Special Feature
Chris Hughton - Sky Blues thoroughly deserved to win in 1987

By Steve Carpenter 01/03 Updated: 08/03 11:12

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Coventry City’s famous FA Cup triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, the Observer has teamed up with Coventry City’s Former Players’ Association (CCFPA) to re-capture the memories of players, managers and fans from the club’s greatest day on May 16, 1987.

This week our sports reporter Steve Carpenter was invited to Birmingham City's training ground to have a chat with former Spurs defender and current Birmingham City manager Chris Hughton, for whom 1987 was his third FA Cup final during 13 years with the North London club.

Chris Hughton was a young man when he tasted FA Cup success with Spurs in 1981 at the age of 21 after breaking into the first team under Keith Burkinshaw two years before.

He won another winners medal a year later and was expecting to make it a hat-trick in 1987.

"Being favourites always puts more pressure on a team but it’s a one-off competition and I think that most people, and I spoke with a lot of people afterwards, felt once we got the early goal that would get rid of any nerves and any pressure," said Hughton.

"We had a very attacking team that season but we also had a team that could get back in numbers to defend because our 4-3-3 formation could turn into a 4-5-1 when we were defending.

"We had the likes of Steve Hodge on one flank, Chris Waddle on the other with his wonderful skills and we had a lot of energy in the middle of the park with Ossie Ardiles, Paul Allen and of course Glenn Hoddle.

"You always do your preparation before a match and we were up against a team that deserved to get there.

"Cyrille Regis was the obvious player we pinpointed could be a danger before the game, but we also identified Keith Houchen as a threat too and of course Houchen ended up scoring a that famous header.

"In the wide areas they had the ability to get crosses in and if you’ve got Regis and Houchen waiting up front you know that they’re going to be tough task.

"I think when the first goal went in most people expected Tottenham to go on and win the game, having scored so early, but we always knew we were in for a difficult game.

"And once Coventry got themselves back into the game it became what we expected, a full-blooded cup final.

"At the time it did feel like a surprise for Coventry to get to the final, but that’s the FA Cup and Coventry thoroughly deserved to go through and of course in the end they thoroughly deserved to win it."

Hughton missed a fair chunk of the 1986/87 season through injury but was fortunate to work his way back into David Pleat's cup final 11.

However he was substituted moments after Gary Mabbutt's famous own goal as Spurs fell behind for the first time in the match during extra time.

"At 2-2 we only had to think positive thoughts. Do you think about losing a game? No you don’t. All you try and think about is what you need to do to win it.

"At that stage no matter what anyone says, favourites or not favourites, once you’re going into that stage you have two very equal teams and in fairness the game could have gone either way.

"The fear of losing is almost greater than the push of going on and winning the game, and that’s why so many games become a stalemate in extra time because teams are so frightened losing and they perhaps don’t express themselves in the way they want to.

"Having said that I think in the 1987 cup final was slightly different because it was still a very open game in extra time.

"You can never put any particular blame on a player for scoring an own goal, particularly Mabbutt who has been such a great player for Spurs down the years. An own goal is always looked upon as a player making a mistake.

"At that stage of the game you have to go on and try to win it so I wasn’t too surprised to be taken off at 3-2 to make way for more attacking options but of course it wasn’t to be for us."

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