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Mike Bacon: Ipswich Town's UEFA Cup triumph versus Europa League....no comparison

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:04 02 June 2019

Ipswich Town won the UEFA Cup in 1981. Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Town won the UEFA Cup in 1981. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Mike Bacon compares today's Europa League with the UEFA Cup... And knows which one he thinks is the toughest to win

Mick Mills and Bobby Robson raising the UEFA Cup on the Cornhill in 1981. Fans are on every vantage point in the background (Photo by Tony Ray/Archant)Mick Mills and Bobby Robson raising the UEFA Cup on the Cornhill in 1981. Fans are on every vantage point in the background (Photo by Tony Ray/Archant)

Watching the Europa League final between Chelsea and Arsenal brought back memories of Ipswich Town's UEFA Cup final victory in 1981.

Yes, for any young people reading this, before the Europa League was created into an all-singing, all-dancing, multi-league format with failed Champions League teams joining halfway through and crap final venues, it was called the UEFA Cup.

And a very respectable and seriously tough competition to, firstly get into and then secondly to win, it was too, with the final played over two-legged clashes, allowing both sets of fans to watch their teams at home, rather than 150,000 miles away in hotbeds of football like Azerbaijan!

I'm not suggesting the Europa League is easy to win, but it's a damn sight easier to get into.

Bobby Robson with the UEFA Cup. A proud manager, a proud town, a proud club. Photo: ARCHANTBobby Robson with the UEFA Cup. A proud manager, a proud town, a proud club. Photo: ARCHANT

Today you can almost finish mid table in some leagues around Europe and enter the Europa League at the first or second qualifying rounds sometime in July!

As I said, cock up the Champions League and still you may get a 'get out of jail free' card to head into the Europa League.

You can lose one, even two 'group' games and still come up smelling of roses.

When Ipswich Town won it, the UEFA Cup was tough business. Few, if any second chances.

Mick Mills leads out Town at St Etienne where the Blues hammered Michel Platini and co. 4-1. Photo: ARCHANTMick Mills leads out Town at St Etienne where the Blues hammered Michel Platini and co. 4-1. Photo: ARCHANT

Town qualified for the competition that season after finishing third in the 1979/80 campaign. Liverpool won the league so consequently went in the European Cup, while Manchester United were runners-up and also went into the UEFA Cup with Town.

1979/80 was a good season for English football. Forest retained the European Cup, so went again in 80/81 as holders, while Wolves won the League Cup, for which they gained a UEFA Cup place.

West Ham won the FA Cup and went in the Cup Winners Cup... If it hasn't been a tough enough week for Arsenal fans, things were not great back then, The Gunners finished fourth, but didn't get a European spot in anything!

But back to Town.

Paul Mariner watches his effort go in the St Etienne net in the first leg in France as Ipswich went on to win 4-1 on their way to the UEFA Cup final 1981. Photo: ARCHANTPaul Mariner watches his effort go in the St Etienne net in the first leg in France as Ipswich went on to win 4-1 on their way to the UEFA Cup final 1981. Photo: ARCHANT

Oh, those glorious European nights. How lucky we were to enjoy such fayre.

I think it is right to say most of us today enjoy evening games under the floodlights at Portman Road. For Town fans back then, welcoming top foreign sides like Barcelona, St Etienne and FC Cologne on a Tuesday nights in Suffolk, as well as Liverpool and Spurs on Saturdays, was a real treat.

Before the two-legged final with AZ 67 Alkmaar Town disposed of Aris Saloniki (Greece), Bohemians (Czechoslovakia), Widzew Lodz (Poland), Saint Etienne (France) and FC Koln (Germany). A proper European tour that, although I went to only the home games.

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Many of my mates went over to Holland for the final and what a weekend they enjoyed.

One of my friends, who will remain nameless, was so overjoyed/inebriated after Town's win, he missed his flight home!

Winning the UEFA Cup was a tremendous honour for the town and the Club..

Teams like Anderlecht, Porto, Fenerbache, Hamburg, Juventus, Torino, Real Sociedad, Barcelona, Stuttgart, Panathinaikos and others, were all in the UEFA Cup that season.

I know we can't keep looking back and need to look forward.

But history is what it is and I'm a believer that you can be proud of the past.

Back to the present. And my Gooner pal Peter Duranti was left speechless after his side's performance in Baku. I haven't dare drop him a text yet to see how the recovery is going.

I best tell him to stick to Nantwich in the Northern Premier League. The Dabbers' home just a stone's throw away from his house!

John Wark scored a hat-trick as Town beat Polish side Widzew Lodz 5-0 at Portman Road in the UEFA CupJohn Wark scored a hat-trick as Town beat Polish side Widzew Lodz 5-0 at Portman Road in the UEFA Cup

And while I'm on the subject of niceties.

Wasn't it nice to see former Norwich City player Rob Green getting his hands on the UEFA Cup/Europa League Trophy, Rob now a Chelsea player?

I'll tee 'em up!

England's Ben Stokes celebrates the catch of South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at The Oval, London on Thursday. Photo: PAEngland's Ben Stokes celebrates the catch of South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at The Oval, London on Thursday. Photo: PA

DID you see Ben Stokes' catch in the World Cup opener for England against South Africa?

If you didn't it's well worth hunting it down to take a watch.

Stokes is a fantastic cricketer and after Botham and Flintoff, for me England's best all-rounder for many years.

Let's hope he keeps his feet on the ground and concentrates on his cricket. He's had a few off-field issues.

England could win this World Cup with Stokes to the fore in an exciting England team.

Just a shame it's not on the old terrestrial TV. It would give the sport such a boost.

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