I’m proud to have arranged for a few extracts of the Euros & Villans book by Rob Bishop to be serialised on Vital Villa. You can see previous articles below.
Villa had started the season with a draw and four wins but they suffered an attack of European stage fright when faced with what looked by far their easiest task to date – a first-round UEFA Cup tie against Norwegian part-timers Stromsgodset.
The visitors took a 21st-minute lead through Anders Michelsen and Villa were still coming to terms with that totally unexpected development when substitute Christer George slotted home a second goal two minutes later.
In the 56th minute, in fact, it could well have been game over, when Michelsen was sent racing through with only Mark Bosnich to beat. The goalkeeper spread himself and managed to divert the ball for a corner and avert what would have been a disastrous situation.
Then Gregory made a substitution which turned the match on its head. Young striker Darius Vassell, who had made late appearances in the recent Premiership wins against Middlesbrough and Newcastle United, was handed another cameo role – and rarely has a player made a more effective European debut.
With seven minutes remaining, Villa were thrown the lifeline of a close-range goal from right-back Gary Charles but as the game reached the end of the 90 minutes the visitors still led 2-1.
When Vassell had gone on to replace Darren Byfield, coach Steve Harrison had told him: “Get yourself out there, score us a couple of goals and win us the game.” Which is precisely what the 18-year-old did.
First, Alan Wright hoisted a deep cross to the far post for Riccardo Scimeca to head back across the face of goal. Lee Hendrie mis-hit his shot but Vassell was perfectly positioned to guide the ball into the roof of the net with his left foot from a couple of yards.
The youngster was even closer to the goal when he stabbed the ball over the line three minutes later after Ian Taylor’s pass had set up Alan Thompson for a fierce low drive which goalkeeper Glenn Arne Hansen could only parry. In the space of a surreal period of added time, Holte Enders had found themselves a new hero.
**To order the book, use paypal.me/eurovilla (Cost is £22, including £2.25 towards UK p/p).** (If you win a copy we can get you a refund on the order or makes a nice Xmas present!)
You can follow Rob on Twitter: @robbishopavfc
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