Tottenham Hotspur, The Keith Burkinshaw Years.

To a large extent Keith Burkinshaw’s Tottenham Hotspur hit something of a purple patch during the first half of the 1980’s. Not surprising really, there was some great players in that squad such as Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman, Graham Roberts and the two players from Argentina, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa. A native of Barnsley in Yorkshire, Keith Burkinshaw became Spurs manager during the summer of 1976, taking over from Terry Neill who traveled the five miles or so to Arsenal. After leaving school aged 16, Burkinshaw went to work in the local coal mine for a couple years.

“I think being a miner for two years did me a great service. I had to earn some money because we had none, but coming through it gave me a lot of confidence. I felt I could handle anything.” Keith Burkinshaw.

It was during his time working at Dodworth Colliery that Burkinshaw was turning out for Denaby United in Doncaster. It was at this time playing in the lower leagues that he came to the attention of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Burkinshaw’s time at Molineux would be a very brief one, as he signed for Liverpool late in 1953. His time at Anfield was a difficult one as he failed to nail down a regular first team place, in an effort to reignite his playing career he signed for Workington A.F.C. The Yorkshireman’s time at Borough Park was much more successful, no trophies to speak of but he went on to play almost 300 games, spread over 8 years for the club. At Workington Burkinshaw built a reputation as a reliable defender therefore becoming a popular figure at the club, so much that for his final year at Workington he was employed as player manager.


“Bob Paisley was my trainer with the reserves at Liverpool. By the time I was a manager, his Liverpool team were the greatest side in Europe, but they stayed humble. I’d go to their boot room after the match, “Come in Keith, fantastic to see you, unfortunate today, you should have bloody beaten us”. They never bragged, even when they had won 7-0!They were tremendous, the lot of them, Bill Shankly, Ronnie Moran, Joe Fagan. We’d get on the team bus and see Joe Fagan on the pavement outside Anfield, walking home like a normal fan. That was just him.I knew Bobby Robson well. We took our managerial badges together at Lilleshall. We’d talk football, football, football.Brian Clough was a one-off. I was sitting with him at a meal when Brian shouted across the table, “My board of directors are a bunch of wankers, aren’t they Mr Chairman!” The Nottingham Forest chairman just looked up and replied, “Yes, Brian”. I couldn’t believe it!”
Keith Burkinshaw.

Keith Burkinshaw, Liverpool player.

The final three years of Burkinshaw’s playing career took place at the Old Showground, home of Scunthorpe United, and as he did at Workington, he took the managerial reins at the Old Showground for a time. It’s fair to say Burkinshaw’s playing career didn’t rip up any trees, however it would be in team management that he would come into his own. Burkinshaw’s time managing at Workington and Scunthorpe would undoubtedly be invaluable for Burkinshaw. In Burkinshaw’s first season at Spurs the FA brought in the yellow and red card system. Football fans had first seen the yellow and red cards in use during the World Cup of 1970 in Mexico, however it wouldn’t be until the start of the 1976 – 1977 season in the United Kingdom that they became part of the furniture of the game. They were actually the invention of English referee Ken Aston. An event of Mr Aston’s refereeing career gave him food for thought…

“He refereed the 1963 FA Cup Final and was in charge of the referees at the ’66 World Cup, during which there was confusion over Argentina’s Antonio Rattin’s dismissal against England.Had he actually been sent off? Mr Aston had to help persuade Argentina’s captain to leave the field of play.” David Barber, the Football Association.

Also new in the English game at the start of the 76 – 77 season was the goal difference rule which replaced the goal average rule. It wasn’t a good start for Burkinshaw’s Spurs team, at the end of his first season in charge at White Hart Lane they suffered relegation to Division 2. The season didn’t start well, losing 3 – 1 away at Ipswich Town. To be fair, they had reason to smile early in the season as they beat Manchester United 3 – 2 at Old Trafford and then beat Leeds at home. However, with only 12 wins 9 draws and 21 losses in a 42 game domestic season, it meant only one thing, relegation after finishing 22nd in a 22 team division. Happily for Spurs fans, their stay in English footballs second tier would be short lived as they gained promotion back to Division One at the first time of asking, at the end of the 77 – 78 season. It was a close run thing, Spurs only edging out Brighton & Hove Albion on goal difference, both Burkinshaw’s men and the Seagulls finished with 56 points. Having said that though, Spurs had some impressive wins that season which included a 4 – 0 home win against Blackburn Rovers and a 9 – 0 home win against Bristol Rovers. So Tottenham would be joining Southampton and divisional champions Bolton Wanderers in Division One for the new season.

The following season was one of consolidation for Spurs, and they did just that, finishing in a mid table position comfortably avoiding the relegation places. New faces appeared for Spurs at that time, namely Argentineans Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa, two players with world cup winner’s medals in their back pockets; they joined established Spurs stars such as Glenn Hoddle and Steve Perryman. So no relegation worries that season, however Spurs would suffer the odd heavy defeat here and there in their first season after promotion. During the first four games of the 78 – 79 season Tottenham conceded fourteen goals, two draws and a 4 – 1 home defeat to Aston Villa and a 7 – 0 away defeat to Liverpool pointing to a rough start for Spurs back in Division One. Their form was patchy and inconsistent without being particularly poor, although the disappointing defeats would continue. A 5 – 0 hammering by north London neighbours Arsenal at White Hart Lane and another home defeat to Manchester City, this time losing 3 – 0 told Burkinshaw his defence was lacking somewhat in the English top flight. But like I said, their form though patchy at best wasn’t that bad. They saw impressive wins too, which included a 3 – 1 away win at Chelsea and a 3 – 1 away win against the team that beat them to the Division Two title, Bolton Wanderers.

Burkinshaw with Ricky Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles.

The very average form would continue into the pre season program, Spurs only won four games of their twelve friendlies that summer. The 79 – 80 season began badly for Spurs, losing their first three games. Early September brought something of a false dawn for the north London club, it looked like Spurs had turned things around after a couple of home wins against Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion, however the below par form would continue until October. Spurs needed a good run of form and that’s what Keith Burkinshaw’s team achieved for themselves throughout that October. That month brought four wins and a draw, which included an away win at Leeds United. Unfortunately for Spurs, that was the last winning run of games they would put together. They would also lose at home later in the season to Manchester United and Ipswich Town. They would finish in 14th place that season, nothing to write home about, however Micky Hazard would make his debut for the club towards the end of that season and he would go on to be a part of a Spurs team that would bring home silverware to White Hart Lane. Their cup endeavor’s proved fruitless once more that season, but things were about to change for the better. As any Spurs fan will tell you, the year 1981 had a 1 in it, so it’s not that surprising Spurs fans had reason to smile that year, but I’ll come to that later.

Even now, when I go over to my mother’s house and dig out the old tracksuit tops I wore, it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I like to think I am part of a special family. I am no longer connected with the club on a daily basis, but I’m delighted with every win and sad about every defeat.”  Steve Perryman.

For the 1980 – 1981 season, Spurs had a much better start than the previous season. They began with a couple of wins over Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and fellow Londoners Crystal Palace. Despite the exciting finish to the season that they would go on to enjoy, it was obvious from quite early on in the season Tottenham weren’t going to challenge for the title, too many draws and losses would see to that. However, they had reason to smile in the league that season, recording good wins versus Arsenal and Manchester City. As 1981 dawned Spurs got their FA Cup campaign off to a good start with a 3rd round victory over Queens Park Rangers, albeit a replay was needed, January would also see Spurs record three wins out of three, they were beginning to pick up some good form. However, in the league at least the old Spurs would return, as February began Spurs wouldn’t see another win until mid-March. In the FA Cup they were motoring along very nicely, after their 3rd round victory against QPR, they racked up wins against Hull City, Coventry City and Exeter City which meant a semifinal meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday. It was a close game and it started with purpose, both teams scoring in the first five minutes. First, Steve Archibald in the fourth minute, a barely a sixty seconds had passed when Kenny Hibbit’s goal drew Wolves level. Glenn Hoddle put Spurs ahead just before half time and it looked as though Spurs had done it until Wolves earned themselves a penalty in the final moments of the game, Scotsman Willie Carr converting for the midlands club, a replay would be needed.

Osvaldo Ardiles with the U.E.F.A. Cup.

The replay took place a few days later at Arsenals Highbury Stadium, pretty much home advantage must have worked for Spurs as they ran out 3 – 0 winners, Ricky Villa scoring one and Garth Crookes getting himself a brace, Spurs were in the FA Cup final where they would play John Bond’s Manchester City. A packed house of 100,000 fans greeted Keith Burkinshaw and John Bond as they led their teams out onto the Wembley turf for the 100th final of the FA Cup. City would take the lead in this closely fought contest, Tommy Hutchison, scoring in the 30th minute, unbeknownst to him he would find the net again later in the game. Half time came, City were 1 – 0 up. As the second half progressed, Spurs were finding it difficult to cultivate good chances in front of the City goal. However, with about ten minutes to go, City gifted Spurs a way back into the game when Tommy Hutchison, the oldest man in the final, scored the most unlikely and sickeningly cruel own goal you will probably ever see. So, as mentioned with about ten minutes to go Spurs were awarded a free kick on the right, about four yards outside of the City eighteen yard area, as Glenn Hoddle sent the ball in Hutchison’s attempted header out resulted in him slicing the ball past Joe Corrigan and into his own net, Spurs had found that elusive equalizer. Cruel on the Scottish midfielder but that’s how it ended, 1 – 1, the replay would take place about a week or so later. It was quite a contest the start of the game mirroring the first match with two goals coming early on in the first half. Ricky Villa put Spurs 1 – 0 up in the 8th minute, minutes later Steve Mackenzie had equalized for City.

Ricky Villa with the F.A. Cup.

“The money was good, and the club was brilliant to me, but I couldn’t read the papers, couldn’t watch television, and even though Ossie was here, I missed Argentina. Now I realise I was lucky. And I have to recognise that I am a little part of the history of English football.” Ricky Villa.



Early in the second half Kevin Reeves put Manchester City 2 – 1 up, scoring from a penalty after David Bennett was fouled in the Spurs area. With the game entering the home straight of normal time the City faithful were hopeful of lifting the cup, they were 2 – 1 up, however Garth Crookes still had his shooting boots on scoring from a deft chip from Glenn Hoddle, it was 2 – 2. It was an engrossing game, it was quite a bad tempered affair too, a game with many bookings and even a pitch invasion from a fan. The ref earned his money that night. Without about a quarter of an hour to go, Wembley saw one of its most memorable goals in modern times. After a good run from Tony Galvin, Ricky Villa went on a sauntering run into the City eighteen yard box, bobbing and weaving between City players before slotting the ball past Joe Corrigan from about twelve yards out, like I said, it was an eye catching goal, I certainly enjoyed it. That’s how it stayed, Spurs won 3 – 2 and Keith Burkinshaw saw his Spurs team lift the 1981 FA Cup. The following season Tottenham Hotspurs love affair with the FA Cup would continue, they retained the trophy after victory over Queens Park Rangers. They would get a taste for European football again after competing in the European Cup Winners Cup, once getting to the semifinal. However, it was to be the UEFA Cup which would see Keith Burkinshaw’s crowning moment with Tottenham Hotspur.

“The fans remember when I arrived with Ossie, they remember my goal and I feel great about that. I have to say thanks to the Spurs supporters. This club is in my heart, it’s in my life. This club is like my second home. I’m happy because I managed to give something back. When we arrived the club had spent good money on us and the expectation was to win something. We managed to do that and I contributed with the goal. As I said, that is for life.” Ricky Villa.

In 1983 Spurs introduced its blue away shirt, which it would keep for a couple of seasons, emblazoned with the sponsors name, Holstein, being the first shirt to bear said sponsors name. Boosted after two recent FA Cup wins, the 82 – 83 season saw Tottenham Hotspur record their best finish in Division One for quite a while, they finished in 4th therefore earning themselves a place in next seasons UEFA Cup. Following wins over Drogheda United, Feyenoord, Bayern Munich, Austria Wien and Hadjuk Split, Spurs found themselves with a place in the two legged final, awaiting them the Belgian club RSC Anderlecht. The first leg took place in Belgium, at Anderlecht’s Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, the London club scoring a valuable away goal after a close encounter, it finished 1 – 1. In the second leg with about half an hour to go Spurs hearts with in mouths after Anderlecht took the lead through Alexandre Czerniatynski. The Belgian defence was holding up, it wasn’t looking that good for Spurs. However they persevered, White Hart Lane was on its feet, the atmosphere was superb, the Spurs fans took their team to the cup. Graham Roberts earned himself a place in Tottenham’s history books when after a desperate goal mouth scramble in the Anderlecht goal mouth, he put the ball in the net from yards out, White Hart Lane was rocking, Spurs were back in the game. It went to penalties, Spurs emerged triumphant in front of their home fans, goalkeeper and local boy Tony Parks having the night of his life. They won the shoot-out 4 – 3, captain Graham Roberts lifting the UEFA Cup for Spurs. Not long after Anderlecht found themselves in hot water when they were found guilty of bribery following their semifinal victory over Nottingham Forest, they were treated rather too leniently, receiving just one years ban from European competition. Keith Burkinshaw had delivered Spurs its second UEFA Cup, after being the first team to win the tournament in 1972. That season was Burkinshaw’s final season as Spurs manager, he moved on to become manager of the Bahrain national team.

Burkinshaw with the U.E.F.A. Cup.


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