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Villan on the Spot: Tony Morley

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Villan on the Spot: Tony Morley


Supporter Colin Abbott continues his feature series as he meets up with a host of ex-stars to discuss their time with Villa.

Next up we chat to former winger Tony Morley.

Tony Morley is remembered fondly for his time at Villa Park as a blond-haired streak of lightning tearing down the left wing.

In a claret and blue career which comprised 180 appearances and 34 goals, none more memorable than his efforts at Goodison Park (which won him Goal of the Season 1981) and his box-to-box run against Dynamo Berlin en route to European Cup success.

He also bagged a League Championship medal and was a member of the victorious European Super Cup-winning side.

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Q] Boyhood heroes?

A] When I was a kid my team was Everton and the players I watched mostly were the wingers, like Jimmy Johnstone from Celtic and George Best.

There was also a fellow at Everton called Alex Young, who was known as the Golden Vision.

Q] Describe your early career?

A] When I left school I was only 4ft 10in and was too small to even take a corner so Preston put me into a hostel and put me on a diet of malt and steak.

For the first 12 months I trained with them but didn't play any games. I had the ability I just wasn't physically strong enough.

From 16 I went through the A and B sides into the reserves.

I was a right-sided midfield player - people don't realise I'm naturally right-footed - and Arsenal were interested in me as a replacement for George Armstrong but I didn't fancy going to London.

Burnley had just sold Leighton James and the crowd were giving the chairman a lot of stick.

So Bob Lord thought 'I'll get Morley in for half the price.

He's younger and it'll keep the fans quiet.'

I was disappointed I felt like I'd been used as a piece of meat when I was forced to play on the left wing.

That decision hindered my international career for five years and it was the first time I'd come across politics in football.

But in time I made the left side my favoured position.

I obviously did something right.

At Villa I was voted the best left-winger in Europe.

Q] What did you think of Villa Park when you arrived?

My memories of Villa Park were when I used to drive down the motorway and see that big AV and I thought what an incredible place.

I had a connection with Villa because when I played for England youth there was a tradition where we played both finalists from the FA Youth Cup Final.

In that year (1972) we played at Anfield and Villa Park against players like Brian Little and John Gidman.

Q] Most memorable Villa game?

A] The 3-0 win against Middlesbrough in April 1981, when we wrongly were told we had won the title.

Boro were our bogey side yet we absolutely battered them.

Every one of the lads was superb on a very bad pitch, and we it could have been six or seven.

Another big game was beating Liverpool at home during the same season.

They were the benchmark for Europe and we knew we could compete with them.

Q] What was it like to represent your country?

A] Incredible.

I played at youth, under-23, B and full level.

Obviously I would have loved to have won more caps than the six full ones I achieved but in those days they really had to be earned.

I was actually capped for England youth and won the Mini World Cup in Italy 1971.

I'm also one of only three players from the old Third Division to represent England U-23s.

To be honest I never found international football any harder, it was a joy just to play.

Bremner

Q] Best player?

A] I could go through the whole team - Little, Gray, Cowans, Withe, etc, and I was privileged to play alongside them, but I would have to go with Des Bremner.

What you got from him was 110 per cent from the Monday morning right up to the match on the Saturday afternoon.

Myself, 'Sid' and Gary Shaw might have 30 great games and 10 average ones; Des would have 40 good games.

His standard was very high all the way through.

Kenny Swain said playing behind Bremner made his own game easy, such was the protection he received from Des.

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Q] Most difficult opponent?

A] Pat Rice of Arsenal, for the simple reason he was very intelligent.

He knew how to position himself and was aware my left foot was the weaker so he would make my angles difficult to get good crosses, knowing I would have to come inside.

You could tell he'd been taught properly.

Q] Funny dressing room incident?

A] We were in the changing room before a game at Bristol City.

Colin Gibson was bending over in his jockstrap doing his stretching and Brendan Ormsby put some deep heat where he shouldn't!

It was two minutes before we went out so Colin had no time to shower and you know that when you start sweating this stuff comes into its own.

Gibbo couldn't get off the pitch quickly enough at half-time!

Q] Worst injury?

A] I only had two bad ones.

During pre-season at Burnley I got hit in the eye with a ball, losing partial eyesight; it was like looking through frosted glass.

I was taken to hospital and was stuck in bed blindfolded for a week.

At Villa I had a problem with my knee that meant I couldn't pull up during running straight away.

It would take me an extra four or five yards, and things like turning were painful.

You just want to keep playing but deep down I knew I was doing more damage.

After a word with Ron Saunders they got me in for an operation.

Q] Do you keep in touch with your former team-mates?

A] Yes, a lot of the lads have stayed in the Midlands.

Snap up MATCH TICKETS for Villa v Watford.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 16th November 2015