It’s often been said that football is an escape from real life. And that’s what I found in 1981 with a successful FA Cup run for Tottenham Hotspur, which took my mind off a failing marriage (at least for the day of the games).
I didn’t have to travel far (which helped reduce arguments at home), as all our games up to the semi final were in London.
The journey started with a 0–0 draw with QPR. That weekend, I found an American one cent piece in my loose change. For some reason, I kept it and took it with me to the replay, which we won easily. That was followed by comfortable wins in the following home ties against Hull, Coventry and Exeter (with the coin).
Negotiating a trip to Sheffield for the semi final proved to create a major domestic issue, so I backed down and decided not to go. Serious overcrowding (a lesson that was not learnt by the authorities, leading to the Hillsborough disaster of 1989) and a dodgy last minute penalty against us led to a replay at Highbury the following Wednesday.
It was still in my pocket the night we played Wolves in the replay. Most Tottenham fans will remember it as the night we took over Highbury, or the night Ricky Villa confirmed his return to form after injury with the final goal, a thirty yard screamer. I remember it as the night the lucky cent continued to work as I rubbed it throughout the game until the third goal went in and we were safely in the Final.
A ticket for the 100th cup final was won in the ballot, so off to Wembley I went (with the coin, of course). 1–0 down with 15 minutes left, and things were getting desperate. Out came the coin, and I started rubbing. A free kick, just outside the area, Hoddle curled the ball, hit Hutchinson’s shoulder and wrong footed Corrigan. 1–1 and a replay.
I drove home to find the house empty. No idea where the wife was, nor did I really care. I had to get up at 4am to drive to White Hart Lane to queue up for a ticket for the replay. I’d deal with the situation when I got home the next day.
By the time the following Thursday came and the return to Wembley was due, my marriage was over. The coin and Ricky did the business, and we won the cup.
And the coin? I still have it, although it has been in a drawer for years. Perhaps I should have dug it out a long time ago. Let’s see what the rest of this season brings with the lucky coin in my pocket.