As he raised the European Cup Winners’ Cup, jubilant captain Willie Miller knew Aberdeen were now firmly on the world footballing map.
Written off as an unknown club ‘”from the sticks” they were now the mighty Aberdeen – kings of Europe.
Miller experienced “absolute joy” as he lifted the trophy in front of 12,000 ecstatic Dons fans celebrating in the torrential rain.
On that memorable rainy night in Gothenburg, Miller, now 67, had no idea of the extent the trophy win would change his life and career.
But he immediately knew beating Real Madrid in a Euro final would alter the perception of Aberdeen within European and world football… forever.
Aberdeen had made a statement which continues to resonate 40 years on.
Miller said: “As I lifted the trophy, one of the things going through my mind was how much it will put Aberdeen on the footballing map.
“We were no longer just that team from the sticks – ‘Aberdeen, who are they?’ We had made a real statement – we had won a European trophy.
“It was the pinnacle.
“After that win Aberdeen then got recognition from all over Europe and beyond.
“Lifting the trophy was a feeling of absolute joy and the fans who had travelled across were all celebrating and singing.
“At the time I probably didn’t realise how much that trophy win was going to change my life and career.
“It certainly did and it still has that affect now – 40 years later.”
‘A magnificent moment never to be forgotten’
After the triumphant defeat of Real Madrid, there was no theatrical trophy presentation as is the norm now.
There were no fireworks, no displays.
Instead UEFA officials supplied a table on which to display the trophy and medals.
Miller was then presented the trophy by a member of the Italian FA.
He said: “It took me some time to get the trophy off the presenting official, who seemed to want to lift it on our behalf.
“But he wasn’t getting that opportunity.
“Winning the Cup Winners’ Cup is a magnificent moment in time that will never be forgotten by any of the players or anyone that was there.
“Or any Aberdeen fan… and maybe every Scottish football fan.
“It is the last time a Scottish team lifted a European trophy and only three teams have done it (Aberdeen, Celtic, Rangers).
“And we have done it twice!
“It is a moment to be treasured.
“When I look back on it and see how happy the rest of the team were it is a very special memory.”
‘Togetherness, team spirit and positivity instilled by Sir Alex’It was the biggest game in the club’s history and Miller’s career, but the inspirational captain was not nervous.
He stuck to his same pre-match ritual – shorts on, then right sock, left sock, strip pulled on, then finally the boots.
Inside the Ullevi Stadium changing room, self belief coursed through the squad.
Sir Alex gave his final address to the players then, five minutes before kick-off, a bell sounded.
That was their signal to walk to the pitch.
Miller can’t remember the exact words of Sir Alex’s pre-match team-talk – only the feeling it produced. One of unity, positivity and belief that Aberdeen would rock European football with a historic victory.
Miller said: “Sir Alex was always positive that we were going to win it, right from when he and Archie had seen Real Madrid and identified their strengths and weaknesses.
“The message to us was that we are capable of beating them.
“There was absolutely no doubt from anyone ahead of the final.
“I don’t remember the exact words Sir Alex said before the final, but I do remember the feeling – the togetherness, team spirit and the positivity from Sir Alex and Archie.
“Sir Alex was obviously not going to get blasé about it, as he did point out Real Madrid had some very good players.
“However, the vibes and the message coming from the manager and Archie was definitely one of positivity.”
Willie Miller says Aberdeen were hungry ‘to lift the trophy’ in Gothenburg
Sir Alex’s message of positivity did not falter after 90 minutes of action as the Dons, level at 1-1, readied for extra-time.
Never did his belief Aberdeen would beat the Spanish giants waver.
Miller said: “The message before extra-time was pretty simple.
“It was: ‘You are dominating the game and just have to keep that going.
“’You are good enough, strong enough and have this Real Madrid team where you want them.
“’So just go out and finish the job.’
“It was words like that that sent us out with the hunger to go out and lift the trophy.
“As the final progressed we were dominating more and more.
“I think anyone watching the game will accept that we were the team on top.
“Going into extra-time there was no doubt in any of our minds that we would win the game.
“It was wave after wave of attack.
“There was only going to be on winner – it was just a matter of could we get the breakthrough goal… then John Hewitt scored.”
Euro lows before the biggest high
The glory of Gothenburg was the culmination of a European journey under Sir Alex that began with a Cup Winners’ Cup exit to Germany’s Fortuna Dusseldorf (3-2 on aggregate) in 1978.
There was a UEFA Cup first round exit to another German side Eintracht Frankfurt (2-1 on aggregate) the following year.
Then a chastening loss to English champions Liverpool in the European Cup (5-0 on aggregate) in 1980.
In 1981, Aberdeen dumped holders Ipswich Town out of the UEFA Cup only to lose to SV Hamburg (5-4 on aggregate) in the third round.
All valuable lessons learned.
Miller said: “The confidence to go the distance in the final was built up over a period of time.
“We had taken some beatings in Europe from Liverpool and a couple of German teams had given us a lesson as well.
“However, we learned the lessons and turned it around to our own advantage.
“Certainly we reflected back to the quarter-final where we beat Bayern Munich.
“There is no doubt that at that time the German Bundesliga was the best league in Europe.
“When you have beaten one of the top performers in the best league in Europe you have an inner strength and inner belief that anything is possible.
“That is where we were at going into the final.
“It was on the back of a lot of European adventures, but mostly, in my mind, the double-header against Bayern Munich.
“That gave us the belief we were going to beat Real Madrid.”