‘IT will never happen again’ - that is Alan Brazil’s view on another provincial town claiming a top European prize like Ipswich Town did back in 1981.
The former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur striker, and now radio presenter for TalkSport, believes 30 years on Blues fans who witnessed that magical UEFA Cup winning season under Sir Bobby Robson were seeing a chapter of history closing.
“It will not happen again, forget it,” said Brazil at the launch of the Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Auction and Ball to be staged in Bury St Edmunds’ Apex in October. “You have Chelsea, Man Ciy, Manchester United, while Tottenham are resurgent and Liverpool are. No chance, it will never ever happen again.”
And Brazil believes the Super Blues were football trailblazers, with Sir Bobby Robson bringing in the first ever pair of Dutchmen to these shores, Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, as well as deploying a formation which saw Eric Gates in a role that is now common place - ‘the hole’.
The revolutionary tactics thought up on a pitch in Suffolk took the breath away from crowds up and down the country, and also all around Europe - with Saint Etienne’s undefeated European record crumbling in a crushing, and quite amazing, 4-1 defeat to Town in the quarter finals, in a side featuring the mighty Michel Platini.
Brazil, who scored 70 goals for Ipswich in 170 games, said: “Gatesy was a prolific scorer for me, a great striker of the ball and used to sit in that hole. I remember beating Manchester United 6-0 and Gordon McQueen was told by Dave Sexton: ‘mark him!’ And Gordon still laughs about it. He says he (Gates) was running through his legs and he was a fish out of water, suddenly he was a centre half in the hole marking Gatesy and couldn’t handle it.”
Robson’s side, who beat Dutch champions Az Alkmaar 5-4 on aggregate in the final, were a team that Brazil cannot believe will never be remembered as league champions themselves, with a European campaign taking its toll at the vital time domestically, before Robson was whisked off to become England manager.
“I don’t think we could have been any better, apart from having a bit more strength in depth and I’m not being disrespectful to the guys who were on the fringe,” said Brazil, who lives on the Essex and Suffolk border and turned out for Bury Town after having to retire professionally at the age of 27 through injury. “We had 10 internationals, and Paul Cooper should have been one. That was a fantastic team and we just run out of steam to be honest, we should have won the league.
“I have been runner-up twice, Liverpool beat us once and they had an unbelievable run, winning 10 or so of their last 14, so we were unlucky twice. But especially that year, 1981, that was a great side, we beat Aston Villa (champions that year) three times, home and away and in the cup and the following year they beat Bayern Munich in the final of the Champions League, so how good were we? We beat them three times.”