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Coventry FA Cup hero has faith class of 2013 can stun Spurs

Coventry City's Keith Houchen (second left) turns away to celebrate after scoring the second equalising goal. Picture: Peter Robinson/EMPICS Coventry City's Keith Houchen (second left) turns away to celebrate after scoring the second equalising goal. Picture: Peter Robinson/EMPICS

Friday, January 4, 2013
2:25 PM

A lot has changed since Keith Houchen helped Coventry take down Tottenham in the 1987 FA Cup final, but the Sky Blues icon is still confident his old team can pull off another shock win tomorrow when they travel to White Hart Lane for their third-round clash.

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Houchen wrote himself into Coventry folklore 26 years ago when he scored a superb diving header during the midlanders’ dramatic 3-2 extra-time win over Spurs at Wembley.

Although Coventry were underdogs that day, the size of their task looks minimal compared to what Mark Robins’ men will have to undertake tomorrow.

While Coventry have floundered since 1987, Spurs have won one FA Cup, one League Cup and have tasted Champions League football, thus retaining their status as one of the heavyweights of the English game.

Spurs may sit third in the Premier League - 52 places above Coventry in the league ladder - and have the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon among their ranks, but Houchen believes an upset could be on the cards when the two sides meet tomorrow in north London.

“There is every chance they can pull something off,” said Houchen, who made 66 appearances for Coventry during a three-year spell at the club.

“That’s the reason why people are so enamoured with the FA Cup - because it’s a great leveller.

“I would love to see them pull a shock result off and there’s every chance they could do it.

“The people of Coventry will think it’s meant to be.”

If the 1987 final is anything to go by, tomorrow’s game should be an entertaining one.

In front of a crowd of 96,000 spectators Clive Allen gave Spurs an early lead at Wembley. Dave Bennett equalised for the Sky Blues, but Gary Mabbutt put the Londoners back on course for victory.

Then came Houchen’s goal - a Coventry break from the halfway line that ended with him beating Ray Clemence with a perfectly-timed diving header that was recently voted as one of the top 10 goals ever scored at Wembley.

The striker’s goal spurred the underdogs on to victory, which came in extra-time when Mabbutt unwittingly kneed the ball in to his own net.

“It (the goal) was huge, the stand-out moment in my career,” said Houchen, who nearly missed the match through a bout of food poisoning he contracted from a trout caught by one of his team-mates.

“It was the perfect goal.

“Dave Bennett whipped the ball across the six-yard box. It was only a couple of yards away from me.

“It was a great cross. Remember in the 80s if you got a ball to curl it was almost a miracle. They weren’t meant to bend.

“The only way it was going in was if I dived to get on the end of it and that’s what I did.

“I put it right in the corner. I hit the ground and I was up within seconds. I just went berserk. I left everyone behind and I was over the (advertising) boards behind the goal bouncing for joy. It was just a wonderful feeling.”

Coventry’s fall from grace started 14 years after that magic day at Wembley. Following 34 years of successive top-flight football, the midlands club were relegated in 2001, and after 11 seasons struggling in the second tier, they dropped down to npower League one last summer.

The riches that have flooded the game since the turn of the century make Houchen’s FA Cup-winning bonus of a £2,400 cheque and a Peugeot 306 look laughable.

Yet, as has been the case with clubs like Portsmouth, the TV money that came with the Premier League’s birth does not guarantee long-term financial success.

Coventry were last month threatened with a winding-up order by Arena Coventry Ltd, who run the 32,500-capacity Ricoh Arena, over unpaid rent totalling £1.1million.

Houchen hopes a long cup run will help bring in some much-needed cash to the club as has been the case with Bradford, who recently beat Arsenal to make the semi-final of the Capital One Cup.

“The money from the gate receipts would help,” Houchen added.

“Bradford say that they are comfortable for 18 months or two years because of their cup run.

“A run would give Coventry a lift and get the club noticed again.”

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