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Jack Charlton: "One of
the greatest storms in European football burst about the heads
of Leeds United when they played Valencia in the Inter Cities
Fairs Cup on February 2, 1966. I was in the centre of the row
- three players, including myself, were ordered off; both teams
were also summoned from the field for a spell to allow heated
tempers to cool; and when it was all over, Dutch referee Leo Horn
claimed: 'Money was the cause of the trouble. You could almost
smell it on the pitch.' Such was the chaos and such was the anger
that, at the time, our manager, Don
Revie, said: 'If this is European football I think we are
better out of it'."
United had earned themselves a reputation for trouble during
their rise to the top of the English game, but in Spain's Valencia
they came across an outfit who could teach them a thing or two.
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Leeds' first assault on European football had not been without
incident - they had lost skipper Bobby
Collins to Poletti's scything tackle in Turin prior to a functional
if colourless disposal of SC Leipzig. But their opponents in the
Fairs Cup third round were their greatest challenge so far: Valencia
had won the trophy in 1962 and 1963, and had been beaten by Real
Zaragoza in the 1964 final - they knew all about success in European
The Spaniards needed a play off in their own back yard to beat
Hibernian after finishing level on aggregate in the first round,
but there was less of an issue for them in the second when they
easily won both legs against FC Basle.
Leeds were not in the best of states as they approached the game.
They had overcome League leaders Liverpool at Anfield over Christmas,
but lost 1-0 at Elland Road to the Reds a day later. Although
they had three games in hand due to postponements caused by a
harsh winter, their 2-0 defeat at Sunderland on 29 January left
them in fourth spot, eight points behind the Merseysiders.
Worse still, they didn't have a recognised centre-forward following
Alan Peacock's knee injury
in the first half at Sunderland.
The luckless Peacock had started the season in fine form, earning
England recall as the 1966 World Cup beckoned, but he had hit
lean times in recent weeks. The Yorkshire Post's Eric Stanger,
in his report of United's 6-0 FA Cup win against Bury, wrote of
the spearhead: "He could scarcely put head or foot right and this
on a day when all his colleagues were doing very much as they
wished. He is not the same man who began the season with such
The choice for Leeds manager Don Revie lay between two inexperienced
youngsters, Rodney Johnson
and Rod Belfitt. An obvious
move would have been to switch Jim
Storrie into his old No 9 role, but he had been playing well
on the wide right and was only just recovered from injury himself.
In his desperation, Revie considered picking either Billy Bremner
or Willie Bell up front, but
feared the disruption either change would cause.
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In the end, he opted for Belfitt in a side that had otherwise
become recognised as his first choice since Bobby
Collins' injury. Jack Charlton, acting as captain in the absence
of the Scot, missed the defeat at Sunderland with a neck ricked
in training, but returned for the Valencia game.
The Spaniards went into the contest with their own injury worries
as noted by coach Sabino Barinaga, inside-forward
with mighty Real Madrid for a decade and scorer in 1947 of the
first ever goal at the Bernabeu Stadium: "We have had no fewer
than seven players hurt in the last fortnight. I have two good
reserves to put in for Zamora and Waldo." Goalkeeper Zamora was
the son of the famous Spanish international goalkeeper of the
1930s, while regular centre-forward Waldo was a Brazilian and
Valencia's star turn.
Barinaga delayed his selection, saying, "It will depend on the
state of the ground. If you like to play good football, the ground
should be dry with plenty of grass." The coach feared the bare
Elland Road pitch, which had given Leeds a key advantage in their
earlier ties, forcing skilled opponents to struggle in alien conditions.
In stark contrast, Don Revie described the surface as "perfect".
The Leeds manager knew he would face a battle, but could hardly
have anticipated the full ferocity of the encounter.
Leeds dominated affairs for most of the first half, but struggled
to find their normal high tempo rhythm. Valencia were a knowing
and cynical force, employing possession football, close marking,
spoiling tactics and heavy tackling to disrupt United's play.
They looked every inch the class act they were. According to The
Times: "The Spaniards, with Guillot and Lage flitting around smoothly,
had shown they were the better equipped technically on the night.
Leeds, for their part, quickly betrayed their eagerness, coherence
was absent and distribution unconsidered, and the maladies were
undiminished as the first half progressed."
United, with young Belfitt looking out of his depth against such
wily opponents, struggled to make headway. They had most of the
possession but failed to carve out a clear cut opening: Giles'
free kick went narrowly wide; then the Irishman hurried a shot
with the Spanish defence for once looking uncertain; and Nito
blocked Lorimer's shot at short range, but that was about it.
Valencia were far less wasteful and took the lead after 16 minutes
following a defensive misunderstanding. Leeds were caught short
at the back following a full-blooded attack, and Hunter and Reaney
each left things to the other
when a speculative long ball dropped into their half. There was
no such hesitation from left winger Munoz and he was on the ball
in a flash, rounding Sprake with a deft swerve to slip the ball
The goal, very much against the run of play, both disheartened
Leeds and provided comfort for the Spaniards. More than content
with a 1-0 lead, they pulled everyone back, allowing United's
frenetic assaults to crash against a wall of red shirts, packed
in and around their own penalty area.
Refereeing the game was Leo Horn, a renowned Dutch official,
who had handled more than 100 internationals, including Hungary's
famous 6-3 shaming of England at Wembley in 1953, plus a couple
of European Cup finals. For all his experience, though, Horn seemed
singularly reluctant to take any firm action on the night, offering
the Spaniards enormous latitude. They were determined not to lose
a goal and fiercely exploited Horn's tolerance. The Times: "There
was a hint of things to come when Mr Horn called up Roberto, the
Valencia captain, after Mestre had made one scything late tackle
on Bremner, very much a target for the Spaniards. What the referee
said to Roberto made little difference. Valencia still piled in,
and Leeds were not slow to respond."
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Phil Brown in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Mr Horn should have
sensed the lava flow in this game in the first minute when Hunter
swept Lage off his feet and Lage looked daggers at Hunter. Mr
Horn gave verbal rebuke, appealed to the captains, Charlton and
Roberto, but he should have laid down an ultimatum by quarter
time, and started booking.
"That does not excuse the players for a moment for playing the
game in the wrong spirit. Billy Bremner, hunted and fouled with
sickening consistency, kept his head magnificently against an
evil barrage of tackles, and played his football to the end. He
deserves very great praise indeed."
Eric Stanger: "If Mr Horn had been firmer from the beginning
the match might not have developed as it did. Leeds are no angels
when it comes to rough house, but Valencia's tactics in the Fairs
Cup-tie smacked more of the bullring than the football field.
They were the roughest Continental side I have ever seen.
"They never hesitated to bring down the man when they could not
get the ball, and they had no need to resort to such tactics,
for in the few flashes of football there were they seemed themselves
to be a clever, resourceful side built round Mestre, the centre-half,
Roberto, the left-half and captain, and Sanchez-Lage.
"Leeds were never afraid to give as good as they got, but they
would have done better not to have tried to mix it quite so much
… for Valencia were just as strong as they were and knew every
trick in the book."
After such a fierce first half, the game restarted quite peacefully
after the break and O'Grady's deep centre nearly caught Nito out
before it drifted wide. Things soon heated up again, though, as
full-back Vidagany flattened Billy Bremner when he tried to make
space on the right. The referee beckoned the Valencia captain
for another warning, but took no further action.
Valencia were now
defending in depth as United developed some real momentum. The
Whites had raised their game after the break, moving the ball
with accuracy and speed, now wisely exploiting the space on the
flanks to avoid the choking midfield morass.
The Times: "Leeds had been pounding away at Valencia's mobile
wall of defenders from the outset of the second half; they desperately
needed a steadying influence to harness and channel their drive
but what they lacked in imaginative ideas, they substituted with
spirit and the Spaniards were seemingly content to contain them.
The manner in which they sometimes did so certainly incurred the
displeasure of the Leeds fans.
"All the shafts, at this stage, were aimed at Leeds: O'Grady's
centre eluded Nito and passed wide; Lorimer flung himself at Bremner's
centre for the goalkeeper to save; and Storrie's header was, in
turn, cleared off the line.
"Yet still Leeds hardly suggested they knew how to open up the
Valencia defence which, at times, funnelled as many as nine red
shirts into the goal area. One had almost begun to despair that
the curtain could be pierced when Leeds equalised, Lorimer driving
home a cross from Giles. It was certainly reward for the pressure
they had brought to bear."
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Back on level terms, United took fresh heart and pressed for
a second goal that continued to elude them.
Jack Charlton: "What had been a sizzling atmosphere became downright
white hot, as we threw everything into an assault which, we hoped,
would bring us a winner. Fifteen minutes to go, and I raced upfield
to add my weight to one of our attacks. As I challenged an opponent
in the Valencia penalty area, I was kicked. This angered me, of
course - but before I knew where I was I found myself having to
take much more … for one of my opponents slung a punch which would
have done credit to Cassius Clay.
"Right there and then my anger boiled over … I chased around
that penalty area, intent upon only one thing - getting my own
back. I had completely lost control of myself, after these diabolical
fouls upon me, and neither the Spaniards nor the restraining hands
of my team mates could prevent my pursuit for vengeance. Suddenly
players seemed to be pushing and jostling each other everywhere.
Police appeared on the field to stop this game of football from
degenerating into a running battle. And Leo Horn walked off with
his linesmen, signalling to club officials of both teams to get
their players off, too.
"I was still breathing fire when I reached the dressing room
- then I got the word that I need not go back. For a moment I
thought the referee had called off the match … then it sank home
that it was only Jackie Charlton's presence which was not required
any longer. For eleven minutes the teams remained off the field,
to allow tempers on both sides to cool down. By that time, I was
beginning to feel sorry for myself, and not a little ashamed of
the way I had lost my temper. The only consolation I had was that
a Valencia man - left-back Vidagany - had been told he need not
return to the fray, either. So it was ten against ten."
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Billy Bremner: "When we were ready to return, we got the word
that Big Jack could stay where he was - he'd been sent off, we
were informed, and so had a Valencia man. We all assumed it was
the No 5, who had started
the trouble which so enraged Big Jack. But when we returned to
the pitch, there was No 5, as large as life. The man who was sent
off was the left-back, and I reckon that it could be coincidence,
but he had been pointed out by team mates as being the player
involved in the first place, and it so happened that he had been
given a right roasting by Jim Storrie, who had been having a blinder
on the right wing. Certainly the Spaniards risked very little
by losing their left-back. Whichever way it was, this case of
mistaken identity was a good thing for them."
The conflict did not end there. Seven minutes from time Valencia
inside-forward Sanchez-Lage felled Jim Storrie and was promptly
dismissed. That finally calmed the atmosphere.
In the last quarter of an hour of the battle, either side might
have gained a precious lead with Sprake having to stretch to tip
Guillot's header over the bar and Bremner missing narrowly with
a header at the death. In the end, though, the 1-1 draw was just
about right. Despite all the furore and antics, United and Valencia
had proven themselves well-matched and worthy opponents. They
came with wildly different backgrounds and approaches to the game,
but it was the devil's own job to separate the two sides. The
Spaniards had settled for a containing, niggling performance,
putting their more expansive game aside for the night, while Leeds
demonstrated once again their unquenchable spirit.
The controversy rumbled on after the final whistle. Leo Horn
offered some inflammatory comments, claiming that Leeds were on
a £1,500 bonus to win: "Money was the cause of the trouble … you
it in the nervousness and the excitement of the players. There
was something in the air … something unpleasant … there was too
much at stake. It was unbelievable.
"I was reminded of South American cup finals I have taken, where
players were on a bonus of 3,000 dollars. It was the same then.
Since European football began we have seen this sort of thing
spreading. These games have become too important for the players.
When Leeds lost a goal this nervousness spread among them. Valencia
had nine men in front of their goal. They, too, were gripped by
this terrible feeling. I understand professional players, but
they have changed. Money has made them too eager. After sixteen
years of international refereeing I believe money causes all the
trouble … all the nervousness and desperate play. It is no use
clubs expecting referees to impose discipline. The referee is
there to control a match. Players must be taught to control themselves.
"I have always regarded Charlton as a fine man. He was the cleanest
player on the field, until he lost all control. I saw a Spanish
defender kick him, and if Charlton had given a reprisal kick,
I could have understood it and let it pass, because it happens
so often. As captain of Leeds, and an international, he should
have been the first player to exercise complete self control."
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Horn also accused Don Revie of asking him to let Charlton off,
saying, "Do you know what you are doing? This is an international."
Horn replied: "Do you think this is the first time I have refereed
a game? I don't care if Charlton is an emperor, he is not coming
back on the field tonight."
Don Revie said later: "It's untrue. My players were on no special
bonus. Mr Horn is guessing, or has been misinformed. I resent
these allegations, but I am saying no more now. It's time for
the whole thing to
The papers inevitably focused on the less savoury side of the
contest and there were calls for United to be thrown out of the
competition and Charlton to face a lengthy ban, despite them being
the wronged party for once.
The Fairs Cup Committee, in a level headed moment of reason,
decided to delay their response to the affair, choosing to meet
the day after the decisive second leg. They made sure it was public
knowledge that they would have observers present for the return
in Valencia and that behaviour there would colour their final
judgement. They had already banned Roma for three years after
crowd trouble when they hosted Chelsea earlier in the competition,
so were known to be ready to impose the strictest of sanctions.
Leo Horn faced intense criticism for his part in affairs. He
had been hopeful of being selected to referee the forthcoming
World Cup final, but now kissed goodbye to that particular opportunity.
He was replaced for the second leg, a fortnight later, by Othmar
Huber of Switzerland.
From the very start Huber punished the slightest indiscretion
and his fussy approach worked well, though fears of the penalty
if there was a repeat of the Elland Road brawl clearly had its
impact on the players.
United set their defensive stall out in sweltering conditions,
June-like in February, and gave one of their stereotypical stonewall
performances with Jack Charlton in the thick of things. They were
content to play on the counter and 15 minutes from the end took
the lead from just such a break. Madeley, nominally centre-forward
but filling a holding role in midfield, put O'Grady
free on the edge of the penalty area with a 30-yard pass over
the full-back. The Spanish defence clearly thought he was offside
and pulled up, allowing the winger to pick his spot and fire a
low cross shot into the net.
It was Valencia's turn to be incensed.
Phil Brown: "The linesman and referee refused the appeal, but
goalkeeper Nito and left-back Toto were not content. They hotly
harangued the linesman for not flagging and pulled his flag out
of his hand in a push about - I think they were trying to show
him how to wave the flag."
Nito had made little attempt to save the
shot and expended his energy instead in manhandling the linesman.
His colleagues mobbed Mr Huber, who was eventually persuaded to
consult his colleague. It made little difference, though, and
the goal stood.
There were scares after that for Leeds, but they hung on grimly
for the 1-0 win that secured passage into the last eight.
Choosing to ignore the flare up after the goal, the Fairs Cup
Committee sanguinely decided to take no disciplinary action, with
Sir Stanley Rous noting, "The match last night was a model of
good football. As far as the Fairs Cup is concerned, both clubs
have exonerated themselves. If either qualify again, they will
Jack Charlton was fined £50, with £30 costs, at an FA disciplinary
hearing two months later but none of the Spanish players ever
suffered any sanction.
After the game, Don Revie focused on praising his men and the
quality of their performance: "It was so superbly forged by a
side of youngsters. I think they played better than they did even
at Chelsea (in the FA Cup the previous weekend, when they had
been held at bay by a wonder performance on the part of Blues
keeper Peter Bonetti), and I am fast coming to the conclusion
that there is just no end to their courage and fighting spirit.
They were magnificent against a highly experienced club."
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