Tottenham Hotspur has a long history in English and European football. The team from north London were the first English club to win European silverware in 1963. However, in recent decades Tottenham has become a club known for their near misses rather than success at home and abroad.
Harry Kane, the history maker
Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane has established himself as one of the world’s best number nines in world football. In September of 2021, Kane became the first player ever to score hattricks in the Champions League, the Europa League and the Europa Conference League.
So near yet so far away in 2019
The closest that Spurs have come to European Cup glory was in 2019 when the north London outfit suffered a 2-0 final defeat against fellow Premier League team Liverpool in Madrid. Mauricio Pochettino’s team had completed an extraordinary comeback from two goals down to beat Ajax 3-2 in the semi-final.
Spurs endured a nightmare start to the final, though, as referee Damir Skomina adjudged Moussa Sissoko to have handled the ball inside his own penalty area just 24 seconds into the game. After major deliberation, Liverpool’s star forward Mohamed Salah stepped up and scored with the resulting spot-kick in the second minute. The goal was the second-fastest ever in a Champions League final.
Tottenham dominated possession in the first half but failed to create any clear-cut chances. Liverpool were happy to hold on to their lead.
The second period slightly provided more in the way of chances, with Liverpool’s James Milner firing wide with one of the better opportunities. Reds head coach Jurgen Klopp made a key substitution around the hour mark, bringing on Belgian striker Divock Origi for Brazilian international Roberto Firmino.
Spurs pushed forward towards the end of the game as they searched for that elusive leveller. However, their attacking tactics left the team from north London exposed in defence, which led to substitute Origi firing home a second goal for Liverpool on 87 minutes to clinch the Reds sixth European Cup triumph. The trophy was the first of Klopp’s Liverpool career.
The first British winners of a European trophy in 1963
Tottenham may not have won the European Cup, but in 1963, the team from north London became the first British team ever to win a European trophy in the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Tottenham hammered Spanish team Atletico Madrid 5-1 in the competition’s final.
Spurs took just 16 minutes to open the scoring through iconic forward Jimmy Greaves before Scottish international John White extended the lead on 35 minutes. Atletico looked to be back in the game early in the second half, as winger Enrique Collar scored from the penalty spot.
Spurs restored their two-goal lead 67 minutes through winger Terry Dyson before Greaves added a fourth, and Dyson put the icing on the cake with a fifth goal with just five minutes left on the clock.
Mixed fortunes in the UEFA Cup in the 1970s
The 1963 Cup Winners’ Cup triumph was followed up in the 1970s by Tottenham winning the UEFA Cup, now the Europa League, in 1972.
Spurs’ first UEFA Cup success in 1972 was against fellow English team Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was the first time two teams from the same country had faced each other in a UEFA final. Tottenham defeated Wolves 3-2 on aggregate to claim the trophy.
The team from north London recorded a 2-1 win at Molineux, especially remembered for a late long-distance winning goal from Martin Chilvers. The second leg at White Hart Lane finished 1-1 with Alan Mullery on target for the home side and Dave Wagstaffe scoring for the team from the Midlands.
Spurs returned to the UEFA Cup final just two years later. However, this time it was heartbreak rather than heroics, as they went down to a 4-2 aggregate defeat against Dutch giants Feyenoord.
Mike England gave Tottenham the lead on 39 minutes in the first leg before Wim van Hanegem equalised just before half-time. Tottenham regained the lead 64 minutes in, as Feyenoord defender Rinus Israel put past his own goalkeeper. The visitors rescued a draw with five minutes left on the clock through a Theo de Jong effort.
Meanwhile, the second leg produced a 2-0 home win, with defender Wim Rijsbergen and winger Peter Ressel scoring the goals. Proceedings on the pitch were marred by trouble in the stands, with Spurs fans rioting. It was a bad day all around for Tottenham.
Back to glory in the UEFA Cup in 1984
It took Spurs ten years to return to the UEFA Cup final. Still, the wait was worth it as the team from north London recorded a penalty kick victory over Belgian outfit Anderlecht after the tie produced an aggregate score of 2-2.
Tottenham took the lead in Brussels in the first leg through a Paul Miller effort. However, they were pegged back with Anderlecht equalising five minutes from the end through Morten Olsen.
The second leg also produced a 1-1 draw. A late equaliser from Graham Roberts took the game into extra time after Alexandre Czerniatynski had given Anderlecht the lead on the hour mark.
The 30-minute period of extra time couldn’t separate the pair, so the final went to a penalty shootout. Tottenham came out on top courtesy of a 4-3 penalty shootout victory and claimed the UEFA Cup for the second time.
Tottenham remain the nearly men of European football
Spurs fans of an older vintage were lucky to witness their team winning European trophies. Unfortunately, for the younger generations, it has been a case of their team nearly being good enough to win silverware.
The north London club may not have won a European trophy in recent years, but they will always have the memories of those successes in the 60s, 70s and 80s to look back on with fondness. Who knows, the younger generation may get to see their team lift a European trophy in the coming years.