Long into the night, Villa supporters were still pinching themselves, barely able to believe what they had witnessed. Twelve months earlier, their team had become league champions for the first time in 71 years and surely it couldn’t get any better than that?
May 26, 1982 - De Kuip Stadium, Rotterdam
It just had. On a warm night in Rotterdam, Villa had won the most prestigious prize in club football, the European Cup. Despite having battled their way past Valur (Iceland), Dynamo Berlin (East Germany), Dynamo Kiev (USSR) and Anderlecht (Belgium), the boys in claret and blue had been given little hope as they lined up for the final against German giants Bayern Munich.
That effectively became no hope when goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer went off with a neck injury and was replaced by Nigel Spink, a youngster who had made just one previous first team appearance.
Every time I watch the final on TV, I always find it a special moment when the cup is presented.
I think, Yes, I´ve been there, done that. It still gives me a magical feeling. Dennis Mortimer
But Spink’s second game for Villa turned out to be the game of his life as he made save after save to deny Bayern’s talented forwards. Spink, without doubt, produced a hero’s performance to ensure that the mighty Germans were frustrated – and there was another hero lying in wait.
With 67 minutes on the clock, winger Tony Morley twisted and turned past his marker before delivering a perfect cross from the left. Unmarked at the far post, Peter Withe didn’t make proper contact, but who cared? The ball flew off his shin and into the net to give Villa the greatest triumph in their history!
“I can remember it as if it happened yesterday,” said Withe in the 2001 book The Road To Rotterdam. “Tony Morley turned a defender one way and then the other. Klaus Augenthaler was marking me but he sensed the danger and moved across to cover, which left me on my own as I reached the six-yard box.
“Tony drove the ball hard across the goalmouth but it seemed to happen in slow motion and I said to myself: ‘Concentrate!’ The ball hit a divot as it reached me and half hit my shin and half hit my ankle before flying against the post and in.
“I’m convinced that if I’d struck it properly, the ‘keeper would have saved it!”
ASTON VILLA: Rimmer (Spink), Swain, McNaught, Evans, Williams, Bremner, Mortimer, Cowans, Morley, Withe, Shaw.
BAYERN MUNICH: Muller, Dremmler, Horsmann, Weiner, Augenthaler, Kraus (Niedermayer), Durnberger, Breitner, Hoeness, Mathy (Guttler), Rummenigge.