clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Holte History: Tony Morley

"Shaw, Williams, prepared to venture down the left. There's a good ball played in for Tony Morley. Oh, it must be and it is! It's Peter Withe."

Those words said by Brian Moore are something that every Aston Villa fan should know. That was the commentary as Aston Villa scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich to win the European Cup. As crazy as it sounds to say after what 2012 has been, Aston Villa were European Champions in 1982.

This wasn't exactly a dry period for English football either. Aston Villa's triumph marked the sixth consecutive season that an English club won the European Cup. And unlike the Champion's League now, where four English teams qualify, only a league's champion qualified for the European Cup back then.

It's nothing short of amazing to think of what the 1980-81 and 81-82 teams did. And a major part of all of it was a quick, nippy winger named Tony Morley.

Tony Morley was born August 26, 1954 in Ormskirk, England, a town in the northwest of England. Many clubs passed over Morley due to his small stature, but Preston North End brought the then 15 year old Morley into their academy in 1969. Morley would make his debut for Preston as a 18 year old in 1972. Morley showed his skill at Preston, but they found themselves mired in the third divsion after relegation in 73-74. Preston would sell Morley to First Division Burnley in February 1976 for £100,000, despite turning down a move to Arsenal a few months earlier.

Morley's arrival couldn't save Burnley from relegation that year. Morley wouldn't have much of an impact at the Turf Moor as the Lancashire club would struggle in the second division throughout his time at the club. But in June 1979, Morley's career would take off, after Aston Villa signed Morley for £200,000, which would see him move into the top flight. And this is where our story really starts.

Morley dealt with injuries in his first season at Villa Park, as Villa finished 7th in 79-80. But the next two season would be Morley and maybe even Aston Villa's best ever. Morley was one of only 14 players used by Ron Saunders as Aston Villa went on to win the First Division in 80-81. His service from the wings was crucial for Peter Withe and Gary Shaw who scored 38 goals between them. Morley even scored 10 himself, including one against Everton, which would be named Goal of the Season by BBC's Match of the Day.

The following Villa go into the European Cup, in which Morley played a huge part. He scored one in the home leg of Villa's first round tie against Valur of Iceland. But his biggest performance of the campaign was his brace against East German champions Dynamo Berlin in the Round of 16, in Berlin. Morley scored in the fifth minute, and then again in the 85th minute to give Villa a 2-1 away win. That late goal would prove to be crucial, as Dynamo Berlin won1-0 at Villa Park. But Villa went through thanks to Morley's 2 away goals. Soon after the victory over Berlin, manager Ron Saunders resigned from Villa after disagreements with the board over his contract. Saunders' assistant Tony Barton would take over. This didn't deter Villa as they defeated Dynamo Kyiv in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Morley agained played a crucial role in Villa's victory. He would score the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Anderlecht at Villa Park. A 0-0 draw in the second match meant that Villa was through to the final to take on Bayern Munich.

On May 26, 1982 in Rotterdam, Holland, Villa took the field in a European Cup final. And now we go back to that quote from the beginning. For in the 67th minute, this happened. Morley used his pace pace to get in behind the Bayern back line, before zigging and zagging and sending in a perfectly weighted ball to Peter Withe who slotted it in to give Villa a 1-0 lead. Villa held off Bayern for the remaining minutes of that match and became European Champions.

Today you will find that quote on the outside of the North Stand at Villa Park. Cementing (literally) his status as a Villa legend.

Villa finished 11th in the league in 81-82. (I'm gonna guess they were focusing on something else.) But they would return to the European Cup as defending champions. But that's not before they defeated Barcelona 4-0 on aggregrate in the European Super Cup. (Which Barca still haven't gotten over...what's that? Oh they have...oh, oh dammit.) Villa would get back to the European Cup quarterfinals in 82-83, with Morley scoring once in the first round against Besiktas. However Juventus took out Villa 5-2 on aggregate.

Villa never managed to get back to winning the league in Morley's time there, as they finished 6th in 82-83. (Which was enough to get them into the 83-84 UEFA Cup, where they lost in the second round to Spartak Moscow.) Villa's struggles continued into the 83-84 season and in December 1983, Morley was sold to local rivals West Bromwich Albion for £75,000. Morley failed to make much of an impact there was later briefly loaned to Birmingham City. (Nooo Tony Whyyyyyyyyy.)

After this Morley became a bit of a wanderer, as he would play for Seiko of Hong Kong and later ADO Den Haag of Holland. He did manage to help Den Haag get to the 87 Dutch Cup final against Ajax. Morley scored a go ahead goal for Den Haag in the 66th minute of this final, but John Bosman equalized in the 83rd minute, before some guy named Marco Van Basten scored twice in extra time. (This might possibly have been Van Basten's last game for Ajax as he went to Milan the next season. That would be kinda cool if Morley played in Van Basten's last Ajax game.)

After that Morley retured to West Brom for a short period, before playing for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and finishing up with the wonderfully named Ħamrun Spartans, of Malta.

Morley played six games for the England national team and was actually in the running for the squad to go the 1982 World Cup, but ended up being left out by Ron Greenwood.

Today, Morley can sometimes be found doing radio commentary on the Villa website with Jack Woodward.

Anyone even on the squad for the 82 European Cup final can pretty much be penciled in as a Villa legend, but to be one of the major players, and to have had such an impact, it's a no doubter. Morley is a Aston Villa legend. And he's my first profile and the first person into the 7500 to Holte Hall of Fame. Welcome, William Anthony Morley.