SquadNumbers.com - Football Squad and Shirt Numbers Blog

The power behind Ricky Villa’s five-star FA Cup final winner in 1981

The power behind Ricky Villa’s five-star FA Cup final winner in 1981

This is the Tottenham Hotspur team which started the 1981 FA Cup final against Manchester City, the game finishing 1-1 after extra time, with Manchester City’s Tommy Hutchison putting his side ahead only to score a second-half own goal.

We had never heard of goalkeeper Milija Aleksic before – after losing his place to Ray Clemence the following season, he would end up joining non-league Barnet in 1982 – but otherwise most of the names would be familiar. Despite wearing 9, Tony Galvin played on the left wing, with Garth Crooks up front alongside Steve Perryman.

The following Thursday evening, the sides were back again, in brighter weather as you can see. Commentator John Motson described Spurs as being “absolutely unchanged”, but he had missed one alteration – captain Steve Perryman was now wearing number 6 instead of 5, having swapped with Argentinian midfielder Ricky Villa.

For a few years, the reasons behind the switch were perplexing, but thanks to Lee Hermitage, an authority on all things Spurs and more, we have been able to dig deeper.

Until the end of February 1981, John Lacy wore 5 as he partnered Perryman in defence. Villa had been in and out of the team with injury, often wearin 9, but he took 5 in the spring as Graham Roberts, capable of playing in midfield or defence, dropped back alongside Perryman with 4 on his back.

However, for whatever reason, the match programme for the cup final had Perryman down as 5 and Villa as 6, so presumably they felt it best to go with that.

Villa didn’t enjoy the best of games and was substituted in the 68th minute – perhaps he needed a song to inspire him like his compatriot Ossie Ardiles – and, like all top sportsmen, he knew that the reason had to be external. He and Perryman reverted to their usual numbers for the replay and, well…

The goal was a boost to the pub-quiz industry too, as it gave rise to the question, “Sunderland did it in 1979 and Villa did it in 1981, who did it in 1980?”, with the answer being Trevor Brooking of West Ham United, who followed in the footsteps of Alan Sunderland by scoring the winner in the cup final.

Previous post
Monday 11s – General knowledge squad number quiz
Next post
Monday 11s – Real Madrid squad number quiz

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    March 30, 2017 at 21:47 — Reply

    Thank you for your kind comments Denis & link to my website as I try to establish myself in the football memorabilia market. Very much appreciated, I hope collectors may find something of interest.

    The credit for the information on THFC shirt numbers stems from Bob Goodwin’s excellent “Tottenham Hotspur – The Complete Record”. My first interest in Spurs came in 1975, listening to a vital relegation clash against Chelsea on LBC as a seven year-old. 42 years of suffering, eh ?

    Perryman’s ownership of the Tottenham No. 6 shirt stemmed from Keith Burkinshaw’s last throw of the dice as he tried to prevent Spurs’ inevitable relegation in 1977. Reorganising the team in March, Perryman dropped into a centre half role, and the No. 8 shirt he’d worn for so long was swapped for the No. 6. An initial slight improvement in results wasn’t enough for Spurs, and despite gaining six of their twelve league wins in 1976-77 in the final sixteen games of the season, Tottenham dropped into the Second Division for the first time in 27 years.

    It’s well known that Tottenham just about scraped their way back up in 1978, with daft points dropped in draws at the Lane against the likes of Mansfield, Blackpool, Orient and Millwall etc, and three defeats in April leaving them with nail biting final day at Southampton instead of having wrapped up the Second Division Championship with room to spare. That 0-0 draw at The Dell is, in my opinion, the most important point secured by a Tottenham team in the last 40 years. What would have happened if Spurs had another year in Division Two ? Bob Paisley had long admired Perryman, and had enquired about his availability on Tottenham’s relegation the previous year. Would Mr. Tottenham have been able to say ‘no’ a second time if Liverpool had asked again ? The big clubs would have no doubt been knocking on the door about taking a young Glenn Hoddle back into the top division. And it’s a racing certainty that two World Cup winners would not have been tempted by trips to Brisbane Road, Eastville or Boundary Park as they weighed up their options as the tucked their winners’ medals into a safe drawer.

    Spurs settled down to two seasons of consolidation in First Division mid table, and by the summer of 1980 when Archibald and Crooks provided a much needed new strike force, were ready to push on. With the exception of missing two matches through injury in February 1980, Steve Perryman was ever-present during those years. Furthermore, there were just TWO League matches between March 1977 and his departure from the Lane nine years later where he didn’t start in the No. 6 shirt, away at Aston Villa in April 1980, where wore the No. 4 shirt in a direct swap with Terry Yorath, and then at Southampton on Easter Monday a year later where he wore the No. 3 shirt (with Villa taking the No. 6 shirt in that match !). Having made his Tottenham debut in 1969, it’s an odd fact that it was not until the 1982 Charity Shield that SP would start a game for Spurs on the bench, a summer hernia op meaning that he wasn’t match fit. (He came on as a sub just four times in his Spurs career, in the Cup Winners’ Cup at Bayern Munich in November 1982, and two league matches both against Nottingham Forest in April 1983, this as a result of his sending off against Watford, and then again at the City Ground in September 1985 being the three other occasions when he appeared in Tottenham’s No. 12 shirt).

    So as Tottenham fans filed into Wembley on May 9th 1981, it was clear that the authorities who compiled the 64-page F.A. Cup Final programme hadn’t really done their homework. “5, Steve Perryman. 6, Ricky Villa” was the sight that greeted them as they flicked to the centre pages. (Perryman and Villa had also actually worn those shirt numbers in the first semi-final match at Hillsborough v. Wolves, but switched for the Highbury replay, when Villa swung an unstoppable curler past Paul Bradshaw to add to Crooks’ first half strikes). Does this, perhaps, account for them missing the fact that Perryman had worn No. 6 in all but three matches in the previous four years ? Either way, Spurs’ long serving kitman Johnny Wallis decided to go with the programme. Perryman took No. 5, and Villa unsuccessfully huffed and puffed for around an hour in the No. 6 shirt, miserably trudging around the Wembley track after being replaced by Garry Brooke.

    Wembley hurriedly compiled a 32-page issue for the replay on the Thursday (something they would get into the habit of, with both the 1982 and 1983 Finals also going to replays). The same Tottenham line up appeared, Perryman at 5, Villa at 6, but this time there would be no attention paid to the matchday programme. Despite playing at right back, Perryman took his favoured No. 6 shirt, leaving Villa with the No. 5 top…….and the rest, as they say, is history.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


The power behind Ricky Villa’s five-star FA Cup final winner in 1981