The Champions Of 1981 – 14 Players, 7 Ever-Present & Never Outside The Top 6

Peter Withe

On an unseasonably cool and rain-swept August afternoon The Villa Underground spoke with Jim Cadman, who compiled and published ‘AV40 Tribute‘. It proved to be a wide-ranging conversation, gazing through the prism of Aston Villa forty years ago, and like many perhaps, I was soon wondering; “Why has it taken so long for a tribute?”

The book takes the reader on a journey across Villa’s victorious 1981 First Division title win game by game, interspersing match reports with nostalgic photographs, memorabilia, poignant recollections, player profiles and press cuttings from the day.

For those supporters who were there to witness it, AV40’s pages will no doubt serve not only to stir happy footballing memories, as much as reflective sentimentality.

Embed from Getty Images

For the modern fan, it brings together Villa folklore, gives references to topics that might previously have lacked context and raises the question as to why Villa neither managed to cement a place in the elite of English football.

There is also the glaring elephant in the room for many fans, young and old, as to why the regimes of that era and since having never seen fit to suitably recognise what remains a remarkable achievement.

It proved to be a conversation to lift the spirits five months into a Covid ravaged 2020, reflecting upon a time in which Aston Villa won twenty sx times over forty two fixtures before being crowned Champions Of England.

Embed from Getty Images

This was a team that the national media broadly disregarded throughout the campaign, despite a surge towards the Championship title in 1981.

This was a Championship winning Villa side never outside of the top six all season and which remained amongst the top three from October 1980 onwards.

What rapidly became apparent as we spoke, was there being no agenda in the compilation of the tribute other than to shine a light upon this successful period of the club’s history.

This was not about Doug Ellis, documented player acrimony nor about the lack of recognition in the time that has passed. Cadman, not a supporter of Villa, emphasised repeatedly that the players simply wished to share their story with fans past and present.

The Villa Underground has always been intrigued by the limited reference and recognition of the last time the club were Champions of England. Particularly given that the side used just 14 players, seven of which being ever present.

In an age of big first team squads, the normalisation of player rotation and multiple in-game substitutions, the sheer lack of numbers barely computes.

The AV40 Tribute captures this from start to finish. For any Villa fan looking to walk down memory lane or a younger fan wanting to learn more about this teams achievements, the book is not only your source, but a visual feast for the eyes. As such, it comes highly recommended.

Embed from Getty Images

You can purchase a copy of AV40 via their website.

The Villa Underground received finished copies of AV40 from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the book nor the content of this review. Many thanks to Jim Cadman.

Two lucky Villa Underground subscribers received copies of AV40 Tribute – be sure to join today for a chance to enter our free prize draws:


Don’t forget to SIGN UP to our 100% FREE Villa Newsletter.

A decade of Villa News to your inbox – JOIN TODAY!

Want to help even more?  Please Donate

AV40 Book Review
  • Aston Villa 40th Anniversary Tribute


A nostalgic and comprehensive view into the world of Aston Villa’s 1981 Championship winning season.  The book, in a glossy, full picture format, recounts Villa’s title winning season game by game.  It is a detailed recount, featuring individual match reports, carefully chosen photographs and pertinent quotes from the day.  For those supporter’s who were there it will bring back memories, whilst filling in some of the gaps in an era where wall to wall media coverage wasn’t the norm.  For the younger Villa supporter, AV40 is arguably the most comprehensive and user friendly source to understand just how remarkable this team was.