Never has a side come through such adversity to win the European Cup as Aston Villa in 1982. The manager resigned mid-way through their European campaign, their league form was poor and in the final they had to rely on a rookie goalkeeper with just one senior appearance to his name. Despite all this they beat some of the best teams in Europe culminating in victory over a Bayern Munich side packed with experienced German internationals.
Villa had pipped Ipswich to the league title in 1981 under the guidance of manager Ron Saunders to earn their place in the European Cup. Liverpool were also in contention as holders and despite Villa's status as Champions of England, few people saw them getting further than the Reds in the competition.
After wins over Norwegian minnows Valur and Dinamo Berlin in the first two rounds Villa were rocked by the resignation of Saunders in the build-up to the quarter-final. Saunders' assistant Tony Barton took over with the massive task of knocking out the then Russian giants Dinamo Kiev and Villa's European Cup hopes looked slimmer than ever.
The USSR team was made up of stars from the impressive Soviet Union national side, including Oleg Blokhin, a former European Player of the Year. But against the odds Villa progressed comfortably, winning 2-0 at Villa Park after playing out a goalless draw in the Soviet Union.
By the time of their semi-final with Anderlecht, they were the only English side left in the competition; Liverpool having been knocked out by CSKA Sofia. The Belgian champions set their stall out to frustrate the home side at Villa Park in the first leg, but Tony Morley scored the goal that would win the tie after Villa held on for a 0-0 draw in the return leg to book their place in the final in Rotterdam.
Bayern Munich were Villa's opponents and heavy favourites to lift the trophy, even more so after eight minutes when Villa keeper Jimmy Rimmer went off injured to be replaced by Nigel Spink. Spink had just one senior appearance to his name but turned out to be the hero of the night. A string of fine saves from the 23-year-old frustrated Bayern before the crucial moment came on 66 minutes.
Morley, impressive throughout the campaign, tormented the Bayern defence on the left wing before crossing for Peter Withe to tap home. Villa held out and the team of relative unknowns were the champions of Europe, against all the odds.