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Leeds United were shock challengers for the League title in 1965
but their remarkable chase for the championship ended disappointingly.
After a formidable showing on their return to the First Division,
the Whites dropped a point in a 3-3 draw
at relegated Birmingham City while Manchester United beat
Arsenal 3-1 at Old Trafford to settle matters, with Leeds finishing
runners up by dint of a much inferior goal average.
The Yorkshiremen retained one final chance of silverware, having
won their way through to an FA Cup final appearance on May 1 against
reigning League champions Liverpool. It was the first time that
United had come near a sniff of FA Cup glory, and, with the Anfield
club never having won the Cup, it was certain there would be a
new name on the famous trophy.
Liverpool had surrendered their League title quite meekly, trailing
in a disappointing 7th, 17 points behind Leeds, but they had done
well in their European Cup debut season. They beat FC Cologne
on the toss of a coin in a quarter final play off, and now faced
mighty Inter Milan at Anfield three days after the FA Cup final.
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Under legendary manager Bill Shankly, the Anfield club were emerging
as one of the new powers of the English game and would be stern
opponents. Their run to the Cup final had seen them defeat West
Bromwich Albion, Stockport County, Bolton Wanderers, Leicester
City and new League Cup winners Chelsea.
Leeds had the fortune to be drawn against lower division opponents
Southport, Shrewsbury Town and Crystal Palace on the way to Wembley,
although they had also ousted 1963 League champions Everton and
Manchester United, requiring
replays on both occasions.
Liverpool's only absentee was England wing-half Gordon Milne,
who had damaged his knee ligaments over Easter. Strangely, Milne's
father had missed the 1938 final for Preston North End when he
broke a collarbone a fortnight before the final against Huddersfield
Town. Coincidentally, Leeds were the first Yorkshire club since
then to have made it to the final.
It was an enormous disappointment for Milne, whose dynamic, probing
style had been a key feature of Liverpool's season, but offered
an unexpected opportunity for Geoff Strong, who had been signed
for £40,000 from Arsenal six months previously.
The rest of Shankly's line up was much as expected:
Scot Tommy Lawrence, 'The Flying Pig', was in goal, 21-year-old
Chris Lawler had ousted Ronnie Moran at right-back and Gerry Byrne
was in his normal place
on the left. Gigantic Scottish centre-half Ron Yeats skippered
the side and was supported by young Tommy Smith, sweeping up despite
wearing the No 10 shirt.
Willie Stevenson had been a fixture at left-half since arriving
from Rangers for £20,000 in October 1962 and Ian Callaghan was
a reliable performer on the right flank. Liverpool's key threat,
though, lay with their three other forwards: Roger Hunt, Ian St
John and Peter Thompson. England striker Hunt had been the Reds'
goalscoring talisman ever since arriving at the club as a 20-year-old
in May 1959; the £37,500 signing of Scottish international St
John from Motherwell was one of Shankly's greatest ever deals;
Thompson had so impressed with his wing play for Preston in an
FA Cup clash with the Reds in 1962 that Shankly returned to capture
him a year later.
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For Leeds, Albert Johanneson,
Jim Storrie and Willie
Bell had all recovered from injury and were available for
selection. Their inclusion was never in serious doubt, although
it meant that the promising Terry Cooper, who had done so well
in covering for both Bell and Johanneson in the second half of
the campaign, missed out.
Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Jack
Charlton and Norman Hunter were automatic choices in a cast
iron defence, while Billy Bremner, newly installed Footballer
of the Year Bobby Collins
and Irish winger Johnny Giles made up a diminutive, but redoubtable
midfield combination. Former England World Cup centre-forward
Alan Peacock completed
the line up after fully recovering from a serious knee injury
that had kept him out of the side until the end of February.
While Leeds were generally rated narrow favourites, there were
far more red colours in the Wembley crowd than white, and Don
Revie's still relatively unproven young side was apprehensive
as they came out of the tunnel. Bill Shankly turned to his old
Merseyside adversary, Bobby Collins, and asked him how he was.
Collins responded, "I feel awful," capturing the mood of his team.
Collins: "You've got little chance of winning at Wembley unless
most of your players have played there previously, and know what
to expect. Leeds allowed themselves to be caught up in the hullabaloo
surrounding the final and the youngsters especially found it very
difficult to relax. On the Friday a week before the Cup final,
we played at Sheffield; we left Sheffield on the Monday to go
to Birmingham, then went to London to prepare for the final on
the Wednesday. So the players had slept in three different beds
in five days, and allowed this to have an unsettling effect.
"Mind you, despite being one of Leeds' most experienced players,
my form at Wembley left a lot to be desired, too! I don't know
why, but this has always been a bit of a jinx ground for me; the
prospect of playing at Wembley has never thrilled me as it does
The skipper also chose to forsake the new socks most of his team
mates wore: "I preferred woollen to nylon because I felt more
comfortable; the only trouble was that with constant washing they
turned yellow. Throughout the campaign I'd worn my yellowing socks
and for the final we had bright new white ones, which I was not
happy about. After explaining this to Don, being incredibly superstitious
himself, he insisted I wear my old discoloured socks that had
served me so well during the season. I thought that would be the
end of the matter, but the media picked it up and even
the Duke of Edinburgh noticed them and pointed it out when he
was introduced to the teams before the game!"
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Fellow Scots Collins and Ron Yeats came forward for the toss,
and there were fully twelve inches between the heights of the
giant and the midget. The United captain called correctly, opting
to change ends and allow the Reds to kick off in overcast conditions.
Almost from the start, the pattern of play was established.
Liverpool, battle hardened from three years in the top flight
and twelve months of European competition, were assured, fluid
and flexible. They played within themselves and were always more
concerned with the certainty of possession than the gamble of
a panicky forward pass. Their formation alternated smoothly between
4-4-2 and 4-2-4, founded on the calm midfield platform given them
by the control of Strong and Stevenson. Their four forwards were
in constant shuttle between midfield and attack, offering width
and the constant comfort of a short square pass. Their movement
allowed them to develop clear and precise passing triangles round
pedestrian opponents. The speed and ease with which St John and
Hunt combined in slick and smooth one-twos left Charlton and Hunter
nonplussed and slack jawed.
United, in contrast, were as rigid and static as the stance of
Alan Peacock, constantly outthought and outmanoeuvred. Their defence,
tantalised by Liverpool's patterns and movement, insisted on lying
deep, entrenched constantly on the edge of their penalty area;
Bremner, Giles and Collins clustered tightly in midfield, content
to move as a unit but with only the long through ball as an outlet;
Johanneson, strangely out of sorts, and Storrie, rendered immobile
and ineffective by early injury, made only fitful contributions
out wide, leaving Peacock alone and exposed down the middle, dominated
almost completely by the looming Yeats.
While the midfield trio had their moments, they were either caught
too far upfield, leaving Liverpool an acre of room to exploit
and their back four dreadfully exposed, or too remote from their
forwards to bring them into the game in any meaningful way.
It was dreadfully disappointing and Leeds looked one dimensional
and emasculated. For Albert Johanneson, the stage had been all
set for him to deliver the sort of performance that would
take the cause of the black footballer in Britain to fresh heights.
He could have cemented his reputation as one of the most exciting
wingers in the game, but he seemed overwhelmed by the occasion.
He was the one player in the Leeds eleven who could excite crowds,
but Liverpool handled him superbly, with Lawler sitting deep and
waiting for the South African to commit himself. The normal outcome
was the ball bouncing loose and Lawler picking off his man.
Goalkeeper Gary Sprake was the one Leeds player to shine, though
Billy Bremner ran his heart out in the United cause. Sprake saved
countless efforts and kept his team in the contest far longer
than they deserved with one of his greatest games.
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Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson in The Unforgiven talk of the club's
preparations for the day, and the less than ideal impact on the
players: "This was Revie's special time, the time he loved most.
Secluded with his players in the Selsdon Park Hotel near Croydon,
… he could escape the distractions of running the whole club and
indulge himself in organising his famously innocent diversions
of indoor bowls and dominoes. But on this occasion it was counter
productive. The consensus among his squad was that they should
have been allowed to go home instead of being holed up in a Surrey
hotel for days on end with nothing to do. Bored and out of sorts,
they became over focused on the technicalities of their game plan
and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task ahead."
Jack Charlton: "We went to stay the few days before the Cup final
at a hotel near London … I remember playing a little five-a-side
game on the Friday. Norman Hunter volleyed the ball, and it hit
Bobby (Collins) on the face, making his nose bleed a little. It
was clearly an accident, not deliberate or anything. Then the
game restarted, and when Norman got the ball Bobby just flew at
him. It was obvious Bobby meant to do him harm. I yelled, 'Norman!'
- and he looked up and turned just as Bobby hit him in the middle
with both feet. Bobby finished up on top of Norman, punching him.
I yanked him off, and I had to hold him at arms' length because
he started trying to whack me. 'Come on, Bobby, calm down,' I
said, 'we've got a Cup final tomorrow.' But that was Bobby, you
couldn't stop him when he got worked up."
The match as a whole fell far short of its billing, but that
was unsurprising. Few teams were better equipped to drive the
colour out of an occasion than Leeds and Liverpool. Both clubs
had made their mark on the First Division with their system and
method football, which the physical rigours of Division Two had
demanded. They were spearheading a grim trend in the English game,
as denounced in one quote at the time:
"The leaden football of the first 90 minutes has earned the 1965
Cup final a reputation as the worst final for years. This is the
price the public must pay for the success it demands. Gates for
years have shown that the fans will not settle for brave losers;
they ought not now to complain of the way victories are won. Leeds
Liverpool did not play like this because they were at Wembley.
Rather, they were at Wembley precisely because they play like
"Like it or loathe it, this was the football that got them there.
I am astonished to find so many surprised at the style and standard
of the play. Almost alone on Saturday, I warned that this method
football would come strange to the taste of many. Too late, the
English are finding that you cannot have the prize without that
play. It is like a man swapping his battered sports car for the
efficiency and comfort of a saloon, then complaining he misses
the exhilarating rush of wind in his face."
The opening minutes of the contest were untidy, with the most
active men being the two trainers.
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In the third minute, Hunter badly injured his ankle in a tackle
out on the left as he nailed his man. Seconds later Collins stamped
into a challenge on Byrne. Play was held up for almost two minutes
as Hunter and Byrne received treatment. At the time, Hunter's
looked the more serious problem, but Byrne suffered the greater
damage, recalling later: "I went in for a tackle with Bobby Collins.
He put his foot over the ball and turned his shoulder into me.
I'd never broken a collarbone before, so I wasn't aware of what
damage had been done straight away. It didn't cross my mind to
leave the field and I played on with my arm dangling motionless
by my side."
The full-back hid his discomfort so well that no one knew until
the end that he had broken a bone. In fact, he gave a wonderful
performance, slick and assured, earning himself the time and space
to avoid further damage.
Charlton, Bremner and Storrie also required Les Cocker' attention
within ten minutes of the start. Storrie's damaged left ankle
eventually left him a hobbling passenger on the right wing.
Only once in the first 20 minutes did Leeds threaten. Bremner
won the ball and released Johanneson wide on the left. He made
some progress and the overlapping Bell then won a corner, but
Peacock's header was aimless and wide. The telling pass from Bremner
was a rarity from United's midfield. Most of their contributions
were long and aimless, pumped down the middle for the head of
Peacock, and easily snuffed out by Yeats. Had his colleagues learned
from Bremner's example, or had Johanneson been more effective
with the little possession he enjoyed, Leeds might have fared
better, but neither came to pass.
In stark contrast, St John and Hunt, prompted by the canny control
of Stevenson, cleverly exploited the space in front of United's
back four and carved out decent opportunities. Leeds had to thank
Sprake on several occasions for keeping them in the contest.
Rain began to fall heavily after 25 minutes, making the conditions
difficult, but Liverpool continued to have the better of things.
It never seemed likely, though, that there would be a goal in
a drab first half.
Liverpool grew more dominant after the break and came close several
times, forcing Sprake into action time and again. On occasions
the United defence were camped in their own area. Liverpool's
slick pass and move game pinned Leeds back and kept them stretched
to the limit of their abilities.
Bremner pushed forward in the latter stages as Storrie grew more
and more uncomfortable, and brought some much needed fire, though
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Liverpool seemed a little tentative, a little too ready to hold
possession as they shifted crablike across the field, but they
were always able to forge an opening. Charlton and Hunter blocked
many efforts, and Sprake was outstanding, but the Reds had enough
chances to have won easily.
Hunt headed Callaghan's centre over the bar; Charlton blocked
a 10-yard drive from St John; Stevenson fluffed his shot after
a free kick bounced clear; Callaghan fired into the side netting
from long range out on the right before Thompson went even closer
after bursting in from the other wing.
Surely, Leeds would concede sooner or later?
But they didn't, and somehow they managed to reach 90 minutes
with a blank scoresheet. They had never come close to a goal themselves,
despite all Bremner's urgency, with Peacock, Johanneson and Storrie
bystanders, yet they were proving a durable nut to crack.
It was the first time since 1947 that extra time had been required,
and the way things were going there was a suspicion that there
might be the first replay since 1912, so resolute was the rearguard
action from Leeds.
United kicked off the extra 30 minutes with Bremner conspicuously
leading the attack and Johanneson now switching wings. Soon the
big talking point was the onset of cramp among the players, and
most noticeably Giles, who after a minute was down on the edge
of the Leeds box needing lengthy attention from Les Cocker.
When play restarted with a Liverpool throw in on the right, it
seemed that the break had disturbed United's concentration. Stevenson
slipped through a number of tackles as he danced deftly towards
the edge of the Leeds area. He slid a delightfully incisive through
ball to the overlapping
Byrne on the left. The full-back's clipped ball from the byline
was met by a stooping Roger Hunt, who nodded it in to send the
Reds' fans into raptures. The police carried one of their supporters
off after he celebrated a little too enthusiastically.
Liverpool should have safely seen out time with their possession
football, but Leeds contrived to create their best opening of
the day after nine minutes of extra time.
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Giles brought down a lofted Liverpool clearance out on the left
touchline, playing it to Peacock who fed Hunter. The defender,
advancing to the edge of the centre circle, launched the ball
into the penalty area for Charlton to nod it back. The advancing
Bremner met the dropping ball perfectly on the volley and fired
it into the open net to his right. Leeds were back in it, against
There were no more goals in the first period of extra time, but
Liverpool launched a number of assaults as play resumed. Sprake
saved Strong's shot from the right hand corner of the penalty
area and then Hunter volleyed clear for a corner when St John
got away inside the box. Leeds couldn't hold out, however, and
after six minutes of the second period, Liverpool regained the
Thompson gained possession far out on the Reds' left before playing
the ball infield to Smith, who shipped it on to Callaghan, socks
rolled down to his ankles, on the right flank. He rounded Bell,
skipped to the byline and centred the ball for the plunging St
John to net in fine style.
Leeds broke back and for once Johanneson
made a decent surge only for Bremner to be flagged up for offside,
signalling the end of United's effort.
Just afterwards Charlton lost possession to Thompson as he was
carrying forward, and the winger broke away at speed, shadowed
by a couple of defenders. He advanced to the edge of the area
and jinked left to create some space, before letting fly. His
shot brought the best out of Sprake, doing wonders to tip it round
the post as he dived to his right.
The tired limbs of the United players could offer no more resistance.
Liverpool saw out the remaining minutes comfortably to earn their
first Cup triumph, sending Leeds back to Yorkshire with nothing
to show for a wonderful season.
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Billy Bremner: "Having drawn level, we should have pulled everyone
back into defence and concentrated on getting a draw. We would
then have been able to polish up our game before the replay -
I am sure that we couldn't possibly have played so badly a
second time. But that equaliser prompted us to go for victory,
and in doing so, I feel we handed victory to Liverpool on a plate."
Don Revie promised his players they would be back, telling Bremner:
"Don't let it worry you, Billy. We will be back and next time
you'll be skipper and we'll win." But for now his players were
alone with their disappointment.
Jack Charlton offered this analysis of the defeat: "What went
wrong with Leeds, the power-and-method team which had made such
an impact upon the First Division all through the season? I think
part of the answer was that we had a lot of youngsters in our
side, and the occasion of playing such a show game as the FA Cup
final perhaps overawed some of them. I believe I'm right in saying
that only Bobby Collins and myself had played at Wembley before
- and my experience was limited to one game for England a few
months earlier. Liverpool, on the other hand, had been in the
big time three or four seasons; they were hardened not only to
the long grind of a 42-game First Division slog but inured to
the atmosphere of games like the final, where emotional outbursts
by the fans can have such a tremendous effect upon the players.
"The disappointing thing about the final, I think, was not that
we failed to win - but that we lost so dully. Every player, I
believe, wants to be associated with a classic final … and our
display was so out of keeping with our ability that it really
Jim Storrie: "At the finish, the Leeds players felt sorrier for
Revie than themselves. We were sitting with our heads bowed when
he came into the dressing room, and someone said: 'We're sorry
boss....' He replied: 'You've run your guts out all season, have
nothing to show for it, and you're sorry for ME? Don't be so bloody
daft. Get dressed, we're going back to the hotel for a booze up.'"
In the Liverpool dressing-room, someone asked Bill Shankly: "Why
do you think Leeds failed this season?"
"Failed?" Shankly replied incredulously. "Second in the Championship;
FA Cup finalists; ninety per cent of the managers in the English
League pray every night for 'failures' like this!"
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