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Back To The Eighties, 1980/81 Part Fifteen: The North London Derby

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...

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St Albans City, For Once, Go Marching Into The FA Cup First Round

It’s a competition that may not mean so much to the grandest of the grand, but the FA Cup still has a relevance which still means a lot to many. It’s been eleven years since St Albans City of the Southern League Premier Division last appeared in the First Round Proper – it’s been eighty-nine years since their one and only win against a Football League club in this competition, a five-three win against Brentford in the long-forgotten Fifth Qualifying Round of the competition in 1924 – but this morning the faint smell of victory continues to cling in the nostrils after the Saints overcame a rousing display from Isthmian League Division One North club Chatham Town yesterday afternoon. St Albans City play a division higher than Chatham in the overall scheme of the non-league pyramid, but whether this fact makes such a huge difference at this level of the game is very much open to question. The winners of this match, no matter who it turned out to be, would be amongst the lowest ranked clubs in Sunday’s draw, but at this stage of the competition all that really matters is winning the next match and getting through to the next round of the competition. Indeed, in an era during which the majority of clubs in the Conference Premier – whether rightly or wrongly – are full-time, it...

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Back To The Eighties: 1980/81, Part Fourteen – Villa & Liverpool Face Off

With the FA Cup Third Round out of the way, the secon weekend of 1981 was time for the league campaign to get back under way, and it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves of how tight things were as hostilities in the league resumed. Here’s the top ten in the First Division, as the clubs resumed their fixtures in the new year. Liverpool led the table, but only on goals scored from Aston Villa and with Ipswich Town in third place in the table, a point behind the top two but with two games in hand on the two sides above them. Liverpool and Ipswich, however, were still involved in both European competitions and the FA Cup, whilst Villa’s exit at Portman Road in the Third Round of the competition meant that they could, in the most literal possible sense, “concentrate on the league.” Meanwhile, even at this point in the season and with only two points for a win, even supporters of clubs down to getting towards the middle of the table could, perhaps, convince themselves that a spectacular run could yet see their club propel itself towards the top of the table. It was, then, as good a time as any for Aston Villa to take on Liverpool at Aston Villa at Villa Park in front of the Match Of The Day cameras. We have...

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FIFA Under-17 World Cup: The Group Stages

If Jack Wilshire clocked the squad lists for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup currently taking place in the United Arab Emirates, he might see how the definition of nationality has developed. Austrians called Marko Kvasina and Nikola Zivotic, Canadians called El Mehdi Ibn Brahim and Ali Musse and a Uruguayan called Kevin. There’s no doubting the best name on show, however, the so-far impressive Brazilian’s striker Mosquito, who (let’s get the insect punning out of the way early, shall we?) stung Slovakia for a hat-trick in the Selecao’s 6-1 opening game victory. Brazil have looked the best team, too, although it remains unclear how strong the “opposition” was in their group – only Honduras offered anything resembling resistance. Those inverted commas certainly belonged to the hapless, hopeless hosts and what Eurosport analyst Jim Beglin considered stage-frightened Slovakians. Their only urgency came after Denis Vavro scored the consolation goal and briefly ran to pick the ball out of the net in order to get the game restarted… before remembering that it was 5-1 and that any rush would only give Brazil more time to score a sixth goal… which they did anyway. If Brazil have actually been “just like watching Brazil” for a change, Japan have been almost as impressive. My dad describes any team that strings more than three passes together as “having a bit of the Barcelona about them”...

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Back To The Eighties: 1980/81, Part Thirteen – The FA Cup Third Round

Happy new year, everybody! It’s now the first Saturday of 1981 and that can only mean one thing – the Third Round Proper of the FA Cup. The big match of the weekend saw a single goal from Paul Mariner enough for Ipswich Town to knock Aston Villa out at Portman Road, whilst Everton beat Arsenal by two goals to nil at Goodison Park, Liverpool beat Altrincham of the Alliance Premier League by four goals to one at Anfield and Tottenham Hotspur beat Queens Park Rangers by three goals to one on White Hart Lane. We have four matches for you from the Third Round and its replays, starting at The Vetch Field, where the BBC’s cameras headed in hope of a surprise as First Division Middlesbrough made a visit to play John Toshack’s Swansea City. Next up is an all-First Division match between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford, and this is followed up by the return of Malcolm Allison to Maine Road – Allison had been sacked by Manchester City in October 1980 – as the manager of Crystal Palace. Allison was out of work again by the start of the following month. And finally, we skip forward to the following week’s replay’s. Enfield, of the Isthmian League, had already knocked Hereford United out in the previous round and had drawn their first...

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