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As the 1960s drew to a close, there was little dispute as to which
was England's premier club side: Leeds
United had won the League championship in April 1969 with
a record points total, suffering just two defeats and conceding
26 goals. For United manager Don
Revie, the title was the culmination of a remarkable rise
to the summit that had begun with the club verging on relegation
to Division Three for the first time at
the start of his tenure.
Revie refused to rest on his laurels after the title triumph.
He broke the British transfer record when he paid £165,000 to
relegated Leicester City for the signature of England Under-23
goal poacher Allan Clarke. In earlier years, the board had hesitated
when Revie asked them to break the transfer record to sign Alan
Ball; by 1969, none of the directors were prepared to deny Revie
even his most unreasonable request.
Over the previous decade, United had generally found goals hard
to come by and Revie reasoned that if he seriously hoped to win
the European Cup, Leeds would need a cutting edge. Clarke was
renowned for his clinical efficiency in front of goal and seemed
to be the man to solve the problem, though he was reputed to be
something of a disruptive influence in the dressing room. Clarke's
arrival led to Mike O'Grady
leaving for Wolves after the winger lost his place to a rejuvenated
The early signs were promising: United won the curtain
raising clash for the FA Charity Shield by beating Cup winners
Manchester City 2-1 and then broke a club record when they
netted ten against Norwegian part timers Lyn Oslo on their
European Cup debut. Clarke scored twice, but centre-forward Mick
Jones stole the show with a hat trick.
Leeds were certainly a stronger attacking force now, scoring
ten in two League matches against Nottingham Forest and winning
3-0 in both legs of their European Cup pairing with the powerful
United spent most of the season locked in a two way tussle with
Everton for the League championship, and a 5-2
victory at Stamford Bridge in January 1970 against Chelsea,
also in the running, signalled the strength of their challenge.
They took that form into the FA Cup, where fortune favoured them
with draws against lowly opposition in Swansea, Sutton,
Mansfield and Swindon.
By the beginning of March, Leeds looked set fair for the unprecedented
treble of League, Cup and European Cup. It was their very consistency,
ironically, that was their greatest threat. The season was drastically
foreshortened by the decision to give Sir Alf Ramsey's England
team a lengthy period to acclimatise to the alien conditions they
would face in Mexico as they defended their World Cup trophy.
When compounded by United's progress on three fronts, this meant
appalling fixture congestion for Revie's charges.
The three match marathon required to see off Manchester United
in the FA Cup semi final was the straw that broke the camel's
back. In the fourteen days between 21 March and 4 April, Leeds
had to play eight times. Don Revie decided enough was enough and
surrendered the chase for the title. He began relying almost entirely
on his reserve pool for League games, a decision that brought
a £5,000 fine from the Football League. When Revie did deign to
play first teamers his reward was to see England full-back Paul
Reaney suffer a broken leg against West Ham. The injury kept Reaney
out of the remaining weeks of the season as well as England's
World Cup campaign.
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Revie's gamble of concentrating on the knockout trophies backfired.
his men dropping through physical and mental exhaustion, they
underperformed badly and lost both legs of the European Cup semi
final against Celtic, despite
a memorable goal at Hampden from Billy Bremner.
United recovered sufficiently to hammer Chelsea on a pudding
of a Wembley pitch in the FA
Cup final. Eddie Gray tortured his marker, David Webb, but
Leeds couldn't score the goals their play deserved and were undone
by a late equaliser from Ian Hutchinson.
In the Old Trafford replay,
their dominance was not quite so absolute, but they had still
shown enough to merit victory before Chelsea fought back to first
equalise and then snatch a dramatic winner through Webb in a heartbreaking
finale to a remarkable season.
Captain Billy Bremner was voted Footballer of the Year, while
Revie was awarded both an OBE and the Manager of the Year trophy,
but these were scant recompense for such major disappointments.
Seemingly none the worse for a series of events that would have
unhinged most clubs, Leeds were quickly back to peak form at the
start of the 1970/71 campaign,
once again setting the pace in the chase for the League title.
They stormed away from the very first game, leaving the pack
trailing in their wake. A dogged Arsenal team eventually emerged
as the only serious challengers as they shamelessly aped United's
historic trademarks of defensive resilience
and narrow victories. They chased them remorselessly throughout
the autumn months and pressed their pursuit ever more tenaciously
in the spring, launching an indomitable assault on a gap that
had once seemed unbridgeable.
Revie was deprived of both Bremner and Gray for most of the spring
and United's self assurance was badly shaken by a shock
3-2 defeat at Fourth Division Colchester United in the FA
Cup fifth round in February. Two months later, perverse refereeing
from Ray Tinkler provoked a riot at Elland Road when West
Bromwich Albion inched out a controversial 2-1 victory.
Revie was beside himself with anger at Tinkler's display, accusing
him bitterly of ruining nine months' hard work. The United board
were every bit as forthright in their comments and defended the
supporters' actions, prompting criticism from local businessmen
and sanctions from the Football League.
More problematic, however, were the way the two matches undermined
their challenge, though United responded stoically by winning
their remaining three League games without conceding a goal. It
was not enough, however.
Arsenal were consistency personified in the closing weeks; even
when Leeds beat the Gunners
with a controversial goal by Jack Charlton at Elland Road
at the end of April, it could not halt the Londoners' push for
the title. Despite amassing 64 points, United had to be content
with another runners up spot after Arsenal won their final game
at Tottenham with a goal from Ray Kennedy. They rubbed further
salt in the wound by doing what Leeds had often promised but always
failed to do, becoming only the second club in the Twentieth Century
to complete the League and Cup double.
United had at least some recompense when they won the Fairs Cup
for the second time. They beat Liverpool in a two legged semi
final thanks to a comeback goal by Bremner in the
first leg at Anfield and beat Italian giants Juventus on the
away goals ruling after both legs of the final ended even. It
was something of a hollow feeling after coming so close to regaining
the League title, but after a couple of years without a trophy
they at least had something to mark their efforts.
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The crowd's behaviour during the defeat to West Bromwich Albion
led to disciplinary action from the Football League; Elland Road
was closed for a month and United had to stage the first four
fixtures of 1971/72 in
the stadiums of various other Yorkshire clubs. They only dropped
two points in those matches, but in a tight race for the League
title, the shortfall proved costly indeed.
When United were eventually allowed to resume action at Elland
Road, they found outstanding form, dropping just two further points
all season. On their travels, they were considerably less impressive
and by early October they had been beaten four times. It was their
poorest start for years and for once European competition provided
minimal distraction. After winning 2-0 in Belgium against Lierse
in the first leg of a UEFA Cup-tie, Revie, considering the outcome
a formality, chose to draft in a number of reserves for the home
match. The Belgians thrashed
Revie's thoughts had turned to rebuilding his team; in early
1970 he had offered Sutton centre-half John Faulkner the opportunity
to become a long term replacement for the ageing Jack
Charlton and later signed young Morton striker Joe Jordan
for a pittance. Now, he agreed a record £177,000 fee with West
Brom for their 21-year-old Scottish midfielder Asa Hartford. But
the move was scuppered when
the medical examination identified a heart problem. Hartford went
on to make a fine career for himself with Manchester City and
Everton and featured in two World Cup finals with Scotland.
United were not deterred by the setback and their football reached
new heights in the spring of 1972. The
5-1 hammering of Manchester United and a breathtaking
7-0 slaughter of Southampton were televised on Match of the
Day, allowing a nationwide audience to lap up the breathtaking
football United were now dishing up. The style and cocksure manner
of their displays, particularly in the drubbing of the Saints,
and their introduction of gimmicky numbered stocking tags quickly
led to them being branded 'Super Leeds'. The later stages of the
Southampton game saw them imperiously playing keep ball with showy
flicks and tricks, rubbing in their superiority. It was memorable
stuff as United swept all before them, pushing forward confidently
to what seemed an inevitable League and Cup double.
However, they were forced to face the run in without England
left-back Terry Cooper, who suffered a broken leg against Stoke
City. He was out of action for two years and was never the same
player again, though he was given a sentimental recall to the
England team in 1974. The versatile Paul Madeley smoothly plugged
the gap in defence.
A 3-0 defeat
of Second Division Birmingham
City in the FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough earned United
a Wembley date with Arsenal in the Centenary final, a match attended
by the Queen. The Whites were thirsting for revenge after losing
out to Gunners in the League a year previously and marked
the occasion by winning the trophy for the first time after
Allan Clarke headed home the only goal. David Harvey played in
both semi final and final having secured the spot as first choice
keeper after Revie finally lost patience with the inconsistency
of Gary Sprake.
Revie's men had little opportunity to bask in the glory of their
victory; the League perversely refused United's request that their
final League game should be postponed to allow the players to
recover. They travelled straight from Wembley to Wolverhampton
for a match against Wolves on the Monday night, requiring a draw
to win the title.
An inspired Wanderers team
won 2-1 after a thunderous and emotion-soaked clash, leaving
Brian Clough's Derby County, who had already completed their programme
and were sunning themselves on a beach somewhere, to claim the
championship. Leeds were consigned to the runners up spot for
the third successive season.
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Revie was distraught, complaining of the Wolves defeat, "It's
just too much. We should have had three clear penalties. But I
was proud of the team. I don't know where they got the energy
from in the second half."
During the summer of 1972, Revie continued to rebuild. Veteran
centre-half Jack Charlton was now 37 and close to retirement while
Terry Cooper's broken leg would keep him on the sidelines for
almost two years, so United badly needed some defensive reinforcements.
Revie's solution lay close to home as he signed Huddersfield Town
defenders Roy Ellam and Trevor Cherry.
Cherry enjoyed a long and successful career at Elland Road, but
Ellam never made the grade, looking completely out of his depth.
Revie quickly admitted his mistake and turned to another option,
Gordon McQueen, a raw 20-year-old, who had been signed from St
Mirren for £30,000. Paul Madeley and Charlton shared the No 5
shirt between them for the majority of the 1972/73
Eddie Gray's 18-year-old brother Frank was given his debut, though
it would be another two years before he was ready to claim a regular
The season began badly; United
lost 4-0 at Chelsea on the opening day. Norman Hunter was
missing through suspension and Cherry and Ellam struggled to forge
any sort of understanding with their new colleagues. Mick Jones
went off injured in the first half and when David Harvey was also
forced to withdraw with concussion, Leeds were left to battle
for more than an hour with ten men, as Peter Lorimer took up the
gloves; he never had a prayer.
The defeat set the tone for a disappointing campaign. Despite
being in contention for the title for most of the season, United
struggled to demonstrate that they were actually capable of winning
the championship, eventually trailing in third behind Liverpool
A season that began miserably also ended depressingly. Leeds
were the hottest favourites in years when they reached the FA
Cup final. They were pitted against Second Division Sunderland,
managed by Bob Stokoe, a bitter critic of Don Revie. Stokoe had
accused Revie of trying to bribe him in the early 60s when he
was a Bury player and had borne a grudge against him ever since.
United suffered one of the
greatest shocks in the competition's history; they were undone
by a first half goal from Ian Porterfield and a miraculous double
save by keeper Jim Montgomery. Stokoe revelled in the victory,
dancing gleefully across the turf at the end to hug Montgomery
as the United party looked on in despair.
Leeds had also qualified for the Cup Winners Cup final, but went
into the game missing key men through suspension and injury. Bremner,
Clarke, Giles and Eddie Gray were all unavailable, while the team
were unsettled by the news that Don Revie had agreed to take the
manager's job at Everton.
The match, in Salonika against
AC Milan, was hugely controversial. Paul Madeley was unlucky
to be penalised for a soft challenge after five minutes and Chiarugi's
long range free kick somehow crept past David Harvey into the
net. United were denied a number of penalty claims and Norman
Hunter was dismissed for retaliation after being the victim of
a series of niggling fouls. Referee Christos Michas was rumoured
to have been bribed by the Italians and he certainly seemed to
favour Milan, facing a chorus of boos from his Greek countrymen
at the end of the game. He was later banned for life by UEFA.
There was widespread talk during the summer that United were
no longer the force they once had been. The Sunderland defeat
had scarred them badly and critics pointed to signs of wear and
tear. The young men of Revie's early years had aged together and
there were a number of claims that they were over the hill.
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Elder statesman Jack Charlton, now 38, was one for whom time
was up and he called it a day. He retired to take over as manager
of Middlesbrough, whom he led to the Second Division championship
at the first time of asking. At the beginning of October, another
old stager, Welsh international Gary Sprake, moved on to Birmingham
City in a six figure deal, a record for a keeper. He was replaced
by the little known David Stewart of Ayr United.
Don Revie had rejected Everton's
overtures in the end and chose to remain at Elland Road, his
pride salved by an offer of improved terms from the board. He
had also turned down an offer from the Greek FA, determined that
his club would finally secure the second title they had missed
out on so often. He somehow managed to inspire his troops to a
Eddie Gray and Johnny Giles missed most of the campaign through
injury, though Gordon McQueen, Terry Yorath, Joe Jordan and Trevor
Cherry proved more than adequate reinforcements, providing great
support for the usual suspects. Bremner, Jones, Clarke, Lorimer,
Madeley and Hunter were in imperious form as United swept all
before them, earning unanimous acclaim from the critics.
Leeds went off in unstoppable fashion, winning seven games on
the bounce. They extended their unbeaten League run to 29 games,
playing superlative football. In the end, the psychological burden
of months of front running started to eat away at them, and draws
were soon all too regularly punctuating the results.
FA Cup defeat in February against
Second Division Bristol City hinted that United
might be human after all, but Revie maintained that the exit would
allow them to concentrate on securing the title, without the distraction
of hunting multiple trophies.
In their 30th League game, on 23 February, Leeds
took a 2-0 lead at Stoke City and seemed likely to continue
their unbeaten run, but the Potters fought back with real verve
to win 3-2. That brought back all the old anxieties and paranoias;
three further defeats in a poor spell of form had Revie beside
himself as Liverpool reeled in Leeds' lead with dogged determination.
However, United managed to rally at the death; when old rivals
Arsenal sprang a shock on 24 April by winning at Anfield it secured
a second League title for Leeds without their even playing. They
could enjoy their ultimate game,
in London against Queens Park Rangers, under no pressure.
Allan Clarke scored the only goal of the game to see United home
in some style. They had wavered badly as the pressure got to them
but in the end they were the worthiest of champions. At their
best in 1973/74, Leeds
were almost unplayable.
That triumph was a marvellous parting shot for Revie. During
the summer he was appointed England team manager, taking trainer
Les Cocker with him. Joe Mercer had taken over as caretaker manager
following the FA's dismissal of Sir Alf Ramsey, but, after making
clear his interest in the position, Revie was a shoo in when the
time came for a permanent appointment.
Revie's replacement at Elland Road was a controversial one; the
manager himself had nominated Johnny Giles as his successor, but
the board, perhaps fearing that Billy Bremner would see such a
move as a personal snub, instead appointed former Derby County
manager Brian Clough as the new man.
The appointment came as a major shock; Clough had long been a
fierce critic of Revie and United, accusing them of cheating and
gamesmanship. He seemed the unlikeliest of choices.
Clough did little to endear himself to the United players, telling
them to throw their medals in the bin because they had obtained
them dishonestly. Following an ill
tempered Charity Shield match against Liverpool, which saw
Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan sent off for fighting and United
losing on penalties, there was a poor start to the title defence
with a single victory from the first six games.
When invited to do so by the directors, the players made their
feelings about Clough plain, and there was no going back. After
just 44 days in the job, Clough was shown the Elland Road door.
He departed Yorkshire with a substantial pay off and a binding
promise that the club would pay his income tax for the following
three years; the board were left with egg on their faces and a
substantial hole in their wallets.
Two of the players that Clough bought for Leeds, John O'Hare
and John McGovern, followed him to glory with Nottingham Forest.
Clough's other signing, Duncan McKenzie, who had joined for a
club record £240,000 fee from Forest, remained and became a cult
figure at Elland Road with his skills, trickery and poaching instincts.
had some other bizarre talents: he could hurl a golf ball the
length of the Elland Road pitch and vault over a Mini.
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Bolton boss and former Blackpool and England captain Jimmy Armfield
was the board's choice to steady the United ship. They were too
far off the pace in the League to make a serious challenge and
trailed in ninth, but Armfield steered the team to the European
Cup final. They overcame a strong Barcelona side, Johann Cruyff
and all, in the semi final. There was a memorable draw in the
second leg at the Nou Camp after United were reduced to ten men
when Gordon McQueen was sent off.
Leeds enjoyed little luck in the Paris final against Bayern Munich,
having a Peter Lorimer 'goal' disallowed and being denied a clear
penalty when Franz Beckenbauer hacked down Allan Clarke. The Germans
scored two late goals, provoking frenzied reactions and a bout
of missile throwing from disgruntled United fans.
UEFA took a dim view of the incidents and banned the club from
European competition for four years, something of an empty sanction
as they had failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in
Jimmy Armfield later managed to get the ban reduced to two seasons,
but the evening symbolically closed the curtain on a remarkable
period in the club's history. Things would never be the same again.
Long serving chief coach Syd Owen left Elland Road to assist
former United player Willie Bell, now manager at Birmingham. His
replacement was former Arsenal coach and England defender Don
Howe as Armfield started rebuilding in earnest: Terry Cooper left
to join Middlesbrough, now managed by Jack Charlton, while Johnny
Giles became player manager at West Bromwich Albion.
Of Revie's other stalwarts, Gary Sprake and Charlton had departed
the club in 1973; Mick Jones finally admitted defeat in October
1975 and announced his retirement after years suffering with knee
injuries; Mick Bates moved on to Walsall in June 1976 after tiring
of being the perennial reserve. Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter and
Terry Yorath left a few months after Bates, while Paul Reaney,
Allan Clarke, Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen stuck around until
1978. In the summer of 1979, Peter Lorimer and Frank Gray both
moved on, but brother Eddie, David Harvey and Paul Madeley were
still first team regulars at the end of the decade.
In 1975/76 Terry Yorath assumed the No 10 shirt vacated by Giles,
though he had none
of the Irishman's style and passing ability, relying instead on
guts, determination and spirit. He was always likely to suffer
by comparison and the unforgiving fans never fully warmed to him.
Duncan McKenzie was a regular goalscorer throughout the campaign,
partnering Allan Clarke for the most part as Joe Jordan sat out
the first half of the campaign with injury. McKenzie top scored
with sixteen goals in 39 League appearances, adding another in
4 Cup games.
Leeds enjoyed a decent run of results through the autumn, opening
with five wins out of the first seven games and then from mid-November
to mid-January they won eight games out of nine. It was a false
dawn and the positive spell gave way to a succession of defeats.
A run of one win in ten between January and March knocked the
stuffing out of the team. They did stage a brief revival, hinting
at a late surge, before securing just three points out of the
final ten to destroy any title aspirations. Nevertheless, they
did enough to finish fifth, nine points behind champions Liverpool.
The domestic cup competitions brought only embarrassment as United
suffered defeats to inferior opposition. Second Division Notts
County beat United 1-0 at Meadow Lane in the League Cup, while
Crystal Palace of Division Three won by the same score at Elland
Road in the FA Cup.
During the summer of 1976, Jimmy Armfield confided in McKenzie
that he planned to rebuild the team around him and Trevor Cherry.
Unimpressed by the promise, McKenzie departed for Anderlecht,
dismaying supporters who had loved his colourful flair. Terry
Yorath, unsettled by barracking from the fans, departed for Coventry
and old stagers Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter both moved on
early in the new season, ending lengthy associations with the
club. It felt unmistakably like the end of an era.
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As a replacement for McKenzie, Armfield recruited one of the
game's other great entertainers, paying Sheffield United £240,000
for England schemer Tony Currie. He also brought in young Burnley
striker Ray Hankin in a £170,000 deal. The manager was forced
to give first team baptisms of fire to youngsters like Peter Hampton,
David McNiven, Byron Stevenson, Carl Harris and Gwyn Thomas as
United were rocked by a succession of injury problems.
The side's League form was patchy and they could only summon
up fifteen League victories all season. Their start was poor with
one success in the first nine matches. They rallied a little through
the autumn but continually struggled for goals. The Yorkshiremen
faded away to finish tenth, their lowest placing in thirteen years.
On a more positive note, there was an exciting FA Cup run as
United beat Norwich (5-2 with a rare goal from Paul Reaney), Birmingham,
Manchester City and Wolves to reach the semi finals, where they
were drawn with Manchester United. They conceded two early goals
in the Hillsborough semi and even after Allan Clarke pulled one
goal back, they couldn't recover.
There was a desolate feeling about the club as an empty season
drew to a close. The crowd of 16,891 who watched the Elland Road
draw with West Ham on 26 April was the lowest since the club's
return to the First Division, bearing testimony to the depression
felt by the United supporters.
Undeterred by such dismal events, Armfield signed Aberdeen winger
Arthur Graham for a £125,000 fee and later paid £175,000 for Burnley's
diminutive midfielder Brian Flynn. Flynn formed a good midfield
partnership with Tony Currie, who enjoyed an outstanding 1977/78
Andrew Mourant described Currie as "a pivotal figure, the like
of which had never been accommodated in any Revie team. Much,
sometimes too much, depended on Currie's mood. He was an abundantly
gifted midfielder; few sights at Elland Road have been more enthralling
than that of Currie cantering about the pitch, spraying passes
in all directions and indulging in his speciality of spectacular
long range goals. But sometimes he appeared maddeningly languid;
the authoritarian gang of three, Bremner, Giles and Hunter, who
might have chivvied him along, had gone. A hard-running game was
not Currie's favoured style and when he was disinclined to play,
Leeds looked pedestrian."
With Graham, Currie and Flynn providing the ammunition, Armfield
deployed Joe Jordan and Ray Hankin as a ferocious twin battering
ram up front as Allan Clarke struggled for fitness.
The side began the campaign well and at the turn of the year
they were looking on the verge of a push for the title, but then
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Jordan had long been unsettled at Elland Road following the club's
refusal to sanction a transfer in 1975. "Leeds had an offer for
me from Bayern Munich after the European Cup final and I wanted
to go. After that team was broken up, I thought that was it. I
wanted to play in Europe ... nothing against Leeds. But they wouldn't
let me and I was annoyed at that. I was a bit disillusioned, as
a lot of people were. I wanted to try and win things and I really
didn't think we were going to do that." Jordan demanded a transfer
and was sold to Manchester United for £300,000 in January.
The following day, on a thoroughly depressing afternoon, Leeds
dumped out of the FA Cup on their home soil by Manchester City.
The game was marred by crowd trouble as United fans poured onto
the field to confront City keeper Joe Corrigan after the visitors
scored. Every bit as ugly was the angry scuffle between Gordon
McQueen and David Harvey as the pair waited for a City corner.
After the game, the FA imposed a ban on United playing FA Cup
games at Elland Road and the club fined McQueen for his lack of
discipline. Within days he had left to join close friend Jordan
at Old Trafford with Leeds pocketing £450,000. The fee was little
consolation, and United fans were irate at seeing two of their
star men moving to such bitter rivals. It sent an unmistakable
signal that the Yorkshire club were no longer members of the game's
Blackpool's Paul Hart arrived in March as a £330,000 replacement
for McQueen. He enjoyed some difficult early weeks, prompting
more unrest from the fans, though he later found his true form
in a United shirt and became a defensive mainstay.
By the time of Hart's signing, Leeds' season was drifting to
a disappointing conclusion. They had reached the League Cup semi
finals, but lost both legs to a fine Nottingham Forest side. In
the League, they finished ninth, a minor improvement on the previous
season, but still an unsatisfactory outcome for some of the most
passionate supporters in the country.
The United directors, spoiled by the untrammelled success they
enjoyed for so long with Don Revie, decided that Jimmy Armfield
could take the club no further and sacked him a month before the
start of the 1978/79 campaign. It was something of a surprise,
for Armfield had made a decent fist of the prickly task of replacing
Don Revie's golden generation.
After a brief period with assistant manager Maurice Lindley at
the helm, the board recruited
former Celtic supremo Jock Stein to replace Armfield. The Scot,
who had led the Glasgow club to European Cup glory in 1967, had
been replaced at Parkhead by former skipper Billy McNeill and
he was disaffected with the Glasgow giants. It was generally accepted
that Stein's move was motivated more by resentment against his
former employers than any great desire to restore United's fortunes.
He had previously rejected a number of offers from other English
clubs and at 55 he had no real hunger to uproot his family, but
could not bear to be offered a backroom job at Celtic and he accepted
the United position on August 21. It was reported that Stein hadn't
been Leeds' first choice; apparently Lawrie McMenemy had turned
down an offer, leaving the directors to pursue their next best
There were high hopes at Elland Road that Stein, with his experience
and standing in the game, could take United back to the very top,
but it was soon clear that his heart wasn't in the move. He never
signed a contract and quit after six weeks to take control of
the Scottish national side.
Sunderland manager Jimmy Adamson, who had come close to being
appointed England manager in the Sixties as replacement to Walter
Winterbottom, was Stein's successor, taking up the reins in October.
Adamson inherited a difficult situation: the side had won just
three of its first ten League fixtures, and two of its greatest
stalwarts, Paul Reaney and Allan Clarke, had ended illustrious
associations with Elland Road, moving on to Bradford City and
Barnsley respectively. The new manager took a pragmatic early
approach, claiming "I want to see Leeds win first and entertain
The early signs were good as Adamson hinted at being able to
inspire the side to better things. Under his guidance, United
enjoyed a 16-game unbeaten run in the League. That initial period
included a hard-earned draw away to champions elect Liverpool
at the start of November, with Bob Paisley's men requiring a late
penalty to gain a share of the points.
Despite his initial caution, Adamson also got Leeds playing some
attractive football; inspired by Tony Currie, they fought back
from being 3-1 down in the FA Cup to West Bromwich Albion to earn
a 3-3 draw before going out in a replay.
United tailed off towards the end of the campaign, but managed
to secure a fifth place spot
and a return to European competition by qualifying for the UEFA
They also reached the League Cup semi finals, and looked a good
bet for Wembley when they took a 2-0 lead in the first leg at
home to Southampton. But the Saints fought back strongly to earn
a 2-2 draw and then won 1-0 in the return at the Dell to eliminate
Adamson set about the challenging task of reshaping his playing
strength. David Stewart and Peter Lorimer departed before the
end of the campaign and the summer months brought further exits
in the shape of Tony Currie, Frank Gray and John Hawley. Adamson
had already paid out £357,000, a record for an English full-back,
when signing Kevin Hird from Blackburn in March, and he continued
to splash out the cash, signing Alan Curtis, Brian Greenhoff,
Gary Hamson, Wayne Entwistle and Jeff Chandler in the close season.
These were modest names after those that had graced Don Revie's
team sheets. Paul Madeley, David Harvey, Eddie Gray and Trevor
Cherry remained in situ to preserve a link with the Revie years,
but United were in the throes of transition as the decade drew
to a close. The early months of Adamson's reign hinted they would
be able to compete once more at the highest level, with the promise
of European competition getting the juices going, but there was
an unmistakable air of apprehension around Elland Road as the
decade drew to a close.
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