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20 May 2021

The thoughts of Sir Bobby Robson and his players on Town's 1981 UEFA Cup success, 40 years on.

Town made history 40 years ago today as they lifted the UEFA Cup following a 5-4 aggregate victory over AZ Alkmaar.

A 3-0 lead from the first leg at Portman Road a fortnight earlier proved to be crucial as AZ won 4-2 on the night of the second in Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium.

Below, we document the reflections of that famous Town side on their European glory and working under the great Sir Bobby Robson.

"This was my greatest Ipswich team. They were the perfect jigsaw." - Sir Bobby Robson

"It was an amazing game. We got there by the skin of our teeth because AZ played like they were possessed on the night and just attacked and attacked. We were hanging on in the end." - Arnold Muhren

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"We won the big prize and came very close to winning the Championship. Injuries cost us the title I think. My four years at Ipswich were the best in my career. I have so many good memories from my time at the Club and whenever I go back there, it feels very much like going back home." - Frans Thijssen

"I have never seen a team play 2-4-4 before. They really came at us and gave us a lot of problems and caught us by surprise... We got the cup with some of the players in bathrobes. It was a bit surreal but we deserved to win something that season. I just can’t believe 40 years has passed since then." - Terry Butcher


"We were on our knees but we got across the finishing line in the end and we deserved that. Looking back on that year, it was a special one and a successful one because we lifted a trophy at the end but it could have been - and should have been - even better." - Alan Brazil

"That season was the best year I had in football. We had a balance about us, good players of course but we all fitted together like a jigsaw. We all knew what was expected of us and there was a great spirit amongst the players as well and that always helps. That’s what kept us going through the season; the fun we had; the laughs. There was a great camaraderie between us." - Russell Osman

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"It was as much about relief as anything else when we won the UEFA Cup. We couldn’t afford to miss out on that as well but we deserved to win something. We were hanging on at the end and we couldn’t wait for the final whistle." - John Wark

"We played three games a week, every week that season. We just got on with it. We had got used to playing European football at Ipswich so that helped." - George Burley



On working under Sir Bobby, still widely considered to be one of the greatest managers that the beautiful game has ever seen:

"I feel privileged to not only have known him so well as a friend as well as a colleague but also to have worked in tandem with him over a long and hugely enjoyable chapter of our respective careers. I was 21 when he appointed me captain of Ipswich Town. I grew up as a footballer under him." - Mick Mills

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"For me, Sir Bobby was the best manager there has ever been. What he did for the whole of football was absolutely magnificent. If you look at his record at Ipswich, it was incredible what he achieved… Wherever he went, he was a winner." - George Burley

"I came down to the Club when I was 15 and the boss met me at the station, put his arm around me and said 'son, welcome to Ipswich Town'. He gave me a shirt and tie to wear and I always knew I would like him from that first day. I was his first signing in some ways because he hadn’t been at the Club very long himself. That always made me feel proud." - Kevin Beattie

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"He was like a dad to myself and Arnold [Muhren] and paid special attention to us because we were away from home. He was a forward thinker, bringing over foreign players." - Frans Thijssen

"He was just a special, special man. I went down to the Club as a 15-year-old and Bobby invited me to stay at his house. So there I was, living with the boss, his wife Elsie and their three boys. I really appreciated that." - Eric Gates

"He was Mr Ipswich and knew what was going on from top to bottom at the Club. The Cobbolds told him to get on with it and run the Club and he did just that. I played under some great managers but there was no one better than Sir Bobby."Alan Brazil

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"He was a top manager, not only at Ipswich but wherever he went. He was more than a manager to me, though. I lost my father when I was 22 and Mr Robson was always there when I needed him. His knowledge of the game, allied to his ability to bring out the best in his players, that is what set him apart from most of his contemporaries. There are a lot of us who owe him a great deal." - John Wark

As well as on the Club website, Town's official social media channels are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the UEFA Cup victory using the #81Remembered hashtag.

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