UEFA Cup glory 40 years on: How Greek ‘holiday’ almost tripped Town up at the first hurdle

PUBLISHED: 06:05 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:17 01 October 2020

Ipswich Town skipper Mick Mills shakes hands with the Aris Salonika captain. Town won the first leg 5-1 before losing the second leg 3-1 in Greece.

Ipswich Town skipper Mick Mills shakes hands with the Aris Salonika captain. Town won the first leg 5-1 before losing the second leg 3-1 in Greece.

Archant

In the first of a new series celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s UEFA Cup winning campaign of 1980-81, CARL MARSTON talks to Terry Butcher about the first round tie against Aris Salonika

John Wark in action against Aris Salonika in the first round of the UEFA Cup in 1980. Town lost the second leg in Greece 3-1 but won the tie 6-4 on aggregate.John Wark in action against Aris Salonika in the first round of the UEFA Cup in 1980. Town lost the second leg in Greece 3-1 but won the tie 6-4 on aggregate.

Terry Butcher remembers Ipswich Town’s incident-packed trip to Greece, to take on hosts Aris Salonika in the second leg of a UEFA Cup tie, as if it was only yesterday.

It is 40 years to the day, on October 1, 1980, that Town took a healthy 5-1 first leg lead to Thessaloniki in Greece and then survived the scare of their lives before progressing 6-4 on aggregate, after a 3-1 second leg defeat.

Centre-half Butcher, a mainstay of Town’s defence alongside Russell Osman, recalls how the Greek side used every trick in the book to try and unsettle the Suffolk visitors.

It didn’t work, but it nearly did – in the end, Town topped an incredible season by going on to lift the UEFA Cup the following May, after finishing runners-up to Aston Villa in the First Division and also reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Terry Butcher, right, and John Wark in a celebratory mood. Wark scored four goals in Town's first leg 5-1 victory over Aris SalonikaTerry Butcher, right, and John Wark in a celebratory mood. Wark scored four goals in Town's first leg 5-1 victory over Aris Salonika

“It doesn’t seem like 40 years ago. It’s all gone in a flash,” revealed Butcher.

“We had a really good squad, and came into the season on the back of a very good pre-season.

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“We knew we had a good team, and those were the days when it was almost taken for granted that Ipswich Town would be playing in Europe every season.

Terry Butcher on the ball during Ipswich Town's triumphant UEFA Cup winning campaign of 1980-81.Terry Butcher on the ball during Ipswich Town's triumphant UEFA Cup winning campaign of 1980-81.

“Everyone was up for our chances in Europe. The style of play had been undergoing significant changes under the two Bobbys, Bobby Robson and Bobby Ferguson, and confidence was high. I don’t think we even lost a game until the middle of November, when we lost 1-0 to Brighton (November 11), going unbeaten in our first 14 league matches.

“In a way, you could say we were the victim of our own success, because we ended up being involved in so many different competitions.”

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With regards the two-legged first round clash against Aris Salonika, 61-year-old Butcher explained: “We had no prep at all to go by, concerning the opposition. We didn’t have a clue who they were, or how they played. All we knew was that they were from Greece!

Terry Butcher, pictured during Ipswich Town's superb 1980-81 seasonTerry Butcher, pictured during Ipswich Town's superb 1980-81 season

“They got a man (Giorgos Forios) sent off in the first half, and John Wark ended up scoring four goals, three of them penalties. We were confident after our 5-1 win at home, and it was almost like a break or a holiday for us, that trip to Greece.

“John Wark’s mother-in-law was living in Greece, so the plan was to stay over for a meal after the game. We went on a little trip, the day before the match, or perhaps it was even the morning of the match, so we got to enjoy some of the scenery.

“It did feel like a holiday, but that got translated into the game.

“We conceded two goals from corners (inside the first 22 minutes), but neither of them should have been allowed to stand.

Paul Mariner congratulates goalscorer John Wark, as, Town began their route to the UEFA Cup final with a 5-1 win over Greek side Aris SalonikaPaul Mariner congratulates goalscorer John Wark, as, Town began their route to the UEFA Cup final with a 5-1 win over Greek side Aris Salonika

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“The goal-line was about a foot thick! The line had been painted several times, but rather than paint over the old one, they seemed to paint alongside it, so it was very wide.

“Mick Mills cleared one off the line, but the referee gave it as a goal! We couldn’t believe it. In the end it became a test of character.

“However, we knew that we were fully capable of scoring ourselves, and Eric Gates duly popped up with the important goal (when Town were trailing 3-0), which he often did.”

But the test for Town did not end when the final whistle sounded, as Butcher revealed.

“Our team-coach got stoned on the way out of the ground,” continued Butcher.

“We were lying on the floor of the bus and there was smashed glass all around us. Some of their fans were waiting on a bridge over the road to hurl stones at us. All hell broke loose.

“It was the most scared I have been on a team-coach, even more so than when I got head-butted by a fan in Glasgow.

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“That night was quite an experience. They tried every which way to unsettle us, and pulled out all the tricks in the bag to gain the upper hand.

“It was very hot and arid, and they had nothing to lose.

“They really went for it, trying to man-mark John Wark out of the game. I suppose 3-1 sounds like we were hammered, but it wasn’t really like that, although I admit we were perilously close to going out at one point, until Gatesy scored that (75th minute) goal.

“That match was a big wake-up call for us, going forward in the competition. They had tried to intimidate us, and we had to really dig in. It was a big challenge, both on and off the pitch. They tried to trap us,” added Butcher.

IPSWICH TOWN: Cooper, Burley, Mills, Thijssen, Osman, Butcher, Wark, Muhren (sub Beattie, 87), Mariner, Brazil (sub McCall, 77), Gates. Attendance: 23,306

IPSWICH TOWN’S UEFA CUP RUN 1980/81

Round one

Aris Salonika (Greece) - W 5-1 (h), L 3-1 (a) – (Agg 6-4)

Round two

Bohemians (Czech) – W 3-0 (h), L 2-0 (a) – (Agg 3-2)

Round three

Widzew Lodz (Poland) – W 5-0 (h), L 1-0 (a) – (Agg 5-1)

Quarter-finals

Saint-Etienne (France) – W 4-1 (a), W 3-1 (h) – (Agg 7-2)

Semi-finals

FC Koln (Germany) – W 1-0 (h), W 1-0 (a) – (Agg 2-0)

Final

AZ 67 Alkmaar (Holland) – W 3-0 (h), L 4-2 (a) – (Agg 5-4)

- Do you have any particular memories of Ipswich Town’s UEFA Cup tie against Aris Salonika, from 40 years ago?

Perhaps you went to the second leg in Greece? If so, you can e-mail your memories to Carl Marston at carl.marston@archant.co.uk

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