Parks kid in goal. Now we’re really gonna blow it aren’t we? Come on You Spurs. You can do it. And so it went…..Roberts first, 1-0. Then they missed their first penalty. That’s it then. All we have to do is keep scoring and we’ve done it……Falco, check; Stevens, check; Archibald, check; now it’s up to you Danny. Everyone braced themselves for the almighty cheer that would go up when this one hit the net and we’d win the cup. Come on!!! …….Nooooo! What? Again? Danny Thomas had his head in his hands by the penalty spot almost inconsolable. Their keeper had guessed right. Unlike today though where some fans might likely be spewing expletives at the player, on this occasion the crowd sung together “there’s only one Danny Thomas” in a show of defiant unity and both Roberts and Archibald gave him a gee up and got him back to the centre circle.

That was me done. The emotion that was bursting to get out on that kick subsided and I was flat. I thought we’d blown it. I totally lost track of the fact that if Parks saved the Anderlecht 5th penalty that we’d still win… and he only went and bloody saved it! Eidur Gudjohnsen’s dad fluffed it and the ground erupted even louder than before and it took me a split second to realise and I was so happy I cried tears of joy. I still to this day regret that split second delay in realisation detracting from me joining at the same precise moment the spontaneous euphoria that everyone felt. But hey, I can live with it. I was there on one of the most glorious nights that WHL has ever seen and oh how I wish we can all see some more nights like that again soon. Inter Milan in the Champions League not so long ago was great but it didn’t even get close to that UEFA Cup Final night.

So I just wanted to thank that centre back pairing of Roberts and Miller and the heroics of a stand in goalkeeper, because moments of glory can throw up the unlikeliest of heroes. And whilst Anderlecht visiting again will certainly bring back some memories, I doubt though that it will conjure up the same feelings of that wonderful night in 1984…..”Mine eyes have seen the glory of the cups at WHL”………..

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