“It’s a night for strong nerves,” said ITV commentator Brian Moore as kick-off approached in the second leg of the 1984 UEFA Cup final. The tie was tantalisingly poised as Tottenham Hotspur had secured a 1-1 draw in the away leg in Brussels against the defending holders, Anderlecht.
Over 46,000 fans were crammed inside White Hart Lane, willing their team on. This sizzling night would go down in Tottenham legend, the team claiming their third, and to date their last, European trophy. With each minute of that epic night the tension levels would increase another notch, as Spurs navigated the twists and turns of an anxious evening all the way to the decisive penalty shootout.
Spurs had finished the previous Division One season in fourth place, a significant margin behind the champions Liverpool, but one of a number of teams challenging for the minor places who would finish within a handful of points of each other. It was a second successive fourth place for Tottenham, with a team that seemed to be steadily building.
Under the stewardship of Keith Burkinshaw, Spurs boasted a fine array of playing talent. With the assuredness of Ray Clemence at the back supported by Graham Roberts, Gary Mabbutt and Paul Miller, the back line was as strong as most in England. Captain Steve Perryman provided a confident midfield anchor, while the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Garth Crooks, Ossie Ardiles and the prolific Steve Archibald captured the headlines going forwards. There was a delightful blend of talent and grit in the team; an ideal balance.
Graham Roberts was the first to take the lonely walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot. A no-nonsense, tough-tackling centre-half, Roberts was the captain for the night in place of the suspended Perryman. In front of an expectant, edgy crowd packed into the terrace behind the goal, he showed no visible signs of nerves. Taking a long run-up, he confidently fired a firm, unstoppable penalty into the top left corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way to get Tottenham off to a positive start.
Amid the roars of the crowd, the responsibility for Anderlecht’s first penalty would be in the experienced hands of Morten Olsen. Where Roberts had exuded confidence and sureness of mind, Olsen looked slightly hesitant. His penalty was heading for the net to Parks’ left but lacked enough power, giving the novice goalkeeper all the opportunity he needed. Springing to his left, he palmed the Dane’s shot away to the guttural roars of the watching crowd, celebrating with their young keeper.
There was still a long way to go, but Tottenham had made the first move and seized the early initiative. It was now firmly in their hands, and the excitement reverberated around the stadium.
Joining Spurs in the 1983/84 UEFA Cup were the league runners-up Watford, along with Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa. Of that quartet, Forest and Spurs were by far the most well-equipped for a realistic assault on claiming the prize. The former had significant European pedigree at the very highest level, while Spurs had reached the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals a couple of years before, narrowly being eliminated by Barcelona, and with the squad at their disposal this time around, there was significant optimism about another prolonged run.
This time around, Spurs began their European campaign in ruthless style. Drawn against the Irish part-timers of Drogheda, Tottenham showed no mercy, winning 14-0 on aggregate. By October and the second round, the quality of the opposition was enhanced somewhat.
Dutch giants Feyenoord would surely provide a far sterner test for the Londoners. Playing at home in the first leg, though, Spurs laid siege to their opponents, racing into a 4-0 lead in the first half – Steve Archibald and Tony Galvin helping themselves to a pair of goals each. A slackening of the intensity saw Feyenoord mount a second-half revival, however. Johan Cruyff pulled one back 15 minutes from time, and minutes later it was 4-2.
What had been a straightforward evening had taken on a new perspective, but any fears were short-lived. Two weeks later, Spurs saw out a 2-0 win in Rotterdam to ease into the last 16. Awaiting them in their third-round clash, only another fortnight into the busy autumn schedule, were Bayern Munich – victors over Spurs in the previous year’s Cup Winners’ Cup.
For the first time, Spurs had to overcome a deficit after the away leg had been lost 1-0. A truly special European night at White Hart Lane in December 1983 saw a classic encounter between two sides filled with quality. Archibald levelled things on aggregate early in the second half, and when Mark Falco scored the winner just minutes from time, the celebrations raised the roof.
Things were slightly more straightforward in the quarter-final tie with Austria Vienna, who were kept at arms’ length more or less throughout, with Tony Parks now having replaced the injured Clemence in the Spurs goal. Then followed an edgy semi-final with Hajduk Split, which Tottenham edged on away goals. They were through to their first European final in a decade.
Come the final flourishes of the 1983/84 season, however, Tottenham’s domestic form had taken a dip. As they stepped out at White Hart Lane for this dramatic night, they had slipped to an eighth-place finish in Division One, their lowest for three seasons. The success of their season was now all dependant on the outcome of this European final.
Mark Falco was next to step up for Tottenham. One of several local products in the side, he had made his way through the youth ranks to reach the first team in 1979 and would play eight seasons in the Spurs attack, becoming a popular figure at White Hart Lane. He thumped a left-footed penalty high into the net, scoring with minimum fuss to put Spurs 2-0 up in the shoot-out. He trotted gingerly back to the centre circle, his muscles seizing up after the exertions of the evening.
The pressure was firmly on Anderlecht’s second penalty now, but it was similarly successful. Defender Georges Grün scored effortlessly, sending Parks the wrong way to make it 2-1.
Managed by the iconic former Belgian international Paul van Himst, and captained by the legendary Danish defender Morten Olsen, Anderlecht had a squad filled with quality. They could also call on the likes of fellow Danish maestro Frank Arnesen, the burgeoning talents of the homegrown Enzo Scifo, and the steadying experience of Franky Vercauteren among a number of Belgian internationals. The previous season, Anderlecht had beaten Benfica 2-1 on aggregate to win the UEFA Cup, and were on course for a successful defence.
They had reached the final in controversial circumstances, however, the true nature of which wouldn’t reach the public domain until years later. Facing Forest in the semi-final, they lost the away leg 2-0 before overturning that deficit at home in the return to win 3-0. Their second goal, though, was the result of a dubious penalty award, and when Erwin Vandenbergh scored Anderlecht’s third two minutes from the end, the Belgians were ahead on aggregate for the first time.
Later came the most controversial moment of all when an apparently legitimate Forest strike in the last minute was disallowed. It was an effort that would’ve sent the English side through on away goals, prompting a domestic final as had been the case when Spurs had won the competition in 1972 against Wolves. Some 13 years later, in 1997, it would be revealed that the Anderlecht chairman had paid a bribe of £27,000 to the referee in order to ensure his team’s progress in the semi-final with Forest.
The result at the time stood, though, Anderlecht taking their place in the final. Their home first leg was an intense match that Tottenham would certainly feel they got the better of on balance. A Spurs fan had been shot dead the night before in a Brussels bar – a man known to a few of the players – which undoubtedly served to fire up the Tottenham squad. They ripped into their opponents, creating numerous chances only to fail to convert, Falco and Archibald both spurning decent opportunities.
Paul Miller, a feisty centre-back, gave Spurs the lead midway through the first half with an unstoppable header direct from a Micky Hazard corner. Anderlecht would equalise through Olsen in the final few minutes to take away some of the gloss. To make matters worse, it came as a result of a Parks error, the keeper spilling a relatively innocuous shot into Olsen’s path. But nevertheless, the prevailing feeling was that Spurs held the narrow initiative ahead of the return in London a fortnight later.
The disappointment lay in the fact that Tottenham hadn’t taken control to the extent that their performance had merited. The tie really ought to have been over, rather than hanging delicately in the balance. Sadly, captain Steve Perryman picked up his second yellow card of the campaign and would miss the second leg as a result; two yellow cards in 11 matches producing a disproportionate impact for the Spurs skipper.
Perryman’s absence would be added to that of the injured Glenn Hoddle, who missed both legs of the final entirely. Fellow injury victim Ray Clemence did take a place on the bench as backup to Parks, purely for emergency cover; really, he was in no fit state to take an active part. Also missing in Brussels was Ossie Ardiles, but he too would be on the bench at White Hart Lane.
Future England international midfielder Gary Stevens stepped up to for Tottenham’s third penalty. As with both Roberts and Falco, he too sent Jacky Munaron the wrong way with another confident strike to make it 3-1. As Stevens wheeled away, swirling his arms in delight and relief, the pressure remained firmly on the Belgians.
Anderlecht’s third penalty taker was at the start of his career. The 18-year-old Enzo Scifo would go on to be one of his country’s finest players, and a key part of a talented generation. On this night, he carried the hopes of his team on his young shoulders. Amid the jeers and whistles of the crowd, he side-footed the ball to his left, sending Parks the wrong way and showing no sign of the pressure bearing down on him to make it 3-2.
Burkinshaw had seen a number of successes during his time as Tottenham manager. He had overseen promotion from the second tier in 1978 and had pushed his team on to achieve glory in two successive FA Cup victories at the start of the 1980s, inspired by the radical signings of Ardiles and Ricky Villa. He had announced ahead of the second leg of the final that he would be stepping down at the end of the season. The match now gained additional significance for his players determined to send him off with one more triumph.
It was a far cagier match than the first in Brussels had been, with Tottenham suffering from the injuries and suspensions affecting their line-up. There was still an air of positivity having played so well in Belgium, though, but on the hour mark that positivity would be punctured.
An Anderlecht breakaway was finished in confident style by Alex Czerniatynski, lifting the ball over the onrushing Parks to put them in front in a tie that had initially seemed beyond them. Where the atmosphere had been confident before, it was now tense and edgy. The tide had turned against Tottenham.
Steve Archibald, the prolific Scottish forward, was the next to make his way to the rapidly deteriorating penalty spot for Tottenham. He had been a key part of Spurs’ attack for the previous four years, scoring almost a goal every other game. This would turn out to be his final match for Tottenham before moving to Barcelona for the new season.
His final act in a Tottenham shirt was to find the net with his penalty. He fired to Munaron’s right, and though this would be the first of Tottenham’s penalties that the goalkeeper would read correctly, he was unable to stop Archibald’s effort from finding the back of the net.
It was now 4-2 to Spurs, meaning that it was already sudden-death for Anderlecht. Their next penalty taker was the vastly experienced left-winger Franky Vercauteren, the team captain. As the crowd noise hit a crescendo, he sent a gentle shot down the middle, hitting the net in the space Parks had vacated as he anticipated a shot to the corner. To audible groans, the match would go to the final round of kicks at 4-3 to Tottenham. It was match point to Spurs, though, who would have the chance to win it with the next penalty.
As the clock ticked relentlessly towards the end of the match, far too quickly from a Tottenham perspective, the nerves jangled with every moment. Fifteen minutes from the end, Burkinshaw threw on the half-fit Ardiles in an attempt to rescue the game. Spurs’ pressure on the Belgian defence increased along with their desperation.
Archibald was denied by a diving Munaron in the Anderlecht goal, before Ardiles rattled a shot off the crossbar from close range with only eight minutes remaining when it had seemed easier to score. In these agonising moments, as the fans urged their team forwards, the nagging feeling was growing that it just wasn’t to be. That for all that had gone before, the night would end in disappointment.
But Anderlecht struggled to clear their lines in the aftermath of Ardiles’ crossbar rattling shot and the ball fell to Hazard who lofted it into the area. Roberts, up from the back in these desperate moments, was barrelling forwards and controlled it on his chest as he surged past the fumbling defenders. He stumbled slightly as he did so but composed himself sufficiently to coolly fire home. The scores were level once again.
With a now raucous atmosphere, the players stirred themselves for an additional 30 minutes of extra-time. Given the exhaustion on both sides, it was perhaps inevitable that the stalemate would not be broken in the additional period, and the match slid inexorably towards the inevitability of a penalty shoot-out.
The fifth penalty taker for Spurs was the unlikely figure of the right-back Danny Thomas. His would be a career curtailed by injury, but here was an opportunity for the young defender to write his name into Spurs folklore. He couldn’t have expected to have been thrust into such a position. The absent Glenn Hoddle would surely have taken one of the penalties, as would a fully fit Ardiles.
But it was Thomas who strode forward with the chance to seal the UEFA Cup for Tottenham. He shot to Munaron’s right. It wasn’t a bad penalty, far from it, but it was clear from the moment he’d hit it and Munaron began his dive that the keeper was going to save it. He pushed the ball wide to safety, leaving a distraught Thomas burying his head in his hands, his moment of glory snatched away in an instant.
As he trudged back to rejoin his teammates, who to a man consoled and attempted to boost the distraught defender, the crowd sang “There’s only one Danny Thomas” in a stirring act of both consolation and defiance. But Spurs still led, and if they could keep out Anderlecht’s final penalty, the trophy would be theirs. The stars had aligned for Parks. The moment for him to expunge the error that had resulted in Anderlecht’s first leg goal had arrived.
Parks had begun the season as the understudy to the vastly experienced Clemence – a multiple European trophy winner from his days at Liverpool. A local boy, Parks was a tough, confident man. His fearlessness and shot-stopping ability counterbalanced his lack of experience at the top level.
Come the night that would define his career, he was still a fresh-faced, eager 21-year-old making his way in the game. Although he’d made a couple of isolated appearances before the season, he enjoyed his first prolonged spell in the Spurs goal when he came into the team in January 1984 after Clemence had broken his collarbone in an FA Cup clash with Fulham, and would play out the remainder of the season. Parks was therefore a part of the latter stages of the European run, but it would be in the final kicks of the season that his natural ability would make him an ideal penalty stopper.
Anderlecht’s final penalty would be taken by Arnor Guðjohnsen, whose son Eidur was briefly a Spurs player. He shot to his left, Parks’ right. The keeper dived full length and tipped the ball past the post. The inexperienced stopper had snatched the victory for Spurs. He leapt back to his feet and raced arms aloft towards his celebrating teammates. It was a victory that over the course of the two legs was fully deserved, though it was one that Tottenham had been forced to fight to the last kick to secure.
Graham Roberts would lift the trophy as stand-in captain, a fitting reward for one of the most pivotal players on the night. His performance would go down in Spurs’ history, overshadowed only by the penalty-saving heroics of the young understudy in goal who had sealed victory at the very last.
By Aidan Williams @yad_williams