As the nights draw in and summer started to turn to autumn in 1980, it was starting to become clear that perhaps Liverpool might not have everything to themselves over the course of the 1980/81. The defending champions were in second place in the First Division table, but a number of clubs were bunched together in the chasing pack behind the early leaders Ipswich Town was one that had spent many of the previous years in a state of relative difficulty, Aston Villa. Relegated from the First Division of the Football League in 1967, it took eight years for one of England’s most storied clubs to regain its poise, even spending two years in the Third Division between 1970 and 1972 before getting promoted back to the top flight again in 1975.

Still, though, Villa hadn’t been the champions of England since 1910, and with a relatively small squad of players to choose from – they would complete the season having used just fourteen players, a record which hasn’t been broken and is unlikely now ever to be – and, although the club had successively finished in the top half of the First Division table since its return and won the League Cup in 1977, it had seldom looked like challenging for the league title. They started the fourth of October 1980 in fourth place in the table and featured on Match Of The Day with a home match against Sunderland, who went into the match in sixth place in the table. Our other two matches from this weekend are also both from the First Division, between Middlesbrough and Norwich City, and between Nottingham Forest and Manchester United.

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