The start of the 1980s had brought differing fortunes for the two giants of North London, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Spurs had been largely concerned with rebuilding, both on and off the pitch. Having finished the 1979/80 season in a disappointing fourteenth place, the club had started the new season with a new attack, in the form of Steve Archibald, signed from Aberdeen, and Garth Crooks, brought in from Stoke City, whilst one side of the pitch at White Hart Lane remained a building site as the club spent a fortune building a new West Stand, a project which took fifteen months to complete and severely overran its budget. The club’s moderate improvement on the pitch meant that its biggest hope of success for this season would come in the cups.
Arsenal, meanwhile, remained on the fringes of the championship chase in January 1981, though the prevailing opinion was that this was turning into a three-way battle between Liverpool, Aston Villa and Ipswich Town. Having won the FA Cup in 1979, there had been great things predicted for the team that Terry Neill – formerly the manager of Spurs, somewhat ironically – had built, but the team had finished the 1979/80 exhausted by a marathon season which saw it finish the season in fourth place in the First Division whilst losing in the finals of both the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup. The cups wouldn’t be troubling Arsenal any more this season, though. Spurs had already knocked them out of the League Cup and Everton had knocked them out of the FA Cup.
Our second match, meanwhile, comes from St Andrews, where Birmingham City took on Southampton. Birmingham went into the match in fourteenth place in the table, but still only four points above what had already – with Leicester City and Crystal Palace having slipped adrift at the bottom of the table – come to be considered the one remaining relegation place in the division. Southampton, meanwhile, approached this match in sixth place in the league table and continuing to push for a place in the following year’s UEFA Cup. This turned out to be a comfortable win for Lawrie McMenemy’s impressive team.
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