Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 21 May 2008

Haven't we been here before?

For those of you waking up today after a six-week coma, tonight sees one of those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that heightens the senses and gets every football fan watching in eager anticipation - a Champions League Final between two English clubs.

Over in Moscow, Chelsea and Manchester United will do battle for that ludicrously large piece of silverware resembling one of Liberace's ashtrays as well as the title of 'Champions of Europe'.

But all this business about an all-English Final is actually old hat. There's been an all-English European Final before, and it was so successful that we haven't had one for 36 years. It all happened back in 1972 when no-one had heard of Johan Cruyff and the height of new football kit design meant having a stripe running down the sleeves of your shirt.

Such was the football landscape back then, and in it were two teams intent on being the first to win the brand-new UEFA Cup - Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur. Along with Southampton and Leeds United, they set out to capture the trophy for England, but little did they know they'd be facing each other in the two-legged Final later that season.

Tottenham entered the competition having finished third in the old First Division in 1971 while Wolves, undoubtedly reaching a peak they hadn't experienced since the 1950's, had ended the campaign in fourth.

Both were bursting with talent that typified the hard but often skilful game played in England at the time. For Spurs there was Pat Jennings in goal, future Premier League manager Joe Kinnear, England international Alan Mullery, Welsh international Mike England, a young Steve Perryman, Martin Chivers and a member of the 1966 World Cup winning team in Martin Peters.

Wolves line-up had less in the way of big name stars, but there was still plenty to give Spurs something to think about. The late, great Derek Dougan led the way up front, backed up by people such as Kenny Hibbitt, John Richards and captain Jim McCalliog.

The UEFA Cup would prove to be a memorable one for both clubs with some impressive results along the way. Tottenham cruised through Round One with a 15-1 aggregate victory over Icelandic side Keflavik while Wolves' 7-1 aggregate victory over Academica of Portugal preceded a 7-0 aggregate win over Den Haag in the next. Spurs nearly met their match when Nantes held them to a narrow 1-0 win over both legs, but from there on in both teams were in unstoppable form.

Tottenham managed to eliminate Rapid Bucharest and AC Milan before reaching the Final but Wolves were determined not to be outdone by brushing aside Carl Zeiss Jena and Juventus in the build-up to the grand finale against their English foes.

And so to that two-legged Final. On May 3rd 1972 it was off to Molineux but it was the away team, Tottenham, that gained a numerical advantage to take back to White Hart Lane. Star Player for the Lilywhites that night was undoubtedly Martin Chivers who bagged a brace either side of a McCalliog goal in the 72nd minute. Chivers ended the game with a total of eight goals from his eleven UEFA Cup matches that season as his club sought to defend their narrow 2-1 lead in the second leg.

Two weeks later, Tottenham did just that. A goal by Alan Mullery in the 29th minute put the home side at ease, and though Wolves' David Wagstaffe got an equaliser five minutes before half time, they were still left to find another goal to level the tie on aggregate. They didn't, and so it was that at the end of the night Tottenham's Alan Mullery lifted the trophy that they'd win again some twelve years later.

An older and wiser Steve Perryman would raise the cup that night, but on May 17th 1972, he was just another member of the victorious Tottenham team that outplayed another English team in the Final, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Football in England was fast approaching such a peak back then that it was acceptable to believe there might be a few more all-English finals, yet we've had to wait all this time for another.

Could it happen again? Quite possibly, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm sitting here writing the next similar article in 2044. Matches like the one taking place tonight don't happen every year, you know...

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