When the Tottenham players lined up for the 1987 FA Cup final, something seemed wrong.
It turned out that SIX of them were missing the club’s main sponsor – Holsten – from their shirt.
It is surely one of football’s biggest fashion faux pas.
Ahead of the Wembley showpiece, Tottenham were supplied with six full sets of the new kit by manufacturer Hummel, as Simon Shakeshaft, Daren Burney and Neville Evans explain in the book, The Spurs Shirt.
Four sets included the main shirt sponsor, Holsten, across the front, but two sets were unbranded because they had been ordered for the youth team to use in an end of season tournament in Germany.
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In addition, club secretary Peter Day was informed by The Football Association that, given the huge global television audience the Cup final would attract, the organisation were unsure about advertising issues given this was the first time a team with an alcohol sponsor was appearing in football’s end of season spectacular.
It was decided the youth team could wear the existing kit, and so all six sets of kit were sent to have the match embroidery stitched onto the front. When they were returned to White Hart Lane, the kit sat in Day’s office.
In any case, the FA gave Spurs the green light to keep the beer brand on their shirts.
The Spurs Shirt boys have pieced together what they believe happened next.
Johnny Wallis, the kit man, selected two sets of outfield kits, numbered 2-14, from the box in Day’s office, unaware some didn’t have Holsten on them.
At Wembley, Wallis would have laid out the shirts with the number facing up, so players knew which was theirs.
And with an FA Cup final to focus on, Clive Allen, Glenn Hoddle and their team-mates didn’t notice what was on their shirts as they changed for the game.
1987 FA Cup final
Coventry shocked FA Cup specialists Tottenham…
Coventry 3-2 Tottenham
Spurs were going for a record eighth competition triumph and were heavy favourites to beat Coventry, a club appearing in their first major final in their 104-year history.
Clive Allen scored his 49th goal of the season, but a Gary Mabbut own goal in extra-time earned Coventry a 3-2 win.
Keith Houchen’s diving header to level the game is one of the FA Cup’s most famous goals, while Coventry fans named a fanzine in honour of Mabbutt’s knee.
Allen explains he first noticed the cock up when warming up before kick-off. “I saw there was no sponsor’s name written on Glenn Hoddle’s shirt,” he wrote in There’s only one Clive Allen. “He came towards me and I said to him: ‘What about your Holsten?’ Quick as a flash, he replied: ‘Clive, I’ve got a game to play. I don’t think we should have a drink just now!’”
After the game, which Spurs lost 3-2, the club held an inquiry into how the mistake had been allowed to happen, conscious of the fact Holsten paid them a lot of money to have their name splashed across the front.
The incident actually generated a lot of publicity for the brand and Iriving Scholar, Spurs’ then chairman managed to eventually smooth things over, though not without casualties.
“On the Monday morning I, along with [manager] David Pleat, Peter Day and [Commercial Manager] Mike Rollo met Holsten,” Scolar wrote in his book, Behind Closed Doors. “We feared the worst, but Alan Bridget, Holsten’s chairman, took a very understanding view and made it clear that there was no question of withdrawing the sponsorship.”
However, Day lost his job, while Wallis was relegated to the reserve team with Roy Reyland taking charge of the first team kit.
The full story of the 1987 Cup final mix up, along with many others can be found in The Spurs Shirt, the story of Tottenham’s colours told through a unique collection of historic match worn shirts.