It remains the greatest high of Tony Morley’s career yet Aston Villa’s historic European Cup triumph over Bayern Munich is also tinged with frustration.
Villa, the First Division champions, lifted the famous trophy in Rotterdam 38 years ago.
Tricky winger Morley teed up Peter Withe’s 67th-minute winner after some superb skill to beat Hans Weiner.
He still cherishes the feat, and his winners’ medal eight months later from the Super Cup against Barcelona.
But the tumultuous politics of Villa Park saw managerial mastermind Ron Saunders resign amid boardroom bust-ups just three months before European Cup glory.
Morley still bemoans Villa’s failure to build a lasting dynasty as the side was later ripped apart by returning chairman Doug Ellis, who sought to put his own stamp on the club.
Yet ask him about that night at the De Kuip Stadium and his face lights up. Morley, 65, said: “European Cup football suited me down to the ground. I found it easier than the league.
“It was man-for-man marking in Europe whereas in England they would cut your service off instead. But I believed on my day, one against one, I would get the upper hand. I knew in that final I could get an opprtunity to create a chance.
“My job was to get the ball into the box and it was up to the strikers to get on the end of it.
“As it happened it went across and went in off Peter’s shin. I didn’t play that well in the final but all I wanted was that medal.”
Morley’s cross for Withe was his fourth assist in the competition. He also scored four times as Villa knocked out FC Valur Reykjavik, Dynamo Berlin, Dynamo Kiev and Anderlecht en route to the final.
Tony Barton, promoted from chief scout, took charge of Villa’s European triumphs from the quarter-finals onwards but Saunders, who passed away last December, was the architect. As well as the First Division title, Villa won the League Cup twice under Saunders, while the kids also won the FA Youth Cup as he built solid foundations.
Morley said: “We were brought up under Ron to realise that it was a team game. And we had an incredibly strong dressing room. Tony (Barton) had been there for a long time and knew the set-up so he wasn’t going to change anything.”
Yet wholesale change swept through Villa after former chairman Ellis returned to take charge again in 1982 after the European triumph.
Stars like Kenny Swain, keeper Jimmy Rimmer, Ken McNaught and Morley himself were gone the next year, with skipper Dennis Mortimer following them out. Instead of building on their success to become the dominant team of the 80s, Villa allowed Everton to usurp them and slumped to relegation in 1987.
Morley said: “If Saunders had stayed another five years there would have been another three or four trophies in the cabinet.
“We were as good as Everton man for man in the mid-80s when they won everything.
“It was taken away from us – not because the players weren’t good enough but because of politics. That is why Villa went from being European champions to relegated. One man wanted to take everything over, a total disaster for the club.”
1982 – THE BREAKDOWN
Aston Villa 1 Bayern Munich 0
Feyenoord Stadium, Rotterdam
May 26, 1982. KO 7.15pm
Aston Villa (4-3-3) : Rimmer (Spink, 9); Swain, McNaught, Evans, Williams; Mortimer, Cowans, Bremner; Withe, Shaw, Morley.
Manager: Tony Barton.
Bayern Munich (4-4-2) : Muller; Dremmler, Weiner, Augenthaler, Horsmann; Mathy (Guttler, 51), Kraus (Niedermayer, 78), Breitner, Durnberger; Hoeness, Rummenigge.
Manager: Pal Csernai.
Scorer: Withe 67.
Referee: Georges Konrath (France).
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