I WANT TO REMAIN AT VILLA FOR THE REST OF MY MANAGERIAL CAREER
Since my arrival at Villa Park, I have fought my share of battles, suffered in silence at times and had my way on one or two very important occasions.
The current team is the third I have built and, I believe, is the best.
Towards the end of the 1980-81 season, there were times when my name was linked with the England job.
I'll just say that I have never sought the position and don't want it.
My greatest wish is to remain at Aston Villa for the remainder of my managerial career.
It was a momentous occasion when Villa carried off the First Division Championship for the first time in 71 years and I honestly believe it is more difficult for a Midlands club than for most others to achieve such a feat.
The reason? You have to play so many derby games!
Out of the 42 league matches, eight are against clubs who are exceptionally close rivals - West Brom, Wolves, Birmingham and Coventry.
In addition, there are games against close neighbours such as Nottingham Forest and Stoke City.
For my money, those eight derby games make it twice as difficult for a Midlands club to finish up as champions.
And when you drop only one point those matches - as Villa did, at The Hawthorns, in season 1980-81 - I believe you're entitled to claim that such a performance is rather special, in the context of chasing the supreme prize, the First Division Championship.
DO YOU WANT TO BET AGAINST US?
Towards the closing stages of season 1980-81, we beat West Brom at Villa Park and, as the anticipation of our clash Ipswich began to build up, people throughout the Midlands appeared to realise, as if almost for the first time, that the League Championship was indeed a possibility for Aston Villa.
All the excitement during the 48 hours before that game was unbelievable...unfortunately on the night we were by no means at our best and conceded two sloppy goals to Ipswich.
In spite of the fact that we created five or six good chances, we were able to put only one of them away, so we lost 2-1.
Immediately everyone assumed that the title belonged to Ipswich.
But even though we had played badly by our standards, I felt even more convinced that Aston Villa would finish up as champions.
Indeed, at the after-match press conference, I suggested to the media that I would stand any bets they cared to place against us.
There wasn't one taker!
On the following Saturday we entertained Nottingham Forest while Ipswich were at home to Arsenal.
While each and every one of the Aston Villa players showed tremendous character, coupled with undoubted ability, to produce an exceptional performance so that we won 2-0, Arsenal were beating Ipswich by a similar margin at Portman Road.
So, once again, we were three points clear at the top.
On the Easter Monday, as Ipswich played a derby game at Norwich, we travelled the shirt distance to Stoke's Victoria Ground and played in a game which had all the atmosphere of a cup final.
Stoke gave us a tremendous game and at the end of the 90 minutes we were grateful to have gained a hard-earned point with a 1-1 draw. Especially when the result from Carrow Road showed that Norwich had beaten Ipswich 1-0.
Ipswich still had a match in hand but the end of the road in sight for them, as well as for Villa.
They played Manchester City at Portman Road and won 1-0 while we romped to a 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough on our ground - a result which our supporters really cheered because there was some apprehension beforehand because Boro were seen as our bogy team.
The final Saturday of the season saw Ipswich at Middlesbrough and Villa at Arsenal with Ipswich still having a home match to come against Southampton.
We had totalled 60 points and a point at Highbury would clinch the title, even if Ipswich won their last two matches.
Twenty-thousands supporters made the trek from the Midlands to Highbury, which housed close on 60,000 people.
During the week before the game, we had kept our training low-key and avoided putting pressure on the players...unfortunately on the day nerves got the better of a few of them and we produced nothing like the performance I knew we were capable of.
Meanwhile, Arsenal raised their game and scored two goals.
During the last 20 minutes our feelings were inexplicable, as we got the news that Middlesbrough, having been a goal down, were holding Ipswich 1-1. As it turned out Boro hit a winner!
So at the end of the match against Arsenal, although we felt disappointed in our performance on the day, it was a fantastic feeling for everyone concerned to know that we were the new champions of the First Division.
I will just add that at the start of the season we had fixed a target of 60 or 61 points as being necessary to win the First Division Championship.
Over the 42 league games, we had totalled 60 points.
A lot had been said and written about us not having as much ability in our side as some other teams in the country.
The game of the game is winning...and our results said we were worthy champions!
Make sure you're here to roar on the lads against Manchester United.