For Don Revie's Leeds United, the acquaintance with the big time
kicked off in earnest on Wednesday, 26 August 1964. Their first
game back in Division One the Saturday before had brought a promising
2-1 win away to Aston Villa, but the Midlanders were limited opponents.
They had been down among the dead men the previous season, and
were still coming to terms with life after the departure of manager
Joe Mercer. Rookie boss Dick Taylor. Mercer's assistant, had taken
United's second game was a far more imposing test, as they welcomed
the reigning League champions, Liverpool, to Elland Road. As Byron
Butler remarked in the official illustrated history of The Football
League in 1988, the Liverpool side "was full of thoroughbreds,
Ian St John, Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan, Peter Thompson and Ronnie
Yeats among them, but most of all it had Bill Shankly. 'Shanks',
with his cocky strut, crew cut hair and gravel voice, was all
Scot and all Scouse - a manager who turned a game of blood and
sweat into a faith. He understood players as few others did; and
as a motivator, said one of his players, 'he'd have been great
in the war, another Winston Churchill'. Shankly was a showman,
a spinner of dreams and a master of what he called 'the true joke'
- a wicked mixture of exaggeration, whimsy and ego. He was a man
of simplicity but never a simple man. 'Me havin' no education,'
he once said, 'I had to use my brains.' He was hugely successful
and hugely loved."
The Scot was always ready with good quote, and many of his witticisms
have passed into the folklore of football. Here are just a few
of his pearls of wisdom:
"The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they
do not know the game."
back to top
"He has football in his blood," said a scout who was trying sell
a player to Liverpool. "You may be right," Shanks said, "but it
hasn't reached his legs yet"
"I told this player, 'Listen Son, you haven't broken your leg.
It's all in the mind.'"
To a barber, who asked "Anything off the top?" "Aye, Everton."
"People say football is a matter
of life and death. I'm disappointed by that approach, I believe
it is much more important than that."
"Of course I didn't take my wife to see Rochdale as an anniversary
present. It was her birthday. Would I have got married in the
football season? Anyway, it was Rochdale reserves."
Liverpool had lost their First Division status in 1954, and in
December 1959, a month after sacking manager Phil Taylor, they
persuaded Huddersfield Town boss and former Scotland wing-half
Shankly to take up the reins at Anfield on a £2,500 salary. Over
the next few years he rebuilt the team around players snapped
up at bargain fees, including Ron Yeats from Dundee United and
Ian St John from Motherwell. On signing the gigantic Yeats, Shankly
invited the press to walk around him, saying, "With this man in
defence we could play Arthur Askey in goal."
The Reds secured the Second Division championship in 1962 and
spent a year consolidating their Division One status before becoming
League champions in 1964. Liverpool took 47 points from 30 games
after a slow start to secure their sixth championship title.
Liverpool had kicked off the new season on 15th August when they
drew 2-2 with West Ham in the Charity Shield curtain raiser. A
couple of days later they returned from Iceland's Reykjavik with
an easy 5-0 win in their European Cup debut, and then enjoyed
a 3-2 home League win against Arsenal. This was the first game
to be featured on BBC TV's new Match of the Day programme, screened
at 6.30 on BBC 2 and attracting just 20,000 viewers.
Don Revie, who was to develop a lasting and close friendship
with Shankly, born of a deep and mutual respect, acknowledged
the scale of United's task: "It was a very good result at Villa
Park, but don't let us get carried away. I'm just taking each
match as it comes, like we did last season. The next is with Liverpool
and Liverpool are a very hard side indeed to beat."
Billy Bremner later recalled: "Our win at Villa Park had definitely
convinced us that we could get results, but we wanted more than
that. Our sights were firmly set a lot higher than just survival.
Liverpool were a magnificent side. Bill Shankly had transformed
them into a very special outfit and we knew they were coming to
intent on securing maximum points. We had also been made aware
that a part of Shankly's psychology was to convince his players
that they were playing against a bunch of nobodies, half of whom
were limping. He was a canny guy and a brilliant manager and everyone
respected him tremendously, but we also rated our own manager
and we knew that he would have us prepared to take on and beat
back to top
Leeds had played well, after fighting back from a goal down at
Villa, but the popular view among the critics was that United
would do well to avoid relegation. They predicted that the limitations
of the Whites' hard working game would be badly exposed by the
classier opposition they now had to face. Shankly's Liverpool
represented the acid test for Revie's young guns, still without
England international Alan Peacock,
sidelined by a knee injury.
Revie gave the nod to the same eleven who defeated Villa, with
Don Weston continuing to
deputise for Peacock. He formed a twin spearhead with Jim Storrie,
supplemented by the trickery of Albert
Johanneson and the guile of Johnny Giles on the wings and
prompted by skipper Bobby Collins,
the aggressive midfield general. The first choice defence of Sprake,
Reaney, Bell, Bremner, Charlton
and Hunter was all present and correct after providing the reliable
backbone to United's Second Division triumph.
The visitors were without the brilliant St John, recovering from
having his appendix removed, and the injured Alf Arrowsmith, a
fine inside-forward (13 goals in 20 games in the championship
year). But Phil Chisnall, recently signed from Manchester United
for £25,000, and the Scot, Gordon Wallace, had done well in the
win against Reykjavik, netting three goals between them.
The Reds travelled across the Pennines in confident mood, convinced
they would put Leeds United firmly in their place.
Don Revie was determined to do everything in his power to guarantee
a good start to life in the First Division, and the Liverpool
side was one of the first to be dissected in the dossiers that
were soon to become so infamous.
Liverpool's performance in the Charity Shield encounter with
West Ham was analysed thus:
"Liverpool took the field first and proceeded towards the Spion
Kop end. This being the end they prefer to defend in the first
half, an advantage may be gained by getting out first when we
play there. Use the right-hand goal for warm-up and should we
win the toss elect to stay as you are at K.O. Shankly has devised
his team tactics to cover some deficiencies in his playing strength.
Both full-backs lack pace and our wingers must seek the ball behind
them. Liverpool depend a great deal on centre-half Yeats, who
sticks like glue to the centre-forward and clears his lines decisively
at all times. In this game both wing half-backs played a very
stereotyped game and should one go on attack, the other stays
back, even when an opportunity may arise to move with ease into
a position to change the point of attack. The majority of Milne's
service goes towards outside-right, Callaghan, and usually consists
of a short crisp pass.
"The forward line missed the constructive ability of St John,
and his deputy Arrowsmith was carried off the field after ten
minutes, with a twisted knee. Hunt moved to centre-forward, but
was unable to free himself from the close attention of West Ham's
Brown. Chisnall substituted for Arrowsmith but on this display
lacked the sharpness and guile to be creative. Wallace at I-R
was aggressive and grafted throughout, always
on the look out to shoot when half-chance arose.
back to top
"The Liverpool defence play square with both full-backs endeavouring
to keep close to the wingers even when a strike is made through
the inside positions. It was noticeable that West Ham's inside-left,
Hurst, was on to a number of balls behind the Liverpool right-back
in the first fifteen minutes and I could not figure out why this
approach was not sustained because it proved highly dangerous
in the early period.
"Balls into this area will probably be more productive because
of the two wing half-backs. Right-half Milne tends to advance
more than Stevenson. It was Yeats who was having to move out to
challenge Hurst on most occasions.
"After this early period I consider West Ham played to Liverpool's
advantage by building up attacks slowly, and neither Sissons nor
Brabrook would seek the ball behind the full-backs or attempt
to run without it to enable colleagues from behind to carry the
ball into an attacking position. Once West Ham had gained possession
Bobby Moore, playing in a position between C-H and L-B, was usually
served with the ball by his colleagues, to distribute elsewhere.
"Thompson at O-L, has speed and ball control, and invariably
takes on anybody in line with his striking runs. I feel there
are times when he had the chance to cross balls from the wing
but even so he elected to take on his opponent to get in on goal.
Thompson tends to go inside or across the front of his full-back
because he favours his right foot.
"The cross-over was operated on the right wing a number of times.
Callaghan already in the corner, coming out to take over the ball
from the man carrying the ball in his direction. Callaghan then
proceeds to strike through the I-R position towards goal, but
he has difficulty in this situation because it demands using his
left foot with the L-B running in close proximity.
"It was in such a situation that left-back G. Byrne scored with
a thirty-yard left-foot shot. Callaghan was forced to pull out
of a run, turned the ball back in Byrne's direction, whose shot
went across Standen inside the far post.
"Wallace's goal was due to a mistake by Moore, who allowed a
slow moving ball to pass under his boot to Liverpool's I-R, whose
first-time right-foot shot hit the far post before crossing the
"West Ham's two goals resulted from practices we have done on
numerous occasions, e.g. forward coming off for ball to feet,
and laying it to R-H, who hits forty-yard ball through I-L position
to advancing forward running through defence, who helped ball
into net as keeper advanced.
"Second goal: Hurst followed in a hard-driven ball from Brabrook
who shot with his left foot from I-R position. Lawrence palms
ball. Hurst nets from four yards. This incidentally was the only
shot West Ham had at goal in the second half.
"Yeats came into the area for corner kicks, taking up a very
wide position to enable himself to have room to adjust in relation
to the kick. At free kicks for them, Liverpool had players moving
around in different directions seeking to lose defenders in an
effort to enable the two players on the ball to select 'what's
back to top
The anorakish level of detail in the report appealed deeply to
Revie, with his obsessive concern for leaving nothing to chance.
He wanted his inexperienced players to be thoroughly prepared
for each and every game and insisted on them rehearsing tactics
to nullify their opponents' strengths. In the years to come, the
over cautious approach would become the
scapegoat for many of United's failures, but in this first season
in Division One the attention to detail proved invaluable for
The superstitious manager's pre-match motivational antics that
day also included bringing a clutch of four leafed clovers into
the dressing room, but it's difficult to know whether that had
any lasting effect on the team!
Off the field, chairman Harry Reynolds was hoping for a bumper
day at the turnstiles.
Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson: "While the team was learning its
lesson, Harry Reynolds had not yet learned his from the Charles
fiasco. He couldn't help getting carried away, and … gleefully
prepared for the first capacity crowd at Elland Road since the
1920s. The club had reverted to their 'premium' pricing policy,
and this time the lack of protest seemed to indicate that the
increases were thought justified. No one got rich, however, betting
on the Leeds public's enthusiasm … the ground was 19,000, one-third
short of capacity … it was an unambiguous indication of the real
strength of football in the city. This reluctance of the floating
core of Leeds supporters to show up in numbers is the fundamental
reason why the club's credibility as a 'big' club was so regularly
questioned. For far too long, whatever roots the club had laboured
to establish still lay in shallow soil.
"Even so, Reynolds' misplaced optimism had potentially disastrous
consequences for the fans that did bother to turn up. His expectation
of at least a 50,000 attendance led to the paddock stands being
crammed full while vast swathes of terracing behind the goals
were left vacant for all the non existent latecomers. One fan
complained that the crush was so intense he feared for his life;
conditions, others claimed, were 'like the black hole of Calcutta'.
Luckily for a penitent Reynolds, there were no major casualties."
The teams were blissfully unaware of any problems in the crowd
and when play kicked off, Liverpool adopted their normal approach,
with the No 9, Chisnall, taking St John's customary deep lying
role, leaving Hunt and Wallace to forage up front. According to
the Yorkshire Evening Post's Phil Brown: "Liverpool opened with
the supreme confidence they quite rightly could feel, and also
with a lot of the splendid football they were expected to show."
The wingers, Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson, had some early
success and were a constant threat to Paul Reaney and Willie Bell.
Leeds, however, were well up for battle and worked hard to get
into the contest with Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter showing
strongly, and Bobby Collins creating havoc. According to the Yorkshire
Post's Eric Stanger, Collins "made Milne, the current England
right-half, look a plodder".
back to top
In Stanger's view it was the respective pace of the two teams
that really set them apart - Liverpool "played rather too studiedly,
often too short and too square", while "Leeds used the longer
ball for the most part and by constantly switching the direction
of attack often pulled a slow moving Liverpool defence out of
Liverpool were exhibiting the calm assurance of champions, confident
that they would weather the early storm and emerge victorious
in the long term, but were undoubtedly troubled by dynamic opponents.
The Reds had already had a lucky escape before United took the
lead in the 16th minute: full-back Gerry Byrne attempted a back
pass under pressure from Don Weston, but goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence
could do nothing as the ball struck a post. The Scottish custodian
was similarly helpless
when Albert Johanneson's shot from the edge of the 18-yard box
hit Ron Yeats on the shoulder and kicked up and under the bar
to register a fortunate opener. The 1-0 advantage was, however,
no more than United merited for their positive approach.
Their hopes were somewhat dimmed eight minutes later when their
defence was undone by a quick Liverpool combination across the
field. Sprake caught a downward header from Hunt after the England
man connected with a short centre from Callaghan, but the keeper
collided with Reaney as he fell and spilled the ball into the
Liverpool continued to play as if it was only a matter of time
before class would tell and exuded confidence, but they really
were being comprehensively outfought and outplayed.
With five minutes remaining before the break, the Merseysiders'
defence was slow to react to an attack and Weston nodded Storrie's
centre into the goal to give Leeds a 2-1 lead at the interval.
Don Revie made the most of his half time team talk and the excitable
crowd were driven into ecstasy as the ten minutes after the break
saw their heroes assume an emphatic 4-1 lead.
Both goals came from combination work by Bremner and Giles. First
the Irishman pulled the ball back for Bremner to beat Lawrence
with a powerful drive and then the Scot rolled a free kick to
Giles to hammer home from 30 yards.
This was incredible stuff and the fans were in delirium, chanting,
"We want five". They were, if truth be known, never going to get
a fifth, but certainly their men had made Liverpool second best
on the day.
There was some uncertainty as the minutes ticked by, with the
Reds pulling one goal back in the 70th minute. Gordon Milne managed
to force home the rebound after Gary Sprake pushed his initial
penalty kick onto a post after Bremner's foul on Hunt, but it
was surprisingly Bill Shankly's men who became the more ragged
outfit in the closing stages.
There were near misses and close calls, but United, with Jack
Charlton calm assurance itself, saw out the threat to secure a
historic 4-2 triumph.
back to top
Billy Bremner: "Don Revie told us to go out and prove that we
were a match, and more, for them. His words inspired us and put
us in exactly the right frame of mind for the task ahead. It was
quite a task, of course, but we settled quickly and played the
way we had performed in the second half against Villa. Liverpool
were excellent -- as good as we had expected -- but we were not
going to pay them too much respect and I think
they were uneasy long before we were because the unflappable Ron
Yeats scored our first goal for us. I pulled his leg about that
later. As a fellow Scot I got away with it. He opened the floodgates
with that own goal … our supporters certainly celebrated after
Norman Hunter: "I remember our performance that day as being
very much a team effort. Everyone put in the extra effort but
we also played some neat and creative football … we deserved to
be the glory boys on this occasion. We never allowed ourselves
to feel inferior to anybody for the simple reason that we didn't
think we were. No one had done us any favours. We were there because
we were good enough."
Eric Stanger: "It was Leeds United's wonderful team spirit …
which saw them through, but they also showed a considerable amount
of skill. At times Leeds played really fine, imaginative football
and had Liverpool struggling for most of the game."
Phil Brown: "United beat the pride of Merseyside, England's European
Cup team, fairly and squarely on all points of football in a nigh
level game … It was United's night in attack and defence. I do
not think any United side since the war, remembering the quality
of the opposition, has played such incisive football as United
did last night … It must have been fine reward for the board and
Don Revie after all their efforts to give this city a club and
a side to go with the best in the land."
These were extremely early days in a momentous season, but United
were now one of just five teams with maximum points after the
first two rounds of fixtures. As Phil Brown remarked: "Only time
and a few more results to match, of course, will really tell,
but last night's match could set even this fickle city alight."
How right he was!
back to top