1 November 1978
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor had worked their magic again. The irascible duo had taken the small East Midlands club Nottingham Forest from the old Second Division in 1976/77 to the English league title the following year, seven points ahead of second-placed Liverpool, and had also won the League Cup. Clough had joined Forest early in 1975, with Taylor joining eighteen months later, and had transformed the squad. Already at the club were attacking right-back Viv Anderson, who was soon to become England's first black international, the tubby left-winger John Robertson, and striker Tony Woodcock. Clough brought in his two lieutenants, the industrious midfielder and captain John McGovern and centre-forward John O'Hare. who had followed him on his travels from Derby to Leeds. English international goalkeeper Peter Shilton arrived from Stoke City, and two Scottish internationals - fiery central defender Kenny Burns and crafty, hardworking inside-forward Archie Gemmill -were also persuaded to the City Ground.
And a 20-year-old striker, Gary Birtles, was acquired from local non-league club Long Eaton to fill the gap left by the departure of the unsettled Peter Withe to Newcastle. The Clough powers of motivation then went to work. Clough's philosophy with Forest was to defend and counter-attack in numbers, and his first attempt to put this into practice in Europe was against an English side. An unseeded Forest were drawn against the European champions Liverpool in the first round. At the City Ground, Forest went ahead in the 26th minute when Woodcock cleverly drew Clemence and slipped the ball to Birtles to score. With three minutes to go, Forest broke from defence and the unlikely figure of left-back Colin Barrett was on hand to volley in a Woodcock header. In the return at Anfield, Forest turned in a clinically effective defensive performance, with Shilton and Anderson outstanding, and prevented the Liverpool midfield from operating. Liverpool could not score and Forest had overcome their first major hurdle in Europe. In round two, Forest travelled to Athens to play AEK, managed by Ferenc Puskas. Without their veteran midfielder Dimitris Domazos, AEK conceded a 9th-minute goal to McGovern and a 44th-minute strike to Birtles, both goals made by 35-year-old left-back Frank Clark. AEK scored from a controversial Tassos penalty in the second-half, but in Nottingham a 5-1 victory for Forest, with two from Birtles, sent them through to play Grasshoppers Zurich in the Quarter-final.
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