Aston Villa hero Nigel Spink gets his 1982 European Cup final shirt back
It was the shirt he wore for 80 minutes which changed his life.
Now, 36 years on, Nigel Spink is once again in possession of a precious piece of European Cup history.
For more than three decades the green goalkeeper’s shirt with black sleeves, which Spink wore while helping Villa defeat Bayern Munich to lift the trophy in 1982, had been housed at the German club’s museum.
It was donated by Manfred Muller, the man who stood in the opposing goal that night in Rotterdam and with whom Spink had swapped shirts at the end of the game.
Spink, meanwhile, had kept Muller’s shirt in his possession before a chance trip to Munich and an exchange of emails set-up the chance of a swap.
“We had booked a walking holiday in the Austrian Alps, flying into Munich and driving south from there,” said Spink. “It was only when I worked out the route I realised we would be going straight past Bayern’s stadium, the Allianz Arena.
“I knew Peter Withe had gone over a couple of years ago. He’d got Klaus Augenthaler’s shirt at the end of the game and exchanged it for his own.
“I spoke to his son, Stephen, and he put me in touch with Bayern’s museum. It all went on from there.”
Spink’s story is well-known but remains one of the most remarkable in the history of European Cup finals.
Aged 23, he had only one previous first-team appearance to his name when he was flung into the fray from the bench just ten minutes into the match, after Jimmy Rimmer was forced of with a shoulder problem.
Yet Spink went on to be Villa’s hero, denying Bayern with a string of superb saves before Withe beat Muller for the only goal of the game.
It was the springboard to a career which would see Spink make 460 appearances in claret and blue.
“Getting the shirt back, after all these years, was a very touching moment,” he said.
“The first time it was only really in my possession for about three hours. I took it out of a packet in the dressing room, put it on, wore it during the warm-up and then in the game, before swapping it at the end.
“After all these years, it was just as I remembered it.
“I have to say, the people at the museum could not have been more helpful. It was humbling, really, the way they treated me. They were really pleased I had made the effort to go and see them and return Muller’s shirt.
“The museum itself is quite incredible. Some of the photographs they have from the night, it helped me see the game from their perspective.”
Now the shirt is back in Spink’s Leicestershire home, taking pride of place alongside his winner’s medal. He intends to pass it on to his five sons.
“I suppose, if I wanted to sell it, I could get a decent whack,” he mused.
“But I’ve no desire to do that. It is too important. It’s a piece of my own history. That night really changed my life.”