Like kids in a sweet shop, Hornets raid White Hart Lane
Most of the Watford fans had already bought their tickets for the second leg before the 6-3 defeat in the first match, so they had to go.
The Premier League was only in its third season but already football at the top was changing. It was becoming clear that those at the top didn’t want the likes of Watford around. The Premier League was for the big clubs. It was created by them, for them.
But let’s not be churlish about it. Ossie Ardiles, in his brief time as Tottenham manager, encouraged his team to play with the sort of carefree abandon you see in the school playground. It was a throwback to the 1950s or 1960s, free-flowing attacking football with seemingly little care for the defensive side of the game.
The Argentinian played with five attacking players – Jürgen Klinsmann, Darren Anderton, Nick Barmby, Teddy Sheringham and Illie Dumitrescu. If he could have played with a ‘rush goalie’ you get the feeling he would have done.
Spurs scored six at Vicarage Road in the first leg but, fortunately, they couldn’t defend, otherwise it could have been humiliating. Craig Ramage scored in the first minute but by half-time Watford were 4-1 down and reeling. Klinsmann, who made his first appearance for Tottenham in a pre-season friendly at Watford six weeks earlier, scored a hat-trick. Vicarage Road had not seen such a display of potent and fluid forward play for years, not since the days of Callaghan and Barnes, Jenkins and Blissett. One thing was certain, the tie was dead and the second leg was one of those mostly meaningless games.
Only it was a night out for Watford's supporters who, bar a famous win over Leeds in the League Cup two years earlier, had missed out on such occasions since relegation from the top flight in 1988.
White Hart Lane seemed to have lost its soul in the six years since Watford had last visited. It didn’t help that the ground was half full and those Spurs fans who did turn up gave the impression that second leg League Cup matches were beneath them these days.
But for the Watford supporters it was a reminder of what used to be and a glimpse of what might be again. They may not have pulled off the impossible but this was still a famous victory. It was a night when they managed to bloody the giant's nose against the odds.
The Hornets traded blows with Spurs on an equal footing. Colin Foster put them ahead, Barmby equalised. Lee Nogan made it 2-1 just after half-time, then Klinsmann levelled. Nogan scored the winner and the visitors threw everyone forward in the vain hope of forcing extra time. As much of a long shot as that may have seemed, they only needed another couple of goals.
Afterwards, Glenn Roeder said he believed his side deserved those extra couple of goals and an extra 30 minutes to finish the job, although on reflection that was perhaps stretching things a bit.
Nevertheless it was an evening to savour. At a time when the delights of the Premier League's candy store seemed a million miles away, Watford made the most of their opportunity to sample the sweet taste of success.
Anyway, any victory over the pampered Spurs is one to be savoured.
Watford Miller, Lavin, Bazeley (Nogan 8), Foster, Holdsworth, Ramage, Hessenthaler, Johnson, Moralee, Porter, Mooney
Manager Glenn Roeder
Scorers Foster 14, Nogan 47, 74
Tottenham scorers Barmby 30, Klinsmann 63
Why was this match chosen? The years between Graham Taylor's departure and his return were barren, to say the least, but this early October evening was a rare bright spot in an era that was short on smiles. Strange to think it was 16 years to the day since the League Cup win over Manchester United in 1978, and three years to the day before the 4-0 win at Luton Town.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? It was a memorable evening for the Hornets fans who made the trip for what was, essentially, a dead rubber, but it was somewhat bittersweet reminder that not so long before this winning at Spurs had been almost a regular occurence.