The season was 1976-77. Tottenham had won the League Cup in 1971 & 1973, the UEFA Cup in 1972 and finished losing finalists in 1974. They’d become the first English club to play in three major European finals. They had not been out of the top division since they came up in 1950. They had not suffered relegation since 1935.
In the previous season (1975-76) they finished 9th, but in 1974-75 they stayed up by just 1pt.
Manager, Terry Neill resigned from the club and made the short journey to Highbury, during the summer. The club appointed Keith Burkinshaw, who was then First Team Coach.
Barry Daines (age 25) (Played in 19 games). Made his debut in 1971, became the regular choice once Jennings left
Jimmy Holmes (age 22) Left Back (Played in 8 matches). Irishman, spent 7 years at Coventry before joining Spurs
Terry Naylor (age 27) Centre-back, (Played in 40 matches). Joined Spurs in 1969 and stayed until 1979 when he moved to Charlton
Keith Osgood (age 21) Centre-back. (Played in 42 matches) 3rd top scorer with 7 goals, 6 of which came from the spot. Joined Spurs in 1972 and left at the end of this season.
Steve Perryman (age 24) Full-back/Midfield. (Played in 42 matches). Joined the club in 1969 and eventually left in 1986. Made a club record 854 appearances during his career.
Don McAllister (age 23) Centre-back/ Full back. (Played 10 matches). Spent 5 years at Bolton before joining Spurs in 1975.
Willie Young (age 24) Centre-back. (Played 19 matches). Bought from Aberdeen in 1975, after spending 5 years there. He then joined Arsenal in 1977.
John Gorman (age 27) Left-back. (Played in 15 matches). Started at Celtic, playing just 1 match, then moved to Carlisle. Joined Spurs in 1976 and stayed for 3 years. He later went on to be Assistant to Glen Hoddle as England manager.
Andy Keeley (age 20) Defender. (Played in 5 matches). Joined Tottenham in 1974 and left at the end of this season.
Mick Stead (age 19) Full-back. (Played in 8 matches). Joined Spurs in 1974 and left at the end of this season.
Alfie Conn (age 24) Midfield. (Played in 12 matches). Scottish player who spent 6 years at Rangers before moving to Spurs in 1974. Following this season he moved back up to Celtic.
Glenn Hoddle (age 19) Midfield. (Played in 39 matches) Scored 4 goals. Joined Spurs as a schoolboy apprentice in 1974. Went on to play 377 games for Spurs during an 8 year career.
John Pratt (age 28) Midfield. (Played in 30 games) Scored 4 goals. Joined the club in 1965, and went on to make 331 appearances up to 1979 when he moved to USA.
Ralph Coates (age 30) Midfield/Winger. (Played in 28 matches), scored 3 goals. Spent 7 years at Burnley before joining Spurs in 1971. Had a 7 year career at White Hart Lane, before moving to Leyton Orient in 1978.
Jimmy Neighbour (age 25) Winger. (Played in 7 matches). Joined the club as an apprentice in 1966. He moved to Norwich in September 1976.
Neil McNab (age 19) Midfield. (Played in 10 matches). Moved to Spurs from Morton in 1974. Spent 4 years there before moving to Bolton.
Gerry Armstrong (age 22) Striker. (Played in 20 matches) Scored 3 goals. Northern Ireland international, joined Spurs in 1975. Made 84 appearances in 5 seasons.
Chris Jones (age 20) Striker. (Played in 30 matches) Top scorer with 9. Joined as an apprentice in 1973 and spent 9 years at the Lane, before moving to Man City and then Crystal Palace.
Peter Taylor (age 23) Winger. (Played in 31 matches) Scoring 8 goals. Began his career at Southend in 1970, before moving to Crystal Palace. Joined Tottenham in 1976. Spent 4 years there before joining Leyton Orient in 1980.
Ian Moores (age 22) Striker. (Played in 16 matches), scoring 2 goals. Began his career at Stoke in 1974, before moving to Spurs in 1976. Only spent 2 years there, before moving to Leyton Orient and then Bolton.
John Duncan (age 27) Striker. (Played in just 9 matches), scoring 4 goals. Played for Dundee for 7 years before joining Spurs in 1975. Scored 53 goals in 103 appearances before moving to Derby in 1979.
The season started badly with a 1-3 loss at Portman Road against Ipswich.
4 days later they were beaten at home 0-2, by Newcastle. The following weekend they were again goalless in a 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough. Oddly enough, they were unlikely to be too concerned with 1pt from 3 games, as the team immediately below them was QPR, who’d missed out on the title by 1pt barely three months earlier.
The following weekend, Spurs were involved in a ‘Match of The Day’ classic against Manchester United. 0-2 down at half-time, Ian Moores, Ralph Coates and John Pratt gave them a famous 3-2 victory at Old Trafford
This was followed by a 1-0 home win against Leeds. Only 5 games in and 13th place didn’t seem too bad. However, they were to win just once in the next 10 matches.
0-2 defeat to Liverpool and 2-4 defeat to West Brom came either side of a 1-1 home draw with Norwich, along with a humiliating loss to Third Division Wrexham, 2-3 at White Hart Lane in the League Cup. Then came their worst nightmare.
Derby v Spurs, 16th October 1976
Derby County, twice winners of the title during the previous 6 seasons, had yet to register a win in this particular season. They’d been in the running for the title the year before, yet had only managed to find the net 7 times in 8 matches. Derby went 2-0 up early on but Spurs pulled things back as Osgood scored from the spot and Steve Perryman grabbed another, and they went in at half-time just 2-3 down. But in the second half, Derby ran riot as Bruce Rioch scored 4 goals in an 8-2 win. Derby manager Dave Mackay felt almost embarrassed as the goals went in, especially being an ex-Spurs man with one of his friends, Pat Jennings, conceding so many.
Remarkably, Spurs bounced back to beat Birmingham at home, 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Keith Osgood, but picked up just 1pt from the next five matches. Some of the results during that period were significant. They lost at home 0-1 to Coventry, and drew 3-3 at home to Everton, where Osgood again scored from the spot with McAllister and Pratt finding the net.
But the next three results hurt the most.
West Ham, Bristol City and Sunderland were all in the bottom four, along with Spurs. Spurs lost all three matches. 3-5 to West Ham, 0-1 to Bristol City and 1-2 to Sunderland. They were lying 2nd from bottom, with just 9pts from 15 matches (only 2pts for a win in those days). The signs weren’t good as they’d conceded 34 goals already.
The West Ham game was a classic as goals from Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, Trevor Brooking, Billy Jennings, Billy Bonds and Alan Curbishley helped the home side race into a 5-1 lead, before Hoddle and yet another penalty from Osgood
During December they mounted a recovery, losing just once in five matches. Manchester City visited White Hart Lane and two goals from Peter Taylor gave the home side a 2-goal lead. His first was a fine individual goal, the second a tap-in after Corrigan parried Willie Young’s shot. In the second half, Brian Kidd pounced on a mistake by Jennings before Paul Power took advantage of poor defence to earn a 2-2 draw.
Ralph Coates goal at Leicester wasn’t enough to stop them losing 1-2 but they managed to grab a point in the North London derby as John Duncan and Willie Young cancelled out two Malcolm MacDonald goals in a 2-2 draw in front of the biggest crowd of the season at White Hart Lane.
At the end of 1976, Tottenham were 3rd from bottom, just behind Bristol City on goal difference and 1pt behind QPR.
Spurs problems centred mainly around Terry Neill’s insistence on selling off the family jewels. Mike England, Martin Peters Alan Gilzean and Martin Chivers had all left. Yet, players like Keith Osgood, Jimmy Neighbour, John Duncan and Ian Moores just weren’t good enough. One of the benefits of this clear-out, though, was that it allowed young players like Glenn Hoddle and Chris Jones to emerge.
1977 didn’t bring the turnaround they’d been hoping for, although it started promisingly enough as Duncan and an Osgood penalty saw them gain revenge on West Ham with a 2-1 win.
The FA Cup may have seemed to be a welcome distraction as they travelled to Ninian Park to meet a Cardiff City side placed in the bottom half of Division Two. Peter Sayer scored the only goal of the game, which was recently voted 2nd best goal scored by Cardiff in the FA Cup
Back in the league a trip to Loftus Road ended in a 1-2 defeat to QPR, before a Peter Taylor goal gave them a 1-0 win at home to Ipswich. They were now unbeaten in 5 games at home and this was probably their best result of the season as Ipswich were one point off the top at the time. At the end of January Spurs were still in the bottom four and knew February would be crucial
Spurs had four matches in February and lost them all. After beating Manchester United in September they had lost all 10 of their subsequent away games and looked incapable of turning things around. Two David Mills goals gave Middlesbro a 2-0 win at the beginning of the month and then Manchester United gained revenge with a 3-1 win at White Hart Lane. Lou Macari gave the visitors the lead as Spurs defensive frailties were again in evidence. McIlroy scored the second as United attacked at will. Spurs got a goal back before half-time when a Glenn Hoddle shot was deflected in by Chris Jones. If the home fans were hoping for a comeback in the second half it never materialised as Gordon Hill completed the scoring.
Gerry Armstrong scored his first goal of the season in a 1-2 defeat at Leeds and with Bristol City and West Ham winning, Spurs dropped to 2nd from bottom. Worse was to follow as Sunderland, bottom of the table with just 9 goals at home all season, beat West Brom, 6-1 sending Spurs to the foot of the table. They then visited Newcastle and were beaten 0-2 and ended the month propping up the table. It was tight at the bottom with 2pts separating 5 clubs.
Into March and suddenly an away win to cheer, as goals from John Pratt, Gerry Armstrong and Peter Taylor saw them win 3-1 at Norwich, ending a run of 10 successive away defeats. This was well timed as Sunderland again hit six, beating fellow strugglers West Ham, 6-0. Derby suffered their 5th successive defeat to see them consigned to the bottom, a sorry demise for a club who were Champions in 1975. Bristol City also lost as Spurs were back up to 4th from bottom as 1pt separated the bottom five.
They then recorded their finest win of the season when a Ralph Coates goal beat the league leaders, Liverpool 1-0. They’d now beaten the top two sides at White Hart Lane and were now up to 18th. They couldn’t replicate this form three days later as West Brom came to White Hart Lane and won 2-0, but they were able to go to Birmingham and win 2-1 as Jones and Hoddle scored. Then came a crucial relegation battle as Derby County were the visitors. Derby, 2pts behind Spurs had yet to win away all season yet had that remarkable 8-2 win over Tottenham back in August to remember. The game ended 0-0 which didn’t really do much for either side. Tottenham were then thumped 0-4 at Goodison Park as Everton won comfortably and they ended March still 5th from bottom but having played more games than all but one of the sides below them.
Into the penultimate month and things were getting very tense. April began with a trip to Coventry, who were ahead of Tottenham only on goal difference. Peter Taylor scored in a 1-1 draw. By the time of their next match, they’d dropped a place as Derby began to pick up some points. QPR were the visitors, and were a shadow of the side which had almost won the title the year before. Tottenham swept them aside as Chris Jones bagged two goals and Peter Taylor another one in a 3-0 win. It propelled them up to 17th but the teams around them still had games in hand so there was still much work to do.
They embarked on a critical week with three games, two of them against sides battling relegation. Easter Monday saw the North London derby where Malcolm MacDonald scored the only goal of the game to give Arsenal a 1-0 win. It was a bad day for Tottenham in more ways than losing to their nearest rivals, as Sunderland and West Ham both won and with Coventry and QPR playing out a 1-1 draw, Spurs had now dropped to 21st. But before they could re-group they had to visit the side immediately below them, Bristol City. A tight, nervous match comes to life right at the end when Terry Naylor brings down Clive Whitehead in the area and Peter Cormack converts the penalty to give City a vital 1-0 win. Tottenham were one of 5 clubs on 27pts with Bristol City just 2pts behind, but there was still the worry of the games their rivals had in hand, as well as the poor goal difference.
The weekend saw the arrival of Sunderland to White Hart Lane. Sunderland were on of the five clubs on the same points as Tottenham and Chris Jones was again on the scoresheet but the game ended 1-1. It was a useful result for both clubs as everyone else around them lost, except QPR who won at Middlesbro. Tottenham were now up to 19th on 28pts with Sunderland and Derby. Coventry and West Ham were 1pt behind with Bristol City back on 25pts.
Tottenham had just 5 games to save their First Division future. A midweek trip to Aston Villa ended in a 1-2 defeat on the same night that Derby and Bristol City both drew. With Coventry also picking up a point the night before, Spurs were now back in 20th and again one of 4 clubs on 28pts. They next travelled to Stoke City, who themselves were not completely safe, and a 0-0 draw definitely didn’t suit the visitors. Sunderland and Derby both drew and Tottenham now had fewer matches left than any other team around them. Things were getting serious
The following Monday, Coventry beat Derby to drop Tottenham back into the bottom three. The next night Bristol City were at QPR and managed a 1-0 win and West Ham drew at Leeds to pour further bad news on Spurs. Seven clubs were now separated by just 3pts and still Tottenham had fewer chances to add to their tally.
West Ham then further enhanced their survival chances when they were away again and drew 1-1 at Middlesbro to push Spurs down to 2nd from bottom. The weekend fixtures would be crucial. Saturday 30th April was an exciting day in the season as 33 goals were scored in 10 matches, and there were some strange results. Coventry beat Stoke, 5-2, Sunderland went to West Brom and won 3-2 and Derby beat 2nd placed Manchester City, 4-0. Tottenham were at home to Aston Villa, who were pushing for a European place in 5th. Andy Gray missed an easy chance early on but then John Deehan headed Villa into the lead and the home crowd went very quiet. Just before half-time, 19-year old Glenn Hoddle started to build his reputation for free-kicks when he curled one round the wall to equalise. Hoddle was in inspired form as he was unlucky not to score two more before Chris Jones scored a fine goal after a tight turn. The crowd were now in full voice as Spurs surged forward, and substitute, Peter Taylor, rounded off the scoring with a volley from the edge of the area. Tottenham won 3-1 and it was a welcome relief during a disappointing season.
Tottenham now moved one place but had only two matches left to improve on this.
The following Tuesday Derby drew at Arsenal to give them a decent chance on staying up. 24 hours later West Ham won an important game against Coventry to lift them out of the relegation zone. The following weekend saw Tottenham have to go to Maine Road to meet a Manchester City who still had an outside chance of winning the league. Tommy Booth headed City into the lead in the first half from a Peter Barnes corner. In the second period, Barnes was provider again when his header was fired in by Dennis Tueart. Barnes then got on the scoresheet himself as Owen helped on a Booth long-ball and Barnes was at his impudent best by beating one man and then toying with Jennings as he sold him a dummy before chipping the ball into the net. Minutes later City had another corner, again taken by Barnes and Asa Hartford volleyed home for City’s 4th. The rout was complete as Spurs gave the ball away and Tueart broke free to play a simple pass for Brian Kidd to finish and City won 5-0.
News then came in of the other clubs around them with Bristol City gaining a vital point in a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United. QPR also earned a 1-1 draw against leaders Liverpool, West Ham drew 2-2 at home to Derby and Stoke were held 0-0 at home to Norwich. Sunderland had the best day with a 1-0 win at home to Birmingham.
Tottenham were now in a parlous state with only goal difference able to save them, and even then they needed to overturn a 5-goal deficit from their final game. They were taken apart by City and had now conceded over 50 goals away from home which seemed to sum up their plight. Spurs fans now looked for West Ham, Stoke, Coventry and Sunderland to keep on losing otherwise their final match of the season would be meaningless.
The following Tuesday, Coventry picked up a point by holding Liverpool to a 0-0 draw. On the same night Bristol City beat Leeds United 1-0 to give them some hope, and send Tottenham to the foot of the table. The next night, Derby won an important game against QPR, 2-0 and Stoke earned a vital point in a 3-3 draw with Manchester United.
Realistically, Tottenham’s fate was in West Ham’s hands. They were unable to overhaul Sunderland’s goal difference but stood an outside chance of beating The Hammers. West Ham needed a point to consign Spurs to Division Two regardless of how they Spurs got on in their final game of the season at home to Leicester. West Ham’s last two matches were at Anfield and at home to Man Utd, so Spurs had some hope.
Goals from John Pratt and Jimmy Holmes gave Tottenham an important 2-0 win against Leicester. The home crowd had an anxious wait to find out that West Ham had gained an impressive 0-0 draw at Liverpool and so Spurs were relegated. This triggered incredible scenes as fans streamed onto the pitch. There were banners of defiance, such as ‘We Will Return’ and the mood was fairly upbeat. QPR won at Leeds, Bristol City drew at Middlesbro and Sunderland drew at Norwich. It was a bleak day for Tottenham Hotspur. They were to sit out the final 10 days of the season knowing it would make no difference to the future whatsoever.
The following Monday Bristol City pulled off a famous 2-1 win against the Champions, Liverpool and West Ham beat Manchester United, 4-2 with QPR beating Ipswich, 1-0. With Stoke losing at Aston Villa, they joined Tottenham in going down and now three clubs were on 34pts going into the final match, with two of those sides, Bristol City and Coventry, playing each other.
Thursday 19th May saw a remarkable finish to a league season where the idea of the final day of the season hadn’t been invented. Sunderland lost at Everton which rendered the 2-2 draw between Coventry and Bristol City irrelevant.
For Spurs fans the story improved from there. They came straight back up and then won the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982 and the UEFA Cup in 1982.
Another significant factor about this league season was who Tottenham were replaced by in the First Division. Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, but we’ll leave that story for another day.
Another remarkable aspect of this period is that Tottenham went down and came back up again with the same manager, and largely the same team. How times have changed
Differences - The top division was called the First Division and consisted of 22 teams. 2pts were awarded for a win.