The boys of 1980-81: ‘I was in awe’ – Wark recalls Beattie’s thunderbolt against Bohemians 40 years on
- Credit: Archant
In the second of a new series celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s UEFA Cup winning campaign of 1980-81, CARL MARSTON talks to John Wark about the home leg against Bohemians Prague
John Wark plundered an amazing 36 goals during the unforgettable 1980-81 season, including 14 in the triumphant UEFA Cup campaign.
And yet Town’s free-scoring midfielder remembers less about his own goals and more about a stupendous strike from team-mate Kevin Beattie.
It is 40 years to the day, on October 22, 1980, when Town entertained Bohemians Prague in a second round first leg tie at an expectant Portman Road, on their way to eventually lifting the trophy the following May.
After a goalless first period, Wark put Town in the driving seat with two goals early in the second half, steering home a low shot from Eric Gates’ lay-off on 48 minutes, before tucking home a second from a rebound after Alan Brazil’s shot had come back off a post.
Wark hobbled off with a tight tendon injury in the 81st minute, to be replaced by Beattie – and just four minutes later the no-nonsense centre-back crashed home a wonderful free-kick for an all-important third goal.
“Kevin (Beattie) just came on and scored with his first touch. We couldn’t believe it!” enthused Wark, 40 years on.
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“I had gone off with a slight tendon injury. It wasn’t too bad, but it had tightened up so I went off as a precaution. I didn’t miss any games because of it.
“Kevin didn’t do any warming-up. It’s not like it is now, with players warming up on the sidelines. Kevin didn’t do any of that. He had just been sitting in the dug-out, watching the game. Then he came on and took this terrific free-kick. I was watching on in disbelief. I was in awe.
“Kevin always had a fantastic shot on him. He didn’t score that many goals, but when he did score, they tended to be memorable.
“I remember one against West Brom, when we scored seven goals (November 6, 1976); he usually gave the keeper no chance when he hit it.
“Kevin didn’t play a lot of games that (1980-81) season, because of all his injuries, but he was always handy to have come on as a substitute.
“And Kevin’s goal was to prove crucial, because we lost the second leg 2-0 without Paul Cooper, Frans Thijssen and Paul Mariner, all due to injury.
“I think that Laurie Sivell, Steve McCall and Kevin (Beattie) came in instead,” added Wark.
Still only aged 23 at the time, Wark scored 14 goals in Town’s 12 European ties, and bagged 36 in 66 games in all competitions.
“I never had a better season than that one, it was a special one,” continued Wark.
“I was named the PFA player of the year, and also won the European young player of the year award. Scoring 36 goals, people just assumed you were a striker!
“But I actually started out my career as a centre-back, which is where I played at the end of it.
“At the time I wasn’t even really an attacking midfielder. In fact, I was known as a holding midfielder, with Frans Thijssen, Arnold Muhren and Eric Gates pushing forward.
“We were just a great unit, and everyone knew what they were doing.
“The first round tie against Aris Salonika couldn’t have gone much better for me, with four goals in the home tie, even though three of them were penalties. My mother-in-law at the time was Greek.
“It was a hard place to go for the second leg, and the referee was not the best, but our home win (5-0) saw us through.
“Confidence was naturally very high, and we as a team felt like we could beat anyone, especially at Portman Road. We felt that this was our year, and they were always special nights, those European nights at home.
“The fans loved them, and we weren’t just beating most teams, we were beating them easily.
“We got caught up in all the euphoria, and the superb atmosphere at each game.
“As for Bohemians, we didn’t know too much about them, apart from the famous Antonin Panenka, but we didn’t need to. We didn’t fear anyone, and just played our own game.
“My first goal took a slight deflection, and my second goal was from a rebound.
“It was a poacher’s goal, but that wasn’t my typical way of scoring. I used to arrive late in the penalty area, or run onto a knock-down. I didn’t score many goals from inside the six-yard box.
“We had such a small squad, and I always said that if we had bigger numbers then we would have won the league that season.
“Injuries took their toll, as did the fact that we played 66 games. Aston Villa (champions) didn’t seem to get any injuries and only had to call on 14 players.
“Yet we ended up playing four days a week, often going into these games while carrying injuries,” added Wark.
Glasgow-born Wark rattled up 649 first-team appearances for Town, during three separate spells (1975-84, 1988-90 and 1991-97), as well as playing for Liverpool and Middlesbrough.
He scored 179 goals for Town, an impressive total for a mostly attacking midfielder and later defender, and earned 29 caps for Scotland, scoring seven goals.
Town eventually beat Bohemians 3-2 on aggregate, after losing the second leg 2-0 in Prague.