Paul Vaessen was only a teenager when he became the hero for Arsenal on a ground where no British side had triumphed previously – but his career tragically spiralled into despair, addiction and death
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Forty one years on, it remains a landmark victory for English clubs in Europe.
Paul Vaessen was just 18 when he scored Arsenal’s winning goal in the Stadio delle Alpi to knock mighty Juventus out of the Cup Winners’ Cup semi final.
Arsenal won 1-0, they went through to the final 2-1 on aggregate and it was the first time Juventus had lost to a British side on home soil.
Vaessen did not even play in the final – which Arsenal lost to Valencia on penalties – and was forced to retire through injury at 21.
His knee injury turned him into a virtual cripple and his life spiralled into despair as he became a drug addict and died in August 2001 as he struggled to cope with his life after football.
But the achievement remains just as great today as the only English team to beat Juventus since is Manchester United, once when they triumphed 3-2 in Turin on the way to winning the Champions League in 1999.
Vaessen underwent many treatments on his knee, including an old fashioned looking contraption when his battle to save his career turned into a battle just to save his leg.
An excellent book, Stuck In A Moment: The Ballad of Paul Vaessen, is a cautionary tale which details how a young hero turned into an addict who struggled to cope with fame and died alone in his Bristol flat, aged 39.
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Former Arsenal captain Tony Adams knew Vaessen from the youth set-up at Highbury all those years ago.
Adams wrote a moving introduction for the book and said: “My prayers are for Paul’s family and friends – that they may find acceptance and peace around Paul’s situation. Paul was a sick man who never found his medicine.
“Finally I have a smile on my face remembering Vas’s goal against Juventus but a tear in my eye and sadness in my heart for a fellow footballer and addict who didn’t make it.”
*If you are seeking help for drug addiction you can find information and support on the NHS website or call 0300 123 6600.