in tandem

This article originally appeared in MEHSTG Vol. 2. Issue 30 (December 2002)

At the end of the 1979-80 season the main problem at Tottenham was a lack of quality strikers. Our top scorer had been midfielder Glenn Hoddle with nineteen goals, although it should be noted that seven of those were penalties. Chris Jones had managed only nine goals in thirty-seven matches, Gerry Armstrong just four in thirty, whilst the previous campaign’s top marksman, Peter Taylor, hadn’t scored during his nine appearances (however, he wasn’t an out and out striker and had been top scorer in 78-9 more by default than anything else). However, there were promising youngsters on the way through the ranks at the club, namely Mark Falco and Terry Gibson, but neither was ready for the rigours of regular first team football at that stage. 

The only solution to the problem was for manager Keith Burkinshaw to enter the transfer market. During the 1980 close season he bought forwards Steve Archibald and Garth Crooks. Archibald signed in May, costing Spurs £800,000 from Aberdeen, whom he had just helped to win the Scottish championship by scoring twenty-three goals. Crooks joined from Stoke City for a fee of £600,000, having top scored for the Potteries club with fifteen goals in 79-80. 

If Burkinshaw had signed them believing that the two could forge a potent partnership up front for Spurs, he was instantly proved right. In their first season together Crooks scored his first goal on the opening day of the season against Nottingham Forest whilst Archie opened his account three days later in a 4-3 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. After a minor blip when the whole team, let alone just our two new strikers, failed to score in four successive games (of which three on the trot were drawn 0-0), at the beginning of October the partnership between two very different forwards in terms of stature and technique began to flourish. 

In 1980-1 Spurs scored seventy league goals, as opposed to forty eight in 78-9 and fifty two in 89-80. Of the seventy goals, Archibald notched twenty, Crooks sixteen, whilst Hoddle weighed in with a useful dozen. We finished tenth in the league, four places higher than the previous season and also won the Centenary FA Cup Final. Archibald scored an important goal in the 2-2 semi final draw against Wolves whilst Crooks hit a brace in our 3-0 win in the replay as we booked our place for Wembley at Highbury. Garth also scored in the replay of the final against Manchester City, his strike levelling the scores at 2-2 prior to Ricky Villa’s piece of magic that won the cup for us. 

The following season proved to be somewhat less successful for our striking duo. Both missed the start of the campaign through injury, which allowed Mark Falco to grab some limelight with both goals in our drawn Charity Shield game against Aston Villa. Archibald had a disappointing season with only six goals in twenty-seven appearances, whilst Crooks managed thirteen in twenty seven games (which included a thunderous bullet header in the 6-1 win over Wolves). 

We only scored three fewer than the previous campaign - Hoddle again made a decent contribution (ten league goals) and Ricky Villa scored eight. In what was a very successful season we finished fourth in division one, retained the FA Cup and were losing finalists in the League Cup (in which Archie scored our only goal). 

Steve played in the World Cup for Scotland that summer but in the following campaign his partnership with Crooks failed to reach anywhere near the admittedly quite spectacular heights of their first season together, with the duo scoring nineteen times in a combined total of fifty seven games. Mark Falco was now looking more like a decent Division One striker and had forced his way into the first team and was scoring regularly. In addition, Burkinshaw had boosted the strike force in early 1983 with the signing of Alan Brazil from Ipswich Town, who quickly established himself and scored some vital end of season goals that helped us qualify for the following season’s UEFA Cup. 

The Crooks/Archibald partnership was dead and buried. After an early 83-4 disagreement with Burkinshaw, Archie was dropped for four games, during which time Crooks appeared in the first team but there was only one league game that season when both forwards started for Spurs. Steve never did make it up with the manager but didn’t allow the situation to effect his game as he enjoyed an impressive season, weighing in with twenty one league goals, ably supported by Falco with thirteen. 

Archibald’s four years at White Hart Lane ended when he signed for Barcelona in August 1984, his last appearance for us coming in the UEFA Cup Final when he helped us win the trophy by successfully scoring from the spot during the penalty shoot-out against Anderlecht. For Garth, 1983-4 was a poor campaign. Banished to the reserves after a disappointing start, he also spent a fruitless loan spell with Manchester United. Having returned from Old Trafford, in an interview in our club programme for the game against Sunderland in February 1984 Crooks stated “I want to show that I’m worthy of a first team place, show that Garth Crooks can regain his old form”. To his credit, Garth did bounce back and, like Archibald, enjoyed a good final season with Tottenham. He appeared in twenty two league games during 1984-5, scoring ten goals, including a run during which he scored in six successive Division One games, including one on New Year’s Day which helped us to a 2-1 win at Arsenal. 

His last appearance for the club came at Leicester in April 1985 and he joined West Bromwich Albion two months later. It was a shame that the success of Archibald and Crooks as a striking partnership during their first season couldn’t be repeated in later years. However, individually, both made useful contributions during the remainder of their Spurs careers and are remembered fondly by those who watched Spurs during the early Eighties. For the record, in his four years at The Lane, Archie scored seventy eight times in one hundred and eighty nine appearances. Crooks’ five years as a Spur yielded seventy-five goals in one hundred and eighty two matches, both very impressive records. 

Andrew Ford

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