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Leicester's Inspiration - A Team Who Conquered Europe In The Midst Of Miserable Title Defence

Leicester's Inspiration - A Team Who Conquered Europe In The Midst Of Miserable Title Defence
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Before Leicester's European journey began, many cast their eyes back to Blackburn Rovers to find the last truly unfashionable side to reach the Champions League.

Blackburn's efforts in Europe were pathetic to the point of farcical. They were more or less out of it after losing their first three matches. They drew 0-0 at home to Legia Warsaw in their fourth tie before their humiliating failure reached a comic crescendo in Moscow. It was there, in a 3-0 defeat, that Graeme Le Saux famously took a swing at teammate David Batty. Earlier in the game, Tim Sherwood and Colin Hendry nearly squared up to each other. Such incidents do not hint at a happy dressing room.

Only noted feminist Mike Newell can look back on the experience with any fondness, setting a record for the quickest hat-trick in European Cup history in their final match against Rosenborg. This record would stand until 2011.

How different has been Leicester's experience. The prospect of defending their title had already been deemed a non-starter. Indeed, they might have a job yet staying in the Premier League.

But things are going like a dream in Europe. There, it is still the 2015-16 season. The fairytale has been prolonged. Tonight, they beat Copenhagen 1-0 to complete a third win in a row. At the point where Blackburn Rovers had already been de facto eliminated, Leicester are virtually nailed on to reach the knockout phase.

Perhaps in a sign of their priorities, Claudio Ranieri dropped Riyad Mahrez for the Chelsea match last weekend before recalling him tonight. He scored the only goal. It's his third of the European campaign.

Happily, their campaign carries echoes not of Blackburn's miserable, "why can't it end soon?" campaign, but instead of Aston Villa's triumphant march in 1982.


It was a period of English supremacy in Europe. Between 1977 and 1984, English clubs won 7 out of 8 European Cups, with Liverpool accounting for 4 of them.


With the growth of a cult of personality around Brian Clough, Nottingham Forest's European Cup wins have hogged most of the historical limelight.

Aston Villa's European Cup victory of 1981-82 has rather been shunted to one side by the documentary makers. Neither Ron Saunders nor his mid-season replacement Tony Barton could compete with Cloughie in the media personality stakes.


Slap bang in the middle of unprecedented Liverpool dominance, Aston Villa stole in to win a surreal League title in 1980-81. Not only did Liverpool not win the League, they didn't even challenge. They slumped to fifth. It was Bobby Robson's Ipswich Town who hassled Villa all the way.

1980-81 was that generation's answer to last season.

As with Leicester, Villa's title defence was stillborn. It was clear early doors that they were not built to complete back-to-backs. Ron Saunders, the manager who'd led them to the title the year before, left in February over a contractual disagreement with the board. His assistant Tony Barton took over. They ended the season in 11th place.


Through all that, Villa marched on in Europe. English clubs boasted a superiority complex in Europe then, but still it was a tall ask to beat Karl Heinz Rummenige's Bayern Munich in the final in Rotterdam.

Midway through the second half, Villa worked the ball down the left wing, Tony Morley did brilliantly and Peter Withe did his best to miss a half open goal. It went in off the post, nestling in the far side of the net.




Read more: Truly Pathetic - The Last Time Unfashionable English Champions Played In The Champions League

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