For six glorious seasons English clubs were quite simply the kings of European football with no fewer than six European Cup wins in a row at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s; reinforcing their standing as the dominant force in continental club competition.
Other than Madrid’s five consecutive wins in the early days of the competition, between 1955 and 1960, and the Dutch domination of the European Cup when Feyenoord and Ajax lifted the huge trophy four times between them at the start of the 1970s, never has one country held such a monopoly over Europe’s elite competition.
So here’s a look at the sides who combined to ensure that “Old Big Ears” trophy stayed on these shores for half a decade between 1977 and 1982.
1977: Liverpool 3-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Liverpool became only the second English and third British club to win the European Cup, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in the final in Rome having at one stage looked like they might complete an unprecedented treble that season. After dominating the first half Liverpool deservedly took an early lead through Terry McDermott but conceded a goal early in the second and looked in danger of being overwhelmed by the West German champions; but Tommy Smith put them back in front with his first goal of the season before Phil Neal sealed the victory with a penalty seven minutes from time.
1978: Liverpool 1-0 Club Brugge
Just 12 months after Kevin Keegan had left Anfield for Hamburg following Liverpool’s league and European Cup double, the Reds were once again going for European glory as they looked to defend their title against Belgian champions Bruges. Around 90,000 Liverpool fans made the journey south to Wembley to see their heroes battle it out against a workmanlike Bruges outfit who they had beaten two years previously in the final of the UEFA Cup and a poor game was settled by a single goal from Kenny Dalglish, the man who’d come down from Celtic to replace Keegan, after 64 minutes which was enough to retain the trophy.
1979: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Malmo
Nottingham Forest caused one of the biggest upsets in English football when they won the First Division title at the first attempt having been promoted in 1977 and went one better 12 months later when they astonishingly won the European Cup at the first time of asking. Having beaten holders Liverpool in the First Round Brian Clough’s side overcame AEK Athens, Grasshoppers and Cologne to reach the final where they beat Swedish champions Malmo courtesy of a goal from £1 million pound signing Trevor Francis to complete an astonishing rise to the summit of European football from the second tier of English football in just two years.
1980: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Hamburg
If Nottingham Forest winning the European Cup was one of the biggest upsets in years they went one better the following season by defending their title against Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid. The German champions were strong favourites going into the game but after 21 minutes John Robertson squeezed a shot past Hamburg ‘keeper Rudolf Kargus for the only goal of the game to give Nottingham Forest back-to-back European Cup titles – a remarkable achievement for a team which still contained many of the players who had been playing second-tier football just three seasons earlier. The victory also meant that Forest became the only side to win the European Cup more times than their domestic top-flight league, a record which still stands today.
1981: Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid
Two of the most successful clubs in Europe, with long records of competitive involvement and 15 European Cup wins between them, the 1981 final between Liverpool and Real Madrid was the first time these giants of European football had played against each other in this competition. Liverpool eventually won a cagey affair 1–0, with Alan Kennedy popping up with an unexpected late winner to ensure the European Cup returned to Anfield for the third time and stayed in English hands for a fifth successive season.
1982: Aston Villa 1-0 Bayern Munich
Ron Saunders’ Aston Villa side had won the First Division with just 13 players in 1981, earning them the right to compete against the best on the continent the following season, but a disagreement with chairman Ron Bendall eventually saw Villa’s title-winning manager resign mid-way through the club’s European Cup campaign as assistant Tony Barton stepped in to the breach. Villa certainly didn’t have an easy route to the final; overcoming Dynamo Berlin, Dynamo Kyiv and Anderlecht on their way to Rotterdam to face three-time winners Bayern Munich. And despite the fact that Villa called upon reserve ‘keeper Nigel Spink after first-choice stopper Jimmy Rimmer was injured after just nine minutes, a Peter Withe tap-in was enough to see them win their first European Cup and the sixth in a row for English clubs.