Part 1 An Appreciation - Part
2 Learning the ropes (1927-51) - Part
3 Centre stage with City (1951-56) - Part
4 Shuffling off stage (1956-61) - Part
5 On the march with Leeds United (1961-67) - Part
7 Inn-gerland! (1974-77) - Part 8 Disgrace
and despair (1977-89)
Following Don Revie's appointment as Leeds United manager in
March 1961, he took the club from the verge of the Third Division
to a place among the game's elite. Between 1964,
when they won the Second Division championship, and 1967,
they had finished League runners-up twice, been beaten
finalists in the FA Cup and Fairs
Cup, and reached two other semi-finals.
They were unquestionably one of the most feared sides in the
country, for both their football and their confrontational approach,
but they seemed cursed when it came to collecting any silverware.
The manager had always been superstitious and a fatalist, but
the way that luck constantly worked against his team made him
even more eccentric and uptight.
Andrew Mourant: "Revie's waking hours were riddled with phobias
and rituals; taking the same route to his dug out before a match,
a fear of ornamental elephants, a readiness to believe that a
gypsy curse on Elland Road was preventing his side winning, even
a distaste for birds on pictures or as motifs.
"Margaret Veitch's husband Peter remembers a visit Revie made
to their home in Pudsey shortly after they had done some decorating.
'We wanted to put some pictures up in the bedroom. The only ones
I could get which were small were birds. He wouldn't go in the
bedroom. He said: "What are they doing there... you don't have
birds in your house. You don't have birds anywhere." That's the
reason the peacock was eventually taken off the club badge. He
wouldn't have birds.'
"Two years after the Liverpool final, Revie summoned a gypsy
from Scarborough to Elland Road. Her mission was to exorcise whatever
curse might be hanging over the ground and bringing his team ill-luck
in crucial matches. Lord Harewood shared Revie's superstition
about the possibility of peacocks bringing ill-luck. 'You can't
defy a known superstition,' he says. 'If you walk under a ladder,
that's a dangerous thing to do... it's a metaphor for being hanged...
in medieval times, people went under the ladder to be hanged.
If you believe that to defy those things is a danger, then you
are probably doing better not to defy them. I think Don's weakness
was fear of not knowing everything there was to be known about
the opposing side. That might have been carried to excess.'"
Such eccentricity was an ingrained part of Revie's character,
as was his caution, preoccupation with detail and over emphasis
on the strength of opponents. Those
features were to change little in 1968, but at last fortune
smiled on Leeds United. The side was phenomenally successful on
all fronts and enjoyed a remarkable season.
Terry Cooper and Eddie Gray became fixtures on the left flank,
bringing a skilful and progressive
approach, and Don Revie finally bought a centre-forward to replace
the luckless Alan Peacock,
who had suffered endless injury problems throughout his career
and figured in just nine games the previous season. He was allowed
to move on to Plymouth Argyle in October 1967, a couple of weeks
after the manager had broken the club's transfer record by paying
£100,000 for Sheffield United's centre-forward Mick Jones, who
had won England caps in 1965.
As if to mark Jones' arrival, Leeds United demonstrated exactly
how brilliant they could be, on October 7 as they entertained
a Chelsea side reeling from the controversial departure of manager
Tommy Docherty the previous night. Leeds were clicking into top
gear after a slow start and simply
ripped the Londoners apart. Billy Bremner, making his farewell
appearance before starting a four week suspension, enjoyed a startling
performance, finishing things off with a tremendous overhead kick
as Leeds scored seven times without reply, gaining some revenge
for their defeat against the same side in the Cup semi-final six
back to top
It was to be another couple of years before the resolute defence
and bitter attrition were fully traded in for attacking prowess
and an expansive game, but the controversy and outright war of
previous years were starting to become less prevalent. It would
take some silverware on the shelf to make Don Revie cast off the
defensive shackles permanently, but Leeds were giving less concrete
evidence of their bully boy psyche.
Their form in the League was good, especially at Elland Road,
but they ended the season with four straight defeats to finish
fourth, with only five points fewer than champions Manchester
City. It was very disappointing, but Leeds enjoyed greater success
in the three Cup competitions.
They broke their honours duck by beating
Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley on March 2 to win the League Cup in
a game which was even more dull than their 1965 FA Cup final against
Liverpool. Terry Cooper's volley after 20 minutes gave them a
lead they never looked remotely in danger of relinquishing, but
they refused to take any risks and simply did what they needed
to frustrate the Gunners. After so many years of comparative failure,
the capture of a trophy was much more important than performing
with style and Revie's men had no intention of missing out again.
The manager refused to make any excuses for the negative approach:
"I wanted Leeds to play attractively as much as anyone, but under
the circumstances, we would have been foolish to attempt to do
this. We were playing with virtually nine fit men. I would never
have included Greenhoff
and Giles had this been an ordinary League or Cup game, not in
their physical condition. But these two had been playing superbly,
and I reasoned that they would boost the rest of the team just
by their presence on the field.
"It was impossible for us to look upon this as just another match.
All players are nervous at Wembley, but this was particularly
true as far as Leeds were concerned as it was so vital for us
to win. The lads got changed into their kit so early that Les
Cocker and I had to give them a sports quiz in the dressing room
half an hour before the kick-off in an effort to
stop them dwelling on the game. It's funny, but they were under
so much mental pressure during the match that at the final whistle
they were relieved rather than elated!"
They followed up by reaching another FA
Cup semi-final, this time against Everton, but Gary Sprake's
wayward clearance left Jack
Charlton little alternative but to concede a penalty for handball
and the only goal of the game.
The club's experience in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup was better.
They demolished Spora Luxembourg 16-0 on aggregate in the first
round, then ousted Partizan Belgrade, before seeing off three
Scottish teams, Hibernian, Rangers and Dundee, to qualify for
a second successive final in the competition, again held over
to the start of the following season because of fixture congestion.
Three seasons of hard European competition had bred resilience
in United and they had perfected the art of two-legged competition.
They faced the formidable Hungarian team Ferencvaros
with the first leg at Elland Road. Mick Jones showed his value
by forcing home a knock on from Jack Charlton but Leeds could
not add to the goal and pundits doubted their ability to defend
their lead in the Nep Stadium.
However, a copybook defensive display with Gary Sprake playing
the game of his life withstood all the Hungarians' efforts and
Leeds held out for a splendid
goalless draw to secure their second major trophy in six months.
The success had a remarkable impact on the club and their home
city, lifting the depression that had started to descend upon
them. The greater significance, however, came with the change
in Press attitudes.
Bagchi and Rogerson: "There had been a sea change in the way
they were perceived. Having done to foreigners what they had done
to domestic opposition for years, they had finally become accepted
by the English press, as much for their spirit as for their prowess.
Desmond Hackett of the Daily Express, usually a critic, wrote:
'When tired limbs screamed rebellion over extra exertion, there
was not one Leeds player who failed to drive himself in that further
yard of effort.' This sort of acclamation had been long overdue."
After years of seeing their approach pilloried, Leeds United
now found that the way their choking, ultra professional defensive
style had outdone the Europeans at their own game gained them
new friends at home and abroad.
back to top
Don Revie could be excused for sitting back with a glow of satisfaction,
but the twin triumphs only made him hungrier as he set his stall
out for the greatest prize of all, the Football League championship.
Billy Bremner: "When you haven't won anything, you're delighted
to win something; but
as soon as a new challenge is offered, you have to climb higher.
And so we climbed that little bit higher, in going for the League."
In the end, it was exactly
the season that Revie had desired, as Leeds United swept to a
phenomenal championship triumph, breaking all manner of records
along the way - most points (67), beating the previous best by
Arsenal (1930-31) and Spurs (1960-61); most home points (39);
most wins (27); most home wins (18); fewest defeats (2), beating
Arsenal's previous best of four in 1930-31; the two away defeats
was also a record; going unbeaten at home equalled United's best,
set in their 1963-64 Second Division championship season; only
26 goals were conceded; and only nine of those goals came at Elland
For all that sweeping dominance, however, it was no cakewalk,
and it was late February before Leeds could overtake long time
leaders Liverpool. They enjoyed a wonderful start, winning seven
and drawing two of their first nine games before defeats by Manchester
City and Burnley set them
back on their heels. Three successive scoreless draws stabilised
the ship and signalled a 28 match unbeaten run with just 11 goals
conceded. Ever present Gary Sprake kept 24 clean sheets, with
Reaney, Bremner and Hunter also playing in every game, and Jack
Charlton missing just one. Leeds were the model of consistency
and careful, cunning craft, denying all comers and smothering
They were helped by early exits from all the Cup competitions,
giving them a relatively easy time of things in the spring, when
they would normally have been so stretched. At the heart of it
all was the cool, unflappable intelligence that had marked Don
Revie's playing career. United were smarter and more focused than
their rivals and left so little to chance that the percentages
constantly favoured them.
With the versatile Paul Madeley deployed as a constant midfield
blanket in front of Charlton and Hunter, allowing Bremner and
Giles to pull the creative strings, the Leeds United of 1969 was
an efficient, effective and well oiled machine, never aspiring
to greatness but consistently sustaining functional supremacy.
It was just as Don Revie had dreamed, and he was rewarded with
the Manager of the Year award to go with finally achieving his
aim of leading the best side in the country.
When Bill Shankly and his fervent supporters on the Kop extended
gracious admiration to the Whites as they earned the decisive
point from a goalless game at
Anfield in the season's penultimate game, it was the final
for Don Revie, who said: "The reception given us by the sporting
Liverpool crowd was truly magnificent, and so, for that matter,
was our defence tonight. It was superb in everything."
Billy Bremner was similarly effusive: "That wonderful night at
Anfield saw our burning faith in ourselves justified. At last
we were well and truly vindicated."
It was an interesting choice of words, but the one time outlaws
could be forgiven for gloating at being welcomed to the game's
inner circle. One journalist on a Sunday paper sounded a sour
note, saying, "It is a pity that Leeds, so near to a championship
they unquestionably deserve, chose to parade their infuriating
time-wasting tactics near the end." But the Elland Road ranks
were by now well used to such jibes; in fact, they rather took
them as a compliment. After fifty years of mediocrity, Leeds United
had won three major trophies within the space of 14 months and
were without question England's premier team.
back to top
There was absolutely no reason why the club should not have consolidated
their dominance at home and abroad. However, the next four years
produced a run of heartbreaks that had rarely been experienced
by any other team. Much was down to Revie's new found confidence,
born from the sudden rush of trophies. The attritional, defensive
fortitude that had been their watchword for almost a decade was
traded for a more progressive approach. It was undoubtedly easier
on the eye, but it meant that risks were taken and opponents found
it easier to play their own game.
The first sign of the softening of attitude came with Don Revie's
decision to break the transfer record by splashing out £165,000
on Leicester City's accomplished young goal getter Allan Clarke.
Goals had always been hard to come by for Leeds, and for years
they had relied on a single target man ploughing a lone furrow
up front, with first Alan Peacock and then Mick Jones facing a
thankless task. Now Revie paired Clarke with Jones and goals began
to flow from their sweeping attacks.
The first signs were promising. Leeds
beat Manchester City at the start of the season to win the FA
Charity Shield and soon Jones and Clarke had forged a prolific
partnership. Aided and abetted by Peter Lorimer on the right flank
the goals flowed, and never more so than in the club's European
Cup debut when they put sixteen goals without reply past Lynn
Oslo, the part timers from Norway.
However, the season,
foreshortened by England's early departure to Mexico to defend
their World Cup crown, was to bring nothing but heartbreak for
Leeds United. Billy Bremner and Don Revie were Footballer and
Manager of the Year, and for many months looked likely to celebrate
a remarkable treble of League title, European Cup and FA Cup,
but unprecedented fixture congestion destroyed both their chances
and the players. In March and April, Leeds played 17 matches,
with 9 of them squeezed into the space of 22 days.
Revie's long running feud with Football
League secretary Alan Hardaker meant that he got little sympathy
when requesting assistance with rearranging fixtures, and something
had to give. First the League title race was conceded to Everton
when Revie incurred Hardaker's wrath by fielding teams made up
entirely of reserves. The
manager decreed that the European Cup and the FA Cup took precedence
over the League, but a succession of replays, injuries and exhaustion
took its deadly toll.
Leeds hammered Chelsea in the
Cup final with Eddie Gray enjoying the game of his life, but
lapses in concentration allowed the Londoners to steal two equalisers.
Then Celtic caught United on two off nights in the European Cup
semi-final to eliminate them with some ease. The season ended
in empty bitterness when Chelsea
came from behind in the Cup final replay at Old Trafford to
snatch an extra time winner.
It is difficult to overstate the depth of the despair that engulfed
the Elland Road club in that doom-laden spring. If nothing else,
Don Revie finally appreciated the risks of over-ambition and spreading
the jam too thinly. It was a heart-rending way to learn.
During that summer, though, warmed by the adventure of Brazil's
World Cup triumph, Revie waxed lyrical about his Elland Road family
and his philosophy:
"Some time before Leeds United won the first of the honours that
have come our way in recent seasons, I told a gathering of the
players that if they became champions they would realise that
there was more to it than being the top team. I cannot recall
my exact words, but remember well the gist of them, which was
that it was not sufficient merely to become champions; of equal
importance in my book was to behave like champions, off as well
as on the field. This can have many aspects: behaviour on the
field, behaviour away from it; appearance on the field, conduct
"We have today a situation in which a team taking the title becomes
subject to constant survey - has the eyes of public upon its every
action. In addition, as more and more clubs enter into European
competition so the image of the British footballer, and through
him the Briton himself, is spread further afield with more and
more coverage by the press and television.
"We thus have the situation in which any club and its players
are faced with the dual problem - that of winning matches and
doing so with dignity on and off the field. I could be said, perhaps,
to be particularly conscious of this, because of what I still
believe to be a totally unfair impression given abroad about Leeds
when we first started to chase the honours. I refer, of course,
to the suggestion that we were more physical than skilful. I have
never subscribed to any such view, neither did I to any suggestion
that we were more a defensive side than anything else. Fortunately,
for my beliefs the events of the past few seasons have spoken
for themselves and now Leeds are hailed as a side containing as
many skills as any, and more than most.
back to top
"I recall George Best being asked last season how he rated Leeds.
He replied, 'Their strength is that
they have no weaknesses: they also possess a tremendous team spirit
and players of great individual skills'. I like to think that
George was echoing the thoughts of most of the people in football,
but for a long time we had to suffer other things being said about
us, and bear it with dignity. And that is what being champions
is all about really - wearing a crown with dignity.
"On arrival at Elland Road any new boy, be he a young apprentice
professional or an already established star, is quick to appreciate
that he should combine courage, hard but fair play and complete
confidence on the field, with courtesy, good conduct, manners
and humility away from it.
"The idea behind all this is to ensure that so far as is humanly
possible every lad on the staff has, within a short time of joining
Leeds United, been taught sufficient to feel comfortable in any
kind of company, able to enter any hotel he wishes and also made
aware of the temptations as well as the honours and awards that
can come his way. I have heard it said that this is not the function
of a football club; that a club's sole concern should be in the
promotion of a fine football side and to the winning of more matches
than achieved by the opposition. But surely it is all part and
parcel of the same thing.
"Let me say immediately that no one is more aware than we at
Elland Road of the importance of winning matches and of establishing
a fine football side with which to do so. Indeed that is the major
purpose behind everything we do, but there are others ancillary
things to be considered. One is that while winning matches is
of vital importance, the manner in which successes are achieved
must also be considered. The other vital factor ancillary to winning
matches, and winning them in the right spirit, is that the boys
who obtain these honours for a club and its city, and in turn
is feted by them, should be honourable representatives of that
club, and that city.
"As I said earlier, let there be no question of us trying to
put manners before everything else. We are part of a football
club, and a successful one at that, and such successes have been
achieved only by a complete one hundred per cent dedication -
being able to match skill with sinew when required in hard but
fair combat with the opposition. But within that requirement it
is possible for football to uphold the dignity it has brought
into the twentieth century's later years. At the turn of the century
and for many years thereafter this great game was considered something
of a festival of the cloth capped. That was never completely accurate.
The game has always attracted the intelligentsia - though in much
lower numbers it must be admitted - now, of course, are there
are almost as many egg-heads as those of other shapes attracted
to, and attending the game.
"Football has indeed, arrived. It is recognised for what it is
- a great game for the masses, a source of entertainment for the
millions and a combination of employment and enjoyable activities
to the fortunate thousands earning their living from the game.
"Often I think that winning a trophy is almost
the easiest part of the exercise. Retaining it, and at the same
time one's sense of purpose, modesty and place in things is infinitely
"But that's what I expect from my players."
His monologue seemed anachronistic, and strangely out of touch
with the times; his preoccupation with standards smacked a little
of hypocrisy as his team had only recently abandoned the bully
boy approach which Collins
had fostered. Clearly, Revie was trying to paint his charges as
being the saviours of a game that was often accused of bringing
out the worst in people.
At the start of the year, he had received an OBE for services
to football, and was obviously taking his new found status very
seriously. He hinted as such in his comments at the time: "My
award should be recognised as a club rather than personal achievement,
because without the talent, character and dedication of everyone
connected with the club, my success as a manager would not have
been possible. When I went to Buckingham Palace I collected the
award on behalf of Leeds United."
By the time the new season
came around, the memories of the disappointing spring had
faded and Revie had once more worked the miracle of reviving exhausted
and dispirited warriors. He had told his shattered players in
the Old Trafford dressing room, after the defeat to Chelsea, "Forget
this season … it cannot be revived. We've got to start all over
again. We've done it before and we can do it now."
back to top
True to Revie's words, Leeds once more set a stunning pace in
the League, only to be caught again, this time after a phenomenal
run by Double winners Arsenal. The season would be lastingly remembered
for two disastrous matches that are indelibly etched in the memories
of Leeds fans.
In the fifth round of the FA
Cup they travelled to face Fourth Division Colchester United at
Layer Road with the odds heavily stacked in their favour.
By the end of the game, they had been humbled by veteran former
England forward Ray Crawford who got two of the goals which left
Leeds 3-0 down. They pulled two back but went out in one of the
most remarkable of all Cup upsets.
Then as the League season reached its tense climax and with Arsenal,
with a succession of 1-0 victories, snapping at their heels, the
fates turned once more against United. With Leeds
losing at home to West Brom, and chasing the game, the most
perverse of refereeing decisions provoked a riot at Elland Road.
Andrew Mourant: "Their composure was undone by some grotesque
refereeing by Ray Tinkler. Leeds were already 1-0 down and fighting
to stay in the match when a misplaced pass by Norman Hunter bounced
off Albion's Tony Brown. As Brown embarked on an optimistic chase
towards the Leeds goal, linesman Bill Troupe raised his flag for
offside against Colin Suggett who was several yards ahead of play.
Brown stopped; all the Leeds players stopped, until Tinkler, to
the astonishment of all, waved play on. Brown, almost diffidently,
continued his journey towards Sprake's goal before squaring the
ball to Jeff Astle whose sidefoot shot made it 2-0. For Leeds
the match was now irretrievable.
"Millions watching television witnessed Revie's rage and despair.
The sense of menace at Elland Road was intense; but this was not
the posturing, manufactured rage generated by gangs of penned
hooligans. The pitch invasion, if that it may be called, was quite
spontaneous and involved a handful of unconnected spectators from
various parts of the ground, among them middle-aged men. 'Tinkler,'
Revie said, 'ruined nine months of hard work. At 1-0 down, Leeds
were fighting back and Albion starting to crack.' For Revie and
the Elland Road faithful, Ray Tinkler's decision was one disappointment
too many. It defeated the Leeds manager's oft-practised self-control."
Despite the despair of once more ending runners-up after Arsenal
won 1-0 at Tottenham in the last game of season (United's finishing
total of 64 points was a new record for a side finishing second),
Leeds did at least finish with a trophy. They
defeated Juventus on the away goals rule to recapture the Fairs
Cup, in the process becoming the final holders of the trophy,
before it was replaced by the UEFA Cup.
The pitch invasion resulted in a fine for Revie and an order
that Leeds should have to play a clutch of their early home games
away from Elland Road, giving them a mountain to climb at the
start of the 1971/72 season. For once Leeds did not storm away
from the field as the battle was fought out by four clubs, with
Derby, Liverpool and Manchester City all vying with United for
The form shown by the Whites in the spring, however, was the
talking point of the season as they beat Manchester
United 5-1, Arsenal 3-0
and Nottingham Forest 6-1,
but it was a startling match
on March 4 against Southampton that really stood out. Playing
before the Match of the Day cameras, Leeds hit peak form, striking
home seven goals without reply, but it was the manner of the performance
that was important.
With the result certain, the ultra confident Leeds players aired
their party pieces as they tortured outclassed opponents with
some amazing possession football. The Saints could do nothing
and were teased and tormented by the flicks,
tricks and long balls, as Revie's men came as close to perfection
as any team had ever done.
There were too many defeats woven in amongst all the magic, but
still Leeds looked the likeliest title winners, also enjoying
an FA Cup run that took them all the way to a Wembley date with
holders Arsenal in the competition's centenary year.
back to top
It was by no means a classic final but Leeds had the better of
things and won the trophy for
the first time in their history when Allan Clarke dived full
length to head home Mick Jones' teasing cross for the only goal
of the game.
There were no after match celebrations, however. There was a
date with destiny two days later as Leeds
travelled to Wolverhampton for their final game in the League,
knowing that a draw would be enough for them to overtake leaders
Derby County and claim the Cup and League Double.
Tiredness and injuries led to a depleted team walking out for
the match, but there were few who would bet against Leeds getting
the point they needed. Inexplicably, however, Wolves raised their
game and blitzed United.
Even so, Leeds had enough chances to win the game and were denied
at least one blatant penalty, but the season again ended in disappointment
with a 2-1 defeat leaving Leeds runners-up for the third successive
year. Revie remarked, "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."
This was now a depressingly familiar routine for Don Revie. He
railed against the intransigence of officialdom and let rip with
his paranoia, but it seemed that Leeds could not avoid choking
when the pressure really came on. Even playing their most irresistible
and attractive football, finally putting behind them the controversy
of the Sixties, the team could not close off business.
What was even more remarkable than their consistent failure,
however, was the players' constant ability to come back from the
ashes of despair to emerge, refreshed and ready to go at the start
of the next season. Lesser teams would have fallen away, but year
after year Leeds United were back, making the pace and showing
In 1972/73, however,
Leeds were always too far away to mount a serious title challenge
as Liverpool and Arsenal contested things. It was in many ways
a below par season, and strangely low key. A third place finish
in the League was disappointing, but there were the customary
Cup runs and Leeds reached the finals of both the FA Cup and the
European Cup Winners Cup.
The first of these pitched
Revie against his old nemesis Bob Stokoe. The former Bury
manager was now boss of Second Division strugglers Sunderland,
whom he had revitalised, with a semi-final victory over Arsenal
to their credit. The United party was as tense and fractious as
their manager, while the Wearsiders were relaxed and ready to
enjoy the day. Cheered on by the neutrals, Sunderland took the
lead in the first half when Ian Porterfield fired home a memorable
Leeds pressed forward in the second half, but their conviction
was badly dented when Sunderland keeper Jim Montgomery pulled
off a historic double save, parrying Trevor Cherry's close range
header before somehow recovering to fling himself across the goal
area to push Peter Lorimer's point blank shot onto the crossbar
A week later, a line-up without Bremner, Clarke, Giles and Gray
was robbed of glory in the Cup
Winners Cup final against AC Milan. The Greek referee gave
a desperately one eyed performance, denying Leeds at least two
penalties, and was booed off at the end, after a single early
goal gave the Italians a notorious victory.
What was even more dispiriting for Leeds during that Greek tragedy,
was the news that Everton
had approached Don Revie to take over at Goodison Park. It
was rumoured strongly that Revie had decided to accept their lucrative
offer and move on from the club he had joined nearly fifteen years
In the end, however, his insecurity and love of control persuaded
Revie to reject all the Everton overtures and pledge his future
once more to Leeds United. The players whom he had spent more
than a decade grooming were growing old together, and rebuilding
was long overdue, but Revie decided that there was time for one
last hurrah. He resolved that 1973/74
would somehow be different from the recent past.
back to top
However, at least one of his loyal lieutenants would no longer
be around to enjoy the ride: 38-year-old
Jack Charlton finally decided to hang his boots up, taking
on his first managerial role at lowly Middlesbrough. Revie had
wanted Charlton to stay on at least in a coaching role, but accepted
the inevitable. He had been attempting unsuccessfully to find
a replacement for years, but both Sutton United's John Faulkner
and Huddersfield Town's Roy Ellam had been found wanting. However,
the giant young Scot Gordon McQueen, who had arrived in a £30,000
deal from St Mirren in May 1972 had been blooded and was ready
to take over.
McQueen was one of a number of younger players whom Don Revie
had started working into his mix, with Joe Jordan, David Harvey,
Terry Yorath, Frank Gray and Trevor Cherry offering new options.
1972/73 had been an irritable, bad tempered season with a succession
of disciplinary problems. Don Revie promised the press that the
club had turned over a new leaf and would be whiter than white
in the new season. He shocked his experienced squad by announcing,
with the utmost conviction, that they would win the League championship
and achieve another, less likely, distinction along the way.
Allan Clarke: "The Gaffer said, 'Right, lads, we've been the
best team for the last decade. I know we haven't won as much as
we should have, but that's in
the past. Now I've had a thought in the close season - can we
go through the whole campaign unbeaten?' We all looked at each
other in silence and then, after a while we said … 'Yes, it's
possible.' It was certainly a different pep talk to most seasons.
Of course you start off aiming to win all your games, but to actually
set it as a target - that was different."
It was a far-fetched notion, but the vaulting ambition of Revie's
vision had an invigorating impact on his charges and they began
the season in spectacular fashion, playing some of their best
football. Their expansive attacking game was simply breathtaking,
sweeping all comers aside, as the first seven games were all won
with 19 goals scored against just four conceded. But it was the
manner of their performances that evoked the greatest reaction.
In a report of the seventh of those victories, John Arlott wrote
eloquently in the Guardian, "Wearing the white strip of a blameless
life, Leeds moved in a ceaseless flow, back in packed defence,
competing for the midfield, sweeping forward and with backs overlapping.
Yet it was all so controlled, almost amiable … so free from the
aura of violence they used to generate."
The winning run came to an end when Manchester United forced
a goalless draw at Elland Road on September 22, but Leeds continued
in imperious fashion, outclassing most of the sides they faced.
Eventually, draws started to appear rather too regularly for Revie's
comfort and a lapse in form accompanied the lengthy injury absence
of Mick Jones, Johnny Giles and Eddie Gray. Jordan, Yorath and
Bates were sound, if limited, deputies, but Leeds' resources were
increasingly strained. The old stagers Reaney, Bremner, Hunter,
Clarke and Lorimer were outstanding, while the reliable Harvey
and Cherry made emphatic contributions.
A long unbeaten run saw Leeds develop a comfortable points advantage
over a trailing Liverpool side, but eventually the sequence became
a millstone as tension crept into Leeds United's play. The side
avoided defeat in the first twenty-nine games, but they had drawn
four of their previous seven league matches when they were spectacularly
dumped out of the FA Cup at the fifth
round stage by a determined Bristol City side.
In the next match, away to Stoke City, the composure seemed to
have returned as Leeds built up a 2-0 lead with goals from Bremner
and Clarke, but then the Potters fought back and pulled off a
breathtaking 3-2 win.
The defeat sent a shock wave through Revie and his men. They
won one and drew two of their next three games, but then stuttered
to three straight defeats, with the 4-1
reversal against Burnley particularly embarrassing. More damaging,
however, was a 1-0 defeat at chasing Liverpool, as the Merseysiders
steadily and inexorably
hauled in Leeds' points advantage, which once stood at 9. Was
there going to be another, all too familiar, disaster?
back to top
Happily, United rallied at the death, with a 2-0
win at home to Derby ending the losing streak. Liverpool stuttered
under their own fixture congestion on their way to an FA Cup triumph,
and Leeds eventually secured the title without even playing, when
old rivals Arsenal pulled off a 1-0 win at Anfield. It left the
Whites to celebrate their second title triumph with a single goal
victory in the last game of
the season at Queens Park Rangers.
The relief was evident in Don Revie's voice as he remarked, "I
feel as though someone has come along and lifted six tons of coal
off my back. I feel as though I am walking on air. This is the
greatest moment of my life. Deep down, I thought our chance had
gone after three defeats on the trot before Easter. All credit
to Billy Bremner and the lads for coming back. That is the mark
of true champions." He sounded chirpy enough, but Peter Lorimer
hinted at the strain he had been under: "During those last couple
of months he looked as if he'd aged about five years."
Leeds United had almost contrived to throw away a season's hard
work in a few short weeks, but had somehow found the backbone
and resolve to do enough to secure a memorable title win.
It proved to be the epitaph for the manager at Elland Road, for
within weeks of receiving the championship trophy, he was contemplating
a new career and a new challenge, ending an association that had
lasted nearly sixteen years. Don Revie and Leeds United had been
inextricably interlinked for what seemed an age - now they were
going their separate ways and life would never be the same again
for either party.
Part 1 An Appreciation - Part
2 Learning the ropes (1927-51) - Part
3 Centre stage with City (1951-56) - Part
4 Shuffling off stage (1956-61) - Part
5 On the march with Leeds United (1961-67) - Part
7 Inn-gerland! (1974-77) - Part 8 Disgrace
and despair (1977-89)