I’m proud to have arranged for a few extracts of the Euros & Villans book by Rob Bishop to be serialised on Vital Villa. The first was: Euro & Villans: Aston Villa’s First Competitive European Game In 1975
Here is the second from Bish:
“Aston Villa were full of English promise” declared Denis Shaw of the Evening Mail after Ron Saunders’ men had launched their second European campaign with a 4-0 victory over Turkish club Fenerbahce in 1977.
What Villa were promised in the second leg was plenty of hostility from a fervent Turkish crowd. And even though heavy rain in Istanbul kept the attendance down to well under half of the Sukru Saracoglu stadium’s 50,000 capacity, the atmosphere was far from pleasant.
It didn’t help when, after arriving at the stadium, Villa discovered the kick-off had been delayed for half an and the mood worsened considerably when the action got under way.
“There was a running track around the pitch, and they were throwing apples and oranges at us from the stands,” said Alex Cropley. “The match ball over there was the heaviest I ever played with. Gordon Cowans controlled it on his chest and was wheezing afterwards!”
Cowans was so badly winded that he was substituted by Ivor Linton in the 65th minute. “Fenerbahce produced a ball which had clearly been used before, was completely mis-shaped and played all manner of tricks,” he said. “It was absolutely throwing it down with rain and the conditions were so heavy that the ball became like a medicine ball.
“At the time I only weighed around nine stone and one of their players hit the ball so hard against me that it knocked the stuffing out of me and I ended up going off.
“When the final whistle went, their fans went mad. They lit fires on the terraces and bottles rained down on to the pitch. We had to shelter near the bench before the police took us to the safety of the dressing room.”
Captain Leighton Phillips was convinced the match would not have played had it not been a European tie, such was the state of the waterlogged pitch. But a postponement would have created all sorts of problems in terms of re-arranging the game, so the surface was declared fit and Villa effectively paddled their way to a 2-0 victory.
To order the book, use paypal.me/eurovilla (Cost is £22, including £2.25 towards UK p/p).
You can follow Rob on Twitter: @robbishopavfc