Dave Woodhall, editor of Heroes and Villains fanzine: “On the day of the match I was mooching around Rotterdam and saw this group of lads coming towards us. We thought, ‘Christ, they’re Germans, we’re in trouble here.’ Then I realised they were the Villa team. Can you imagine now, just before the Champions League final, the players taking a stroll around town like they were on their holidays? They just weren’t fazed by anything.”
Morley: “I didn’t actually go on to the pitch till half an hour before kick-off. I had mates from Liverpool coming and I had tickets for them. They happened to meet some nice ladies in a bar somewhere in Amsterdam, so I had to wait. Outside the ground I had supporters coming up saying to me, ‘Are you playing?’ I said, ‘Of course I’m playing, I’m just waiting to give these tickets away!’”
Woodhall: “Football then was not the monolith it is now. They had the champions of England and Germany playing, yet you could pick up tickets around Rotterdam so easily. I ended up sitting next to a guy from New Zealand who’d come over to Europe on holiday and managed to pick up a ticket. He’d never been to a football match in his life but thought, ‘I’m in Europe, I’ve got to see a football match!’”
Villa had a setback nine minutes into the final when goalkeeper Rimmer, who had been struggling with a muscle injury to his neck and shoulder, shuffled off shaking his head. On came Nigel Spink, 23, with only one previous senior appearance to his name.
McNaught: “I knew the physiotherapist was coming into our room to give Jimmy neck massages but he didn’t seem too uncomfortable. Obviously it was worse than he was making out. I was surprised when he came off but when I saw some of the saves that Spinky pulled off, low down to either side, I doubt that Jimmy would have been able to get down that quick. I once popped a disc in my neck heading a ball, so I know how difficult it is.”
At the back, Villa had to ride their luck both before and after the defining moment, when Morley turned Hans Weiner inside and out
before crossing for Withe’s close-range winner.
McNaught: “I remember Rummenigge did an overhead kick and it flashed past the post, and Kenny Swain headed one off the line. The worst for me was when the ball was played through – a high ball that Bayern played quite a lot, a diagonal long ball – and I’d stepped up to play Hoeness offside, but Gary Williams was breaking his neck to get back. That was where Hoeness thrashed it into the back of the net and the referee had given offside; the only moment where I thought, ‘We’re getting away with it here.’”
Withe: “When you look back at the goal, I was one of the instigators who started the move. The ball came up to me and I brushed aside Hoeness, their big centre-forward, and then played the ball across to Dennis [Mortimer] – and it started from there.”
“The European Cup had been in England for the previous five years and we didn’t want to be the team to lose it”
Morley: “The goal was the only opportunity I really had in the right area. I’d had a couple on the halfway line but they were doubling up on me, so it was hard getting past them; they’d done their homework. This was the only chance I had to have a one against one. I knew I’d get the better of him and I just knocked the ball across. To be brutally honest, it came off Peter’s ankle!”
Withe: “The guy marking me was [Klaus] Augenthaler. I moved him to the near post and pulled away to the far post – that’s the space I created. Tony supplied the cross and I was on the end of it. To be perfectly honest, I made good contact with the ball; it wouldn’t hit your shin and go off at that speed. If it hadn’t gone where it went, the goalkeeper might have saved it – he was diving full length, it hit the post and went in.”
Morley: The other thing a lot of people don’t realise is Nike did a deal with Villa and wanted us to wear their boots. Three or four lads had to wear these boots because the club were getting money and, in the last 20 minutes, one or two of them couldn’t walk because the blisters on their feet were that big. When Nike brought boots out then, 40 years ago, they were like concrete.”
Withe: “I was the first player to wear the boots, as I’d worn them in the States [playing for Portland Timbers]. That European Cup final there were about seven players who wore them. But it wasn’t a big commercial thing; life didn’t really change. We got probably £2,500 each for winning the Cup [when the average weekly wage in the English top tier was £750]. It wasn’t a lot considering what they get now.”
McNaught: : “In the aftermath, me and Peter Withe got picked for a drug test, so we missed all the celebrations apart from the lap of honour with the trophy. I remember captain Dennis Mortimer wouldn’t give up the trophy, he kept carrying it everywhere. He’s still the same now whenever that trophy appears!”
Withe: “The next day we went to Villa Park to get the open-top bus. There were people everywhere; they were hanging from scaffolds, they were on the roofs. The health and safety went out of the window in those days. The streets were all lined. Going up to Birmingham Town Hall and on to the balcony, and looking out at the crowds, was unbelievable.”
The following season Villa won the UEFA Super Cup against Barcelona, while their European Cup defence ended with quarter-final defeat by Juventus. But the November 1982 return of Doug Ellis for a second spell as chairman (he’d left in 1979) spelled the end. Morley and McNaught departed the following year, while Barton was sacked in 1984. In 1987, Villa suffered relegation.
Morley: “My biggest regret was Doug Ellis taking over. We were set up: the youth team had just won the FA Youth Cup; we had Brian McClair, who couldn’t get into our reserve side. But Doug came in and, at 28, I was finished. That man completely destroyed the team for his own ego. He’d left and two or three years later we’d won the league and European Cup. He hated it.”