Port Vale: Spurs left grieving after being humbled by mighty Vale
IT IS one of the most ill-fated predictions in FA Cup history.
"The only trouble Spurs will have at Port Vale," chortled Jimmy Greaves, "is finding the place."
The former Spurs striker's forecast came on the Saint and Greavsie Saturday lunchtime show and, let's be fair, not many people would have expected the seismic cup shock which was to follow a few hours later.
At 3pm, Vale were a struggling Third Division side entertaining Terry Venables' mighty Tottenham.
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By 4.50pm, Tottenham were out of the competition and Vale and their jubilant, incredulous fans were celebrating one of the great FA Cup upsets.
How did it happen?
The short answer is first-half goals from Ray Walker and Phil Sproson gave Vale an advantage which proved too much for Spurs, despite Neil Ruddock's second-half goal.
The story behind the result is one of a fantastic team effort, some meticulous planning by coach Mike Pejic and some inspired judgment by manager John Rudge, who had been tipped for the sack.
Legend has it Rudge would have got the bullet had the Valiants lost in the third-round to Macclesfield instead of scraping through 1-0 thanks to Kevin Finney's 85th-minute winner.
It seems remarkable that the club's greatest manager could ever have been in fear of losing his job.
But Vale went into the Macclesfield game sixth-from-bottom of the old Third Division and on a run of 12 league games without a win.
After 10 of those winless games, an emergency board meeting had been held and a change of backroom staff was forced on Rudge.
His right-hand man, Alan Oakes, was demoted and subsequently quit. He was replaced by youth-team coach Mike Pejic.
In a board statement, no mention of Rudge's future was made, beyond the rather ominous: "We will closely monitor results and will meet again in four weeks to assess the situation."
Defeats at Rotherham and at home to Chesterfield followed before Vale headed for non-league Macclesfield for a Sunday third-round tie.
Almost 11,000 fans packed into Vale Park for what was widely expected to be a home win, but Vale survived their greatest scare when a cross from Milton's John Askey, the son of Vale legend Colin, skidded across the Valiants' goal and struck the far post.
Finney, from Wood Lane, headed home five minutes from time to secure a 1-0 win and, the following day, the Vale players finished training early, headed for their dressing room and crowded around a radio to hear the fourth-round draw.
The players cheered when they were given a home draw, then nearly took the roof off when they were paired with the glamour-boys from White Hart Lane.
The tie would generate £80,000 for the Valiants, but few people gave them a hope of actually winning it, particularly as Spurs were second favourites for the cup and Vale had been desperately struggling up front since selling goal-machine Andy Jones to Charlton.
However, there were early signs that Tottenham didn't fancy a game which would be played in heavy Burslem mud.
This didn't escape the notice of The Sentinel's astute Port Vale correspondent Chris Harper, who in the build-up to the game noted: "Spurs chairman Irving Scholar admits to never having been to the Potteries and, having had his request to have the game switched firmly refused, he is in for something of a surprise."
Vale's previous home gate had been 3,495, but 20,045 packed into Vale Park, paying £3.50 for their tickets to generate the club's biggest attendance since 1973.
The ferocity of the atmosphere was matched by the intensity of Vale's performance as Venables's side were rocked after just 12 minutes.
David Riley chased Phil Sproson's long ball out of defence and challenged Mitchell Thomas before Gary Ford played the loose ball to midfielder Walker.
He took aim from 25 yards and unleashed a stunning, swerving strike which gave Tottenham keeper Tony Parks no chance.
Burslem became Bedlam 13 minutes later when Walker's free-kick dropped to Sproson, who lashed it into the Spurs' net with Parks helpless.
Spurs duly fought back and pulled a goal back through Ruddock on 64 minutes, but couldn't break a Vale side who refused to concede a second.
The final whistle sent Vale fans pouring on to the pitch and former Barcelona boss Venables scarpering up the tunnel, pursued by the Match of the Day cameras.
Spurs were out of the cup and where on earth could Port Vale be found Greavsie? In the fifth round, that's where.
PORT VALE: Grew, Steggles, Hughes, Walker, Hazell, Sproson, Ford, Earle, Riley, Beckford (Finney, 83), Cole.
Not used: Banks.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Parks, Hughton (Howells, 60), Thomas, Ruddock, Fairclough, Mabbutt, Fenwick, P Allen, Waddle, Moran, C Allen.
Not used: Statham.
REFEREE: David Scott (Burnley).