40 years on, Aston Villa heroes look back at their 1982 European Cup glory
The most magical journey in Aston Villa’s history began with an encounter with Miss World in an Icelandic nightclub and finished with the game’s ultimate prize disappearing from a pub. Aston Villa’s victory over Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in Rotterdam on this day, 1982 is immortalised on a banner in the North Stand at Villa Park. The trophy was stolen from the Fox Inn near Tamworth, where Gordon Cowans and Colin Gibson had taken it to show off to fans, before being handed to police hours later by its remorseful thief. Aston Villa are celebrating 40 years since their famous night in Rotterdam where they won the European Cup (Gary Shaw, Tony Morley and Peter Withe pictured left to right) Members of the 1982 European Cup winning team were given a guard of honour by Villa's current players before their final weekend home match with Crystal Palace earlier this month Villa changed managers mid-campaign, with the forceful, title-winning boss Ron Saunders replaced by the mild-mannered Tony Barton, who went from assistant manager and chief scout to European Cup winner in three months. They went behind the Iron Curtain to defeat Dynamo Berlin and before playing Dynamo Kyiv, stayed in a hotel so poor there were cockroaches inside the bread rolls. Even if Villa reach those heights again, the corporate phenomenon that is the Champions League means it could never be quite so memorable. ‘We could probably guess who will be in the quarter-finals of the Champions League next season,’ Morley, who won six England caps, tells Sportsmail. Peter Withe scored the only goal of the game against German giants Bayern Munich who has been ribbed ever since for his close range finish past goalkeeper Manfred Muller Gordon Cowans, Gary Shaw and Gary Williams rush to celebrate with scorer Withe
‘Money talks and that means glamour ties in the final, like Real Madrid versus Liverpool. ‘Reserve’ was Spink’s role when he was summoned for the moment that would change his life, nine minutes into the final. ‘Gary Newbon, who was working for local television, had somehow managed to get a seat next to the bench,’ says Spink. ‘I saw Jimmy waving his arms and Gary said to me, “Spinksy, you’re going on. ‘It was helpful that Bayern were such a good team, because I had no chance to think about what was happening. Aston Villa players celebrating after their European Cup final triumph on May 26, 1982 After crushing Valur 5-0 in Birmingham, they were never going to throw it away in the second leg in Iceland. So some of the players decided to let their hair down in a local night spot — where there was a surprise waiting for them. ‘We were in a disco and Miss World walked in,’ chuckles Morley. Morley, now 67, is engaging company and always ready with a wisecrack. Their reward: a last-eight tie against Dynamo Kyiv and a hotel that still makes the players shudder.
‘They were no seats on the toilets, the food was awful,’ recalls Spink. While dealing with that culture shock, the players were still coming to terms with another. Villa's substitute goalkeeper Nigel Spink replaced the injured Jimmy Rimmer nine minutes into the final and went on to keep a clean sheet against the now six time European Cup winners ‘He did what he needed to do — let us get on with it,’ says captain Dennis Mortimer, now 70. That determination carried Villa past Anderlecht in the last four and into the final — though they briefly feared they would not be allowed to take part. Trouble during the second leg in Brussels marred the goalless draw and left Villa anxious about their fate. ‘There were those on the Anderlecht side who wanted us out but Denis Howell, a Labour MP for Birmingham, put the case for us and came to our rescue in a way. Villa manager Steven Gerrard knows what the trophy means after his 2005 success with Liverpool and the goal under their billionaire owners is to emulate the heroes of 1982 Withe has been ribbed ever since about his close-range finish, which was hardly the cleanest strike. As a Champions League winner in 2005, Gerrard understands what these men accomplished. The goal for Gerrard, backed by Villa’s billionaire owners, is to emulate them.
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