Ipswich v AZ

UEFA Cup Winners 1981

Portman Road was the place to be if you wished to see some glittering football during the '70s. Not only were Ipswich Town shaking their groove thing in the league, they were equally boogying past a few of the continent's outstanding sides in European competition. Towards completion of the 1980-81 season, it looked as if Ipswich Town were on course for a wondrous treble. With 10 weeks of the season remaining, the club were leading of the First Division and preparing for semi-finals of both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup.

Bobby Robson had actually taken over the charming Suffolk club in 1969, and through time he had constructed a side with strength and quality in each department. Ipswich were a regular threat in every challengers they went into. The side had actually developed British international footballers throughout; Mick Mills, George Burley, Terry Butcher, John Wark, Kevin Beattie, Paul Mariner and Alan Brazil. Included to this British steel and endeavour was the Dutch style of Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren, who were brought into the club from FC Twente in 1978. Whilst Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa captured the media attention at Tottenham Hotspur, Thijssen and Muhren's effect was perhaps higher for the Portman Road side. Among lots of gems, John Wark shone brightest. The Scottish midfielder scored 36 goals in all contests, winning the PFA's player of the year award and the young European player of the year. His exploits in the UEFA Cup were especially remarkable.

Throughout Robson's early days in charge of Ipswich, he had assisted them to a UEFA Cup place in 1973, and their 1st game in Europe protested Real Madrid. Inconceivably, Ipswich beat them over 2 legs. In the following years, Ipswich also beat Barcelona two times at home in European contest. Nevertheless, Ipswich never ever advanced beyond the quarter-finals in their very first 4 European campaigns. Their 5th-- in the 1980/81 season-- will change all that.

Robson's side had actually finished the previous season in design, losing just one of their last 24 league matches, and they started the 1980-81 project with a 14-game unbeaten run. The only problem for Ipswich was that, the more games they won, the more they had to play. Robson's small team had a hard time to manage a season that would require them to play 66 games. "We had possibly 14 championship-calibre players when we needed 19," Robson later admitted in his autobiography Farewell but Not Goodbye.

By the time they started their attempt to win the FA Cup in January, Ipswich had currently played 11 cup games that season: 5 in the League Cup and six in a Uefa Cup run that took them to Greece to play Aris Thessaloniki, Czechoslovakia to play Bohemians Prague and Poland to play Widzew Lodz before Christmas.

Onto the quarter-finals, and Ipswich were matched with St. Etienne the French giants, who had actually beaten Hamburg 5-0 far from home in the previous round. St. Etienne consisted of in their ranks, Patrick Battison, Dutch ace Johnny Rep and a young French goalscoring midfielder ... Michel Platini. Ipswich won 4-1 in France, a result which shocked the rest of Europe.

It was now business end of the season. In the area of seven days, Ipswich were playing the 1st leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final in the house to Cologne, an FA Cup semi-final versus Manchester City, then a top of the table clash away to Aston Villa.

The club reached their first European final by beating a Cologne group that had actually previously won 4-0 in Barcelona in the challengers. The 1-0 home and away wins in the semi-finals over the German club were a fine achievement, but Robson was significantly concerned about his players' energy reserves. Advocating a transfer to an 18-team league, Robson likewise pointed out that teams on the continent were not punished so much.

The UEFA Cup final was played over two legs, and the Dutch side AZ Alkmaar would go to Portman Road on 6th May 1981. Ipswich were imperious, they swept aside Alkmaar 3-0. Ipswich were 3-0 up after 55 minutes; it was a dominant display. Scotsman Wark maintained his record of scoring in every UEFA Cup connect at Portman Road that season. In fact, throughout the 1980/81 season, Wark scored 36 goals in all contests, an amazing 14 came in the UEFA Cup. Wark's goalscoring kind saw him crowned Young European Footballer of the Year, in addition to the PFA Player of the Year.

Definitely that ought to have been it-- a prize lastly in the bag after a legendary season-- however the jaded Ipswich players put their manager and fans through more stress in the second leg. Thijssen's early goal in Amsterdam provided Ipswich a 4-0 aggregate lead and soothed the nerves of the away side, however AZ scored twice to put Ipswich under pressure.

Wark brought back Ipswich's three-goal lead as he continued his amazing type in the challengers. He scored in every round, equating to José Altafini's 14-goal record, which he set when Milan won the European Cup in the 1962-63 season. However AZ would not lie down. They came back into the final once again, scoring another 2 goals to make it 5-4 over the 2 legs.

After being 4-0 down previously in the night, AZ needed two goals in the last 17 minutes to win the cup. However Ipswich would not be denied, holding on to win the final 5-4 on aggregate.

In a season of sixty-seven games, Ipswich Town had actually won the UEFA Cup, completed 2nd in the league to Aston Villa and been semi-finalists in the FA Cup. It was a remarkable season for Ipswich.

Protecting their UEFA Cup crown in the next campaign, Ipswich encountered another increasing force in British football, Sir Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen, and were dumped out in the 1st round. Ipswich once again completed the season in 2nd place, this time to Liverpool. Throughout the 1981/82 season, Bobby Robson was courted by England, and he organized England after the 1982 World Cup. Once he left, Ipswich Town were never the exact same again.

Five years later on, the club dropped into the Second Division. Quickly the days of 1980-81 would look like a remote dream. However what memories Robson and his little squad supplied.

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