A trip down memory lane: When Tottenham played Barcelona in the semi-finals of the 1982 European Cup Winners' Cup
Former Barcelona and Spain defender Jose Antonio 'Pepito' Ramos recalls the last time Spurs were drawn against Barca in European competition ahead of Tuesday's crunch Champions League match
The man in the main stand at Barcelona’s Camp Nou excuses himself as he makes his way to his seat.
“No problem,” replies this writer.
“Where are you from, you don’t sound like you are from here?,” asks Jose Antonio "Pepito" Ramos.
“I’ve been there,” replies the 67-year-old Spaniard. “I’ve played football there. Against Aston Villa, with Brian Little. Against Ipswich Town, managed by Bobby Robson. And against the Tot-ham. I marked Garth Crooks. It was a tough game. They had some very good players like Osvaldo Ardiles and Steve Archibald. The best was Glenn Hoddle. He was good enough to play for Barcelona.”
“Who did you play for?”
“FC Barcelona. I also played for other clubs like Espanyol. And I played for Spain.”
Ramos was Barcelona’s right-back for seven years between 1976-83. With Barcelona due to play Tottenham Hotspur in their final Uefa Champions League group game on Tuesday – only the second time the clubs have been drawn together in their long histories, we arrange to meet again.
“I never intended to be a footballer,” begins Ramos, who was born in Tetouan, Morocco, before moving to Catalonia at an early age. “My father was a civil servant and Tetouan was Spanish, but we moved to Mataro when I was small. I’m from here.
“I started to play football when I was eight. At 16, my parents asked me what I wanted to do. I never thought I would be a footballer. The very best players, they know from a young age that they are going to be footballers. I did not.
“At 18, I made my debut in the third division with Mataro, where I still live. Girona tried to sign me but I was studying chemistry at the university of Barcelona. My studies were more important and football teams trained in the morning. Besides, I didn’t have a car to get me to training.
“Espanyol played a friendly against Mataro. I played well, I ran a lot. Espanyol tried to sign me but I told the trainer, who later managed Spain, that I was a university student. The money wasn’t much, but he convinced me that I could do both. I didn’t think that I would be in the first team but the right -back was injured and I soon found myself replacing him. I gave away a penalty on my debut in the 80th minute. I’d been on the pitch 10 minutes and we led 1-0. We drew 1-1 and I wanted to die.”
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Despite that inauspicious beginning, Ramos settled in at Espanyol. “I stayed for five years, then Barca approached me. The money was much better than a normal job. The football standards were high, the best. I played with the Dutchmen Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens. Cruyff was the leader on and off the pitch. I didn’t speak to him unless he spoke to me. He was a very, very clever man. He spoke several languages, but mainly Spanish in the dressing room. We played PSV [Eindhoven] away and lost 3-0. Cruyff didn’t touch the ball. Nothing. I say that because it was so unusual that he didn’t stand out in a game. The fans never sang for Cruyff. They didn’t need to. He didn’t need confidence from the fans, he had it within himself. But Neeskens needed the confidence. The fans knew this and sang his name. Neeskens was a boy from a village, a more simple man.”
Yet Barca didn’t win the league during Ramos' time at Camp Nou. is clear why that was the case.
“Real Madrid won the league three times in succession and the Basque teams were so strong,” Real Sociedad won the league in 1981 and 1982. Athletic Club then won the league in 1982 and 1983. Barcelona finally won it in 1985 – for the first time since 1974 - but by then I had left. We didn’t win the league solely because of the Basques, but because we lost key players, like Quini, to injury.
“We did win two Cup Winners’ Cups and two Copa del Rey. Quini was the legendary goalscorer from Asturias who won the Pichichi [Spain’s top scorer award] seven times. His brother, Jesus, was a goalkeeper with Sporting Gijon for 18 years. We played them in the Copa del Rey and Quini scored twice against his brother. Jesus died after saving an English boy and his father from drowning on a beach in Cantabria, northern Spain. He was only 42. He had saved them but he collapsed and died.”
In 1982, Spurs and Barcelona were drawn together in the semi-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. Spurs were chasing a quadruple.
“We had won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1979, it was an important competition for us.
We played in London first, at White Hart Lane. Spurs’ forward Steve Archibald was suspended. There was a lot of tension. The pitch was long, but not wide. We weren’t used to playing English teams. The noise was loud; the people really lived football, they had songs inside.”
The English press didn’t share Ramos’ enthusiasm for the way in which Barca achieved their 1-1 draw.
“Tottenham Hotspur, provoked to the limit by the most cynical Spanish tackling at White Hart Lane, almost certainly conceded their chance of appearing in a third cup final this season, when Ray Clemence, their England goalkeeper, made a rare calamitous mistake,” wrote the Daily Mail.
The Daily Telegraph agreed. “The second half showed the worst elements of European soccer as football became secondary to numerous off the ball incidents, many which escaped the attention of the referee.”
“Our captain [Antonio] Olmo scored our goal,” recalls Ramos. Graham Roberts equalised in the 87th minute. Barca striker Estella was sent off in the angry affair for which Uefa fined both clubs for their behaviour, Barca £6,000 and Spurs £2,500. Tottenham were also witthout key midfielder Ardiles, who was back in Argentina while his country were at war with Britain in the Falklands Islands.
The second leg – and the final – were set for Camp Nou which has been vastly expanded to hold 125,000 ahead of the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
“We shall be hard but fair in our tackling,” said Spurs manager Keith Burkinshaw. "We must turn our backs on trouble.”
Barca, who had been beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid three days earlier, won 1-0, with a 46th minute goal from Danish international Alan Simonsen in front of 70,000 fans.
Barca were lucky. “Archibald won a penalty, the referee said no. It was a penalty, but the referee didn’t blow,” admits Ramos.
But The Times gave the Spanish side more credit. “Spurs showed little penetration and seldom looked like scoring the away goal they needed so badly. Barcelona’s determined performance made one wonder why they had played so disgracefully in the acrimonious first leg at White Hart Lane. They demonstrated that when they concentrate on football they can be formidable indeed.”
“Crooks was fouled early on by his marker Ramos,” wrote the Telegraph. “This was a warning that what might befall him if he stepped out of line and he never escaped the attention of his escort.”
Elimination, on a night when fellow English side Aston Villa reached the European Cup final, meant Tottenham’s season was unraveling. Beaten in the League Cup final by Liverpool and with fading league form, they were left with only the FA Cup to concentrate on – which they won. Barca beat Standard Liege in the Cup Winners' Cup final.
Pepito Ramos will be at Camp Nou on Tuesday. Tottenham need to match Inter Milan's result against already-eliminated PSV to qualify. They will be backed by 4,700 travelling fans.
“This Barca team is pragmatic,” Ramos says. “It’s not the Cruyff or Guardiola style of Barca. The coach builds on a very good defence and unity in the dressing room. He knows who his first XI are, too, and plays them all the time. I know [Ernesto] Valverde, he coached at Espanyol. His passion is photography, but he also happens to be very good at coaching football teams. I don’t think this Barca team is at the level to win the Champions League, but I thought that last season and they did win the league and the cup. That’s an incredible achievement. Barca also have Messi and with Messi anything can happen.”
On Saturday, in a game between Ramos’ former teams, Messi enjoyed one of the best performances of his career in a 4-0 win. He was also spellbindingly good against Spurs at Wembley in September. With Barca already through to the last 16 and Tottenham needing a win to join them, they will be hoping Messi isn't quite so effective this time.
Updated: December 10, 2018 06:23 PM