Tottenham Hotspur are considered one of the biggest football clubs in England and they have a long and relatively illustrious history. We say “relatively” illustrious because they have only managed to become champions of the English top flight twice in their long existence – that’s the same number as Preston North End, Burnley and Portsmouth, fewer than the likes of Huddersfield, Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday, and 11 shy of north London rivals Arsenal.
But although they might be seen to have underachieved when it comes to league titles, Spurs have certainly performed better than most when it comes to the FA Cup, and that is the focus of this article. Tottenham have won the cup eight times, which puts them joint third on the all-time list, level with Chelsea and Liverpool, with only Manchester United and (sorry Spurs fans!) Arsenal having claimed more FA Cup triumphs. So, let’s take a look at how Spurs have got on over the years in the cup, with details of their most – and least – successful FA Cup campaigns.
When Did Tottenham Hotspur Last Win the FA Cup?
Unfortunately for Spurs fans, it’s been a long time since their side won an FA Cup and we have to look all the way back to the 1990/91 season for the last triumph. They faced a Nottingham Forest side that day at Wembley that was managed by the legendary Brian Clough and captained by Stuart Pearce. Forest also had a young Roy Keane playing in the middle of the park.
But that combination proved insufficient against a Spurs side marshalled by Terry Venables and which featured two of England’s greatest players: Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne. Alas, things didn’t go to plan for Gazza – he put in a couple of rash challenges early in the game and managed to tear his cruciate ligaments, an injury that would keep him out for a whole season (and arguably after which he never truly regained his best form).
Even without Gascoigne for most of the game, Spurs had enough to edge the victory, winning 2-1 after extra time thanks to an own goal by Forest’s Des Walker. Tottenham have been knocked out in the semis eight times since they last lifted the cup, though they’ve not made it to the final in that time.
FA Cup Finals
Of the sides who have won the FA Cup more than once, Spurs have done better than almost all other sides when it comes to their win/loss ratio in FA Cup finals. As mentioned, they’ve won the FA Cup eight times over the years, but that has come from just nine appearances in the final.
The other two sides to have picked up eight cups have appeared in 16 (Chelsea) and 15 (Man United) finals. Tottenham’s 88.8% win percentage in finals is in fact only bettered by the now-defunct Wanderers FC (who won all five of their finals in the 1870s) and Bury FC (who won their only two finals back in 1900 and 1903). Here are brief details of Tottenham’s nine FA Cup finals.
|1991||Nottingham Forest||Won||2-1 (AET)|
|1987||Coventry City||Lost||3-2 (AET)|
|1982||Queens Park Rangers||Won||1-0 (in replay, first game 1-1 AET)|
|1981||Manchester City||Won||3-2 (in replay, first game 1-1 AET)|
|1901||Sheffield United||Won||3-1 (in replay, first game 2-2)|
Stage of Elimination
As mentioned, when Spurs make it to the final, they tend to win. But how have they got on when they’ve not made it to the showpiece match? Here we’ll summarise how many times Tottenham have stumbled at the various stages of the cup.
|Stage||Number of Times||Percentage|
|Qualifying Round 3||1||1%|
Please note that the percentages are rounded to the nearest percentage point. Note also that the format of the competition has changed over the years in various ways, including in relation to when teams from the higher divisions enter the tournament.
Times Tottenham Won the FA Cup
Humans love patterns. And there’s almost a pattern when it comes to Tottenham’s FA Cup victories. As you can see from the first table, five of Spurs’ eight FA Cups were landed in years that end in a one. In addition, they also won the league title in 1951 and 1961. Wow. Amazing, hey? Well, not really, but some Spurs fans seemed to think it was a big deal as the 2001 FA Cup began… and the then 2011 cup… and then by 2021 everyone had kind of forgotten about it again. Roll on 2031, eh, Spurs fans?
Anyway, we digress. Here we run through the occasions on which Tottenham have gone all the way in the cup. We’ve outlined what happened in the 1991 final above (recap: Spurs beat Forest 2-1), so we’ll start this section back in the 1980s.
Back-to-Back Success – 1981 & 1982
Tottenham had some great players in the early 1980s including the likes of Glenn Hoddle, Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks, Steve Perryman and the exciting Argentine duo of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. The latter two were certainly pivotal in the cup run of 1981, with Villa getting two goals in the 3-2 final replay victory against Man City (the initial match finished 1-1 after extra time). Managed by Keith Burkenshaw at the time, Spurs were one of the most exciting sides in the land and their 1981 cup win was popular with fans and neutrals alike.
When it came to the 1982 final, neither of the Argentine stars featured (because of the Falklands War) but Spurs still had enough to get the better of Queens Park Rangers, although they once again needed a replay after the first game once more finished 1-1 after extra time. In the replay Glenn Hoddle’s sixth minute penalty was all that separated the sides, but that didn’t stop the players and fans from loving the result.
A Decade to Remember – 1960s
It is probably fair to say that Spurs’ finest era to date occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. They won their two top flight league titles in 1951 and 1961 as already noted, finished in the top three seven times and even won a European Cup Winners’ Cup (1963). But, more importantly in relation to this article, Spurs won the FA Cup three times in the 1960s: 1961, 1962 and 1967.
The great Bill Nicholson was in the dugout for Spurs from 1958 to 1974 and in the 1960s he pushed the club to new heights. Not least by leading the club to their only league and cup double in the 1960/61 season. After winning the First Division title, finishing eight points ahead of runners-up Sheffield Wednesday, Spurs faced Leicester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley in front of 100,000 fans. Danny Blanchflower was at the heart of Tottenham’s play at the time but it was Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson who got a goal each to help Spurs to a 2-0 victory.
The following year, Spurs “only” managed to finish third in the league, but they finished the campaign on a high when they beat Burnley 3-1 in the FA Cup final. This time the opening goal was scored for Spurs by a young, exciting striker by the name of Jimmy Greaves. Burnley equalised before Bobby Smith put Tottenham ahead with captain Blanchflower rounding things off with the third goal late in the game.
It was a similar story in 1967 when Spurs once again finished third in the league but got the better of things in the FA Cup final. This time they played London rivals Chelsea, but Spurs had some fine players in the form of Greaves, Dave Mackay, Pat Jennings in goal and a certain Terry Venables in midfield. It was a close, hard-fought encounter but Spurs managed to edge it 2-1, fan favourite Frank Saul getting the decisive winner.
Olden Day Triumphs – 1901 to 1921
Tottenham were founded in 1882, but it took them until the turn of the 20th century to win any substantial silverware. First of all they won the Southern League in the 1899/1900 season, then they followed up the following year by going all the way in the FA Cup. They faced Sheffield United at Crystal Palace in front of a (then) record 110,820 fans. The match ended 2-2 in a ding-dong battle in which both sides had been in front at some point. The replay was played at Bolton Wanderers’ home Burnden Park in front a more modest 20,470 fans. This time the game went very much the way of Spurs as the Londoners came back from a goal down to score three times in the second half to lift the cup.
They had to wait 20 years for their next success in the cup and this time Spurs faced Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge. It was a much tighter affair than their first cup win, with just a single Jimmy Dimmock goal proving the difference between the sides. Dimmock was one of four Jimmys in the starting line-up for Spurs that day, and – though our research has admittedly not been extensive – we’ve never encountered an FA Cup-winning side with more Jimmys than that!
Tottenham’s Worst Upsets
As we have highlighted above, Tottenham have a better record than most in the FA Cup. But that’s not to say they haven’t had their fair share of bad days in the cup over the decades as well. Including when they – take a breath here – lost in a final!
Coventry City 3-2 (AET) Tottenham Hotspur – 1987 FA Cup Final
When you’ve won every final you’ve played, it clearly comes as something of a surprise when things don’t quite go to plan. And that’s exactly what happened when Tottenham faced Coventry City at Wembley Stadium in the 1987 FA Cup final. Even though the year didn’t end in one, Spurs were the massive favourites to lift the cup against a Coventry side who, on paper, should have been no match for them.
Managed by David Pleat at the time, Spurs had finished third in the league (Everton topped the table and Liverpool finished second) and had a team packed full of household names including Chris Waddle, Ossie Ardiles, Clive Allen, Paul Allen, Allen Allen (okay, we made the last one up!) and the solid-as-you-like Gary Mabbutt. They were rightly massive favourites and few gave their opponents any hope at all.
Coventry, meanwhile, had only finished 10th in the league and though they had overcome the likes of Leeds United, Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday on their road to Wembley, even many of their own fans doubted that they stood much of a chance. But they surpassed expectations by giving as good as they got in the final, twice coming from behind to take the game to extra time. With the game poised at 2-2, it was Mabbutt who scored the winning goal… alas it was not for his side (even though he’d scored for Spurs earlier in the game) and his own goal sent Coventry fans into ecstasy.
Tottenham 0-2 (AET) Portsmouth – 2010 FA Cup Semi-final
When Harry Redknapp led his Tottenham side to Wembley for this semi-final against already relegated Portsmouth, Spurs fans were supremely confident they’d be returning to the national stadium for the final. Avram Grant’s Pompey had other ideas though. They had only just had their relegation confirmed and it’s possible they figured they had nothing to lose in this one. They certainly threw caution to the wind and took the game to the favourites, with the poor playing surface seeming to favour the more direct style of Portsmouth.
The underdogs ground Spurs down and the scrappy game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes. In extra time, however, Portsmouth took the initiative and managed to score two goals to send their fans potty. Unfortunately for Portsmouth, they lost to Chelsea in the final, and they haven’t made it back to the Premier League since that season. Still, they had their moment, but at least they got one over on their former boss Redknapp (who had led Portsmouth to FA Cup glory of their own two years before).