The year is 1987 and Coventry City Football Club are having a brilliant F.A. Cup run. They are beating teams left, right and centre. The team push through to the 1987 final where they encounter Tottenham Hotspur, who were also having a very good season. The big day comes, the 16th May 1987, the team make their way to the tunnel where they wait anxiously for their opponents to join them. As Tottenham make an appearance, the two teams walk out into the middle of England’s most prestigious football stadium, (Old) Wembley Stadium in front of 98,000 roaring fans. A thrilling game sees five goals being scored with a fantastic 3-2 win in extra-time to Coventry City…
Twenty five years on, Dave Bennett, former Coventry City player and scorer in the 1987 final, and David Pleat, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur during the 1987 final, came together at a Coventry Conversation to talk about the big game and how it is more than just a memory.
Dave Bennett began the talk by saying that he remembers the lead up to the final very well and of course the final itself. He still remembers what it was like to score at Wembley and also the famous cross over to Keith Houchen who scored a magnificent diving header which remains as one of the best goals at Wembley.
Written by Alex Maidment
David Pleat, adds some input into the conversation saying that he knew it wouldn’t be an easy game for Tottenham and that they started the game well, referring to the goal Tottenham scored in the first two minutes, to then end the game badly, conceding in extra-time from an own goal to lose the final.
At this point, Dave Bennett began to talk about how: “It’s all about winning” and that you have to do whatever it takes to win. When asked whether the team or indeed, himself, were nervous before the game, Dave replied: “We didn’t really think much of it.” He added that there were more important things to think about than nerves.
The conversation moved onto to money and David Pleat rightly said: “They go out to win,” referring to the idea that they play for pride and passion and that they don’t think about the money as they get paid for something they love. David did however mention that: “There’s all kinds of bonuses.” And Dave Bennett backed this point up saying: “We earned three and a half grand that day.” When asked about the money involved and this is a bonus for winning the F.A. Cup.
Something which is more important than a bonus, as it shows the pride is the winners medals, because as Dave Bennett repeated a few times: “It’s all about winning.” It is of course right though that the losing side also get medals for making it as far as they did and when asked whether he received one, David Pleat replied that: “In those days there were no losers medals for managers,” he then added: “That’s been put right since.”
Whilst talking about the loss, David Pleat said that: “It’s very difficult to come to terms with a defeat on such a big stage,” and he went on to say: “We were the team everybody was talking about,” and: “It was a shock to lose to Coventry City.” He did however add that Coventry were a very good team and did well on the day to win.
Dave Bennett began to wrap up the conversation saying that the team went back to a hotel which was completely booked out for their celebrations. He then added that the last thing the team saw leaving Wembley was the score – Coventry City 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur. When talking about what the win has done for Coventry he said that it: “Put Coventry on the map,” and when asked whether money motivated the players he said: “It’s about you.” Referring to the idea that money is not a motivating factor!
The talk was very interesting and it was excellent to see two very important people from the day talking about the final. David Pleat was very gracious in what he said about Coventry City and how they beat his own side, Tottenham Hotspur, whilst Dave Bennett, passionately told his story and spoke about how it is about winning and nothing to do with money. It is the perfect example of how football should be.