What made Spurs UEFA Cup in 1971 so special?

With arguably Tottenham Hotspur’s greatest manager at the helm, Bill Nicholson, Spurs had an impressive 1970-1971 season: finishing 3rd in the then First Division and lifting the League Cup after beating Aston Villa in the final. The successes of this season saw Spurs qualify for the UEFA Cup in the 1971/72 season.

Spurs, of course, were no strangers to Europe, nor indeed European success: in 1963 they had become the first British club to lift a European trophy as the European Cup Winners Cup winner. From 1958, Nicholson had led a mighty team: landing the FA Cup and First Division double in 1961, Spurs had become a force to be reckoned with, and as the 60s grew to a close, and the 70s dawned upon us, this showed no sign of abating.

What was to come during the 1971 – 1972 season was to create history as Spurs battled the best that Europe had to offer and lift the UEFA Cup, but what made this victory so special?

The first-ever UEFA Cup

This was not just any UEFA Cup (not that there ever has been just ‘any’ UEFA Cup): this was the inaugural one. The first time that the competition had taken place, Spurs were already a part of creating history, but what was to come would cement their place as European greats.

The road to the final was a long one, with Spurs travelling to Iceland, France, Romania, and Italy. Along the way, Tottenham weren’t given an easy ride, facing giants of Europe such as AC Milan. The football played by Tottenham not only displayed a level of skill to be admired, but also a level of passion that was unrivalled: a passion to be propelled to the top and be seen as the very best.

With each match being 2 legs, home and away, Tottenham’s army of fans travelled Europe to be thrilled every step of the way. Where they wound up for the final wasn’t quite where many would have expected

Betting on Tottenham Hotspur FC and an all English final

Perhaps few would have placed a bet on Tottenham overcoming AC Milan on their journey to the UEFA Cup final, but betting on Tottenham Hotspur FC being pitted against Wolves in the final would have been unheard of. Yet that is what happened: the first UEFA Cup and an all English final.

Wolves too had enjoyed trekking across Europe with matches in Portugal, Holland, East Germany, Italy, and Hungary. A trip across North London for the final probably did little to fill the fans with glee!

Spurs made the trip to not so sunny Wolverhampton Wanderers for the first leg of the final and, after 2 goals from Chivers, returned triumphant with a 2-0 win. The second leg played at home, saw a 1-1 draw and Tottenham being crowned champions with a 3-2 win on aggregate. 

Spurs record in Europe

As winners of the first-ever UEFA Cup, Tottenham’s record in European tournaments has seen a mixed bag of results. Having won the European Cup Winners Cup, they also went on to win the UEFA Cup for a second time in 1984.

Regularly qualifying for football in Europe between 2010 and 2020, Tottenham have so far failed to live up to previous successes, although they did achieve the status of runners-up in the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League.

As for the future of Tottenham in Europe, they now have at their helm ‘the special one’ in the guise of Mourinho. Of course, Mourinho is no stranger to top-flight football, and he is eagerly eyeing European victories anew. His experience should fill loyal fans with hope seeing as how he has won domestic titles in 4 separate countries (Portugal, Italy, England, and Spain), as well as winning the UEFA Champions League twice with separate clubs. Could ‘the special one’ be the man to recreate the magic of the 1971 -1972 season?