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. The second: Euro & Villans: Cowans Totally Winded In Fenerbahce
Here is the third instalment:
There have been some unforgettable European occasions at Villa Park; nights when the place has reverberated to the sound of thousands of supporters singing and chanting in unison.
When Villa began their defence of the European Cup, though, the match was played in the afternoon rather than the evening – and Villa Park was all-but deserted.
Crowd trouble at the previous season’s semi-final against Anderlecht in Brussels had resulted in UEFA punishing the club by insisting that their next European home tie be played behind closed doors.
On the afternoon of Wednesday 15th September 1982, the only people inside the stadium for the first-round, first-leg tie against Besiktas of Turkey – apart from the players, the coaching staff and officials – were reporters, photographers and a few policemen who patrolled the terraces with dogs. The official attendance was recorded as just 167; it was a surreal experience, to say the least.
“I’m sure the 167 figure was made up!” said Steve Stride, the club’s former secretary. “UEFA had stipulated there should be no more than 200 people inside the ground, and the spectators also included police, stewards and security staff.”
Although no members of the public could gain admission, some diehards just couldn’t stay away. One group gathered on the grass banks outside Aston Hall, where they were afforded a restricted view of about an eighth of the pitch through the gap between the Trinity Road stand and the Holte End.
A few members of Villa’s staff were more fortunate, being allowed time off from their administrative duties to watch the game.
“It was a weird experience, very eerie,” said Pam Bridgewater, who was working in the club’s Development Association office at the time. “We sat in the directors’ box – but only because we weren’t allowed to sit or stand anywhere else in the ground. Quite a lot of guests of the Besiktas directors were also in the directors’ box so at least we created a bit of an atmosphere in that area!”
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