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30 years on from the greatest day in the club's history – Coventry City are back at Wembley.

Saturday 1st April 2017
Tomorrow, Coventry City will contest the EFL Trophy cup final at Wembley. The day out will represent a welcome rest-bite for sky blue fans from what has been an atrocious, forgettable season. It will also, for many of the expected 42,500, be a trip down memory lane as thoughts drift back to the greatest day in the club's history.

The 16th May 1987 was a fine sunny day, perfect weather for the FA Cup final at Wembley. This was the old Wembley with the twin towers. In the days before the Premier League when the FA Cup final was the biggest game in the domestic football calendar.

For finalists, Coventry City, this would be their first ever final in a 104-year history. While opponents Tottenham had a rich cup heritage, having lifted the famous trophy on seven occasions the latest of which just five years earlier in 1982.

Clear favourites, Tottenham had finished the season 3rd in Division 1. Their squad had star quality throughout including England internationals Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle and Argentine World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles.

Coventry City though were no mugs and bear no comparison to today's club. A blend of tough pros such as Steve Ogrizovic, Brian Kilcline and Cyrille Regis and talented youngsters such as Dave Bennett. Coventry were established in the top flight and had finished the season a respectable 10th, one place above Manchester United. Coventry experienced a tough journey to Wembley, overcoming difficult away trips to Old Trafford and Hillsborough before defeating a high flying Leeds 3.2 in a thrilling semi-final.

So the scene was set for an exciting game and the watching millions were not disappointed. Named as one of his best ever Cup finals by legendary BBC commentator John Motson.

Reliving the 1987 Final

The game got off to an explosive start with two goals in the opening 10 minutes. First, after just 2 minutes, Tottenham's scoring sensation Clive Allen nodded in his 49th goal of the season after some magnificent Chris Waddle wing-play but Coventry were soon level after Dave Bennett's cool finish after latching on to a knock on and calmly rounding the goalkeeper.

The frantic pace continued throughout the game as each side traded attacks displaying plenty of quality. However, it was a scrappy goal by Gary Mabbutt that gave Spur's a half-time lead.

The second half was equalling thrilling, full of incident and end to end action. Then in the 63 minute came the game's defining moment. A diving header at full stretch by Keith Houchen. Captured superbly on camera it was one of the great iconic FA Cup final goals and the making of a Coventry legend in Houchen.The game was frenetic but neither side could find a winner despite 30 shots on goal in the 90 minutes. So extra time and its combination of tired legs and added pressure. Driven on by an increasingly vocal sky blue support, Lloyd McGrath broke down the right wing and his low cross was heading nowhere until it hit Gary Mabbutt's outstretched leg and, almost in slow motion, looped over Ray Clemence and into the net.

It proved to be the winner, Coventry celebrated as did the watching nation. A truly memorable cup final and a day as yet unsurpassed by Coventry City.

The EFL Trophy

So back to the present day. Coventry returns to Wembley for the first time since that famous triumph but this time in the far less glamorous EFL trophy. With the club currently rock bottom and facing relegation to the bottom tier for the first time since 1958, the fans can be excused for reflecting on happier days.
Meanwhile their opponents Oxford United also have fond memories of the mid-1980's. In Coventry City's cup winning year Oxford was also an established top flight team finishing that season 18th. The season before Oxford had their own moment in the Wembley limelight winning the 1986 League Cup final beating QPR 3.0 to win the club's first and only major trophy.

So whatever the result on Sunday, you can be sure both sets of fans will enjoy their day out recalling stories and raise a glass to fond memories of those great days 30 years ago.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently exiled in Dallas, US. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I am now working on my second book, with Pitch Publishing - Newcastle United Hall of Fame. I'm also a keen reader of football-related books.

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