LIAM MACKEY: A life-long Wembley love affair

Tottenham legend Steve Perryman led his club to two victories in the FA Cup in the 1980s. For him Wembley, and the FA Cup itself, retains all of the fabled romance and lustre.

As the BBC go all retro with a full schedule of FA Cup final broadcasting today, expect Ricky Villa’s winner for Spurs in the 1981 replay against Manchester City to feature prominently in the nostalgia-fest.

A stunning solo effort which saw the Argentinian find the net at the end of a weaving dribble, it was voted the Wembley Goal of the 20th Century in 2001 and, in a new BBC poll, has been edged out as the greatest of all FA Cup final goals only by Steve Gerrard’s 35-yard blockbuster for Liverpool against West Ham in 2006.

For the 100,000 looking on from the stands in 1981 and the millions more watching on television, it was immediately clear that Villa’s extraordinary goal was one for the ages. But that’s not necessarily how it looked to the other men on the pitch at the time, not least Spurs captain Steve Perryman.

“No, you’re entrenched in your team situation,” he recalled when I had the pleasure of taking a stroll down memory lane in his company this week.

“In that game we were winning, then drawing, then losing and then getting it back to 2-2 and all you’re thinking about at that stage is extra-time. In the first match (a 1-1 draw), I think we’d frozen a bit and for the second it was more about getting back to playing the Tottenham way — and I think Ricky Villa’s goal just underlined that.

“But when he was going through and then scoring, you weren’t thinking about how this is going to be replayed and talked about so many times; you were just thinking about what this means at this moment — and can we hang onto it.”

Perryman chuckled when I pointed out that former Irish international Tony Galvin could, in modern parlance, claim an assist, since it was from his pass that Villa set off on his mazy run into football history.

“Tony’s dining out on that to this day,” Perryman, now Exeter City’s Director of Football, confirmed.

“I love Tony, I love him to death, he’s one of my favourite people. I speak to him about once a month — he comes and watches us play at Exeter — and I always mention the Ricky goal. I like to say to him that instead of all his running down the wing and his fantastic crosses, if he’d just made that simple pass more often, he’d have had a greater career.”

Reflecting on the importance of that victory, Perryman says: “Spurs had lost a bit of a sparkle, and this was us getting the sparkle back. I lost some credibility when I captained the relegation team (in 1977). So I led them into a problem but this was me leading them out of the problem again and back into the good times. It was redemption for me, if you like.”

Perryman is synonymous with Spurs, the club for whom he made his debut at 17 in 1967 and, at 20, became the youngest player in its modern history to captain the team.

Over the course of an illustrious 17-year-long career, as both midfielder and defender, he would go on to claim a club record 854 appearances for the White Hart Lane side.

And when Spurs successfully defended their 1981 Cup win the following year — beating QPR 1-0 in another replay — Perryman became only the third man in history to lift the trophy on two successive occasions, consummating a personal love affair with Wembley which had been simmering all his life.

“I lived within a stone’s throw of Wembley,” he told me. “ And every time I travelled on the North Circular Road from where I lived in Northolt to get to Tottenham, I could see the Twin Towers. And I’d look at them and think, ‘when’s it going to be my turn to get there?’

“My mum was not a football mum — she never saw me play at White Hart Lane — but, Wembley, being such a special place, she would go to watch me when I was playing there. And so she actually got to see me play a few games because Spurs played there seven times in 18 months — two FA Cups, two replays, two Charity Shields and a League Cup defeat to Liverpool.

And while you could never be blasé about such a special place, I remember Spurs supporters liked to boast back then that they used to have a season season ticket for Wembley.”

Perryman also has a cherished family memento from the first game in that 1981 final, the result of an unlikely intervention after his oldest brother Ted had brought Steve’s then three-year-old son Glenn to see his Dad play at the famous ground.

“Ted had Glenn on his shoulders outside the stadium, down near the Twin Towers, and they were having their picture taken when they were approached by some Man City supporters who decided to drape Glenn with their scarves.

They had no idea he was the opposing captain’s son. So I have this wonderful picture from that day of my son on my brother’s shoulders wearing the Man City colours.” Perryman, now 63, is saddened that the grand old trophy has had its sheen dulled in the modern age.

“Yeah, it has, and it’s because of the amount of glamour games on television these days. Whereas live football on television in the 60s, 70s and 80s was only the odd international and the cup final. Your whole year could be based around that, so much so that, when I was growing up — and I remember finals going back to when I was five — it felt almost like the cup final was more important than winning the league.

"Now it cannot possibly be but that’s how it felt because you were watching that cup being picked up live on telly — or, if you were lucky enough to be me, you were the guy picking it up live on telly — whereas the chap picking up the league championship trophy was never live on telly.”

Still, he’s looking forward to today’s final in which Aston Villa will be coming up against his old North London rivals.

“As a Spurs man I keep saying to all those Arsenal doubters that I so pray you get what you wish for — which is that Wenger leaves. Because, you know what? He is a thorn in our side at Tottenham. I’m not sure that we’re going to finish above them while Wenger is there. He just needs another trophy to quieten a few of the doubters — until next time they lose two games on the spin, of course.

“As for Villa, they can finish a difficult period with new hope for the club. And under a new manager, I think what could push them up to the next level is if they have a cup final victory to their name at the end of this season.

“And don’t tell me that won’t mean as much to them as it meant to us in ’81.”

Steve Perryman will be appearing in the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin on Thursday, June 18, 8pm to 11pm in an event hosted by PC Sports and Promotions in association with The Spurs Poet, with Richard Cracknell as MC. Tickets from www. pcsportsandpromotions.ie

Scored by Greaves? Definitely. Made by Perryman? Maybe

Like Tony Galvin and his ‘assist’ for Ricky Villa in 1981, Steve Perryman once found himself credited with ‘making’ a goal for the great Jimmy Greaves, whose stellar career at White Hart Lane overlapped with Steve’s for a period in the late 60s before the legendary striker moved on to West Ham

“I’d just got in the team,” Perryman recalls. “I had a short haircut and some people called me a skinhead but it wasn’t that at all — I’d just gone to a barber who used to cut boxers’ hair. And I remember in one of my early games, against Newcastle United, I slide-tackled Bobby Moncur who’d come out from his position at the back and was attacking our goal and — guess what? — the ball went up to the halfway line where Jimmy Greaves picked it up and turned and beat about four and rounded the goalkeeper and scored.

"I mean, I didn’t pass it to him, I’d just put in a tackle and the ball flew up the pitch but, according to the papers — and I’ve still got the clippings — I made the goal!” On April 30 last, Greaves along with his old strike partner Alan Gilzean, joined Perryman on stage for a ‘Spurs Legends Night’ at Exeter, where Perryman is Director of Football.

“We recreated the G-Men,” he enthuses, “and they were terrific, as good on stage as they were up front for Spurs in those glorious years in the 60s.” Then, just three nights later, Perryman, in common with the rest of the football world, was shocked to learn that the 75-year-old Greaves had suffered a severe stroke.

“The word I keep hearing now is that he is improving but it’s going to be a long job,” Steve tells me.

“For us that night in Exeter, he was great — he was witty, clever, professional, all the things we know about him from his football and his television years. And I just wish him well. He’s a great man.”


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