Coincidences crop up regularly in big time football - Leeds United
experienced an extraordinary example in the late 1950s: they were
drawn at home to Cardiff City in the third round of the FA Cup
three years running and lost 2-1 on each occasion.
So it came as no great shock when the draw for the Inter Cities
Fairs Cup third round in 1966/67 paired United with Valencia of
Spain in an exact repeat of the tussle at the same stage of the
competition twelve months previously.
The Spaniards were a fast, powerful side, described in the Evening
Post as "young and workmanlike", and had been battling closely
with Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish championship all season.
Manager Edmundo Suarez, formerly a Spanish international centre-forward,
commented before the tie, "We know United are a good side, but
they will find us playing more businesslike football this season."
The Yorkshire Evening Post gave a run down on the Spaniards following
news of the draw. "A danger man is the 30-year-old Brazilian centre-forward
Waldo, now leading scorer in the Spanish League with 12 goals.
Waldo and Fernando Ansola, a superb header of a ball, make up
a powerful two pronged attack, and backing up this twin spearhead
are 20-year-old winger Jose Claramunt, who is at home on either
flank, and Vicente Guillot, 25-year-old schemer. Outstanding player
in the defence is 30-year-old goalkeeper Jose Pesudo, who has
let in only nine goals in this season's 10 matches."
When the two clubs met at Elland Road
in February 1966, the football was eclipsed for the most part
by testy confrontation. A memorable 1-0 victory in Spain saw the
Whites through, but only after an acrimonious draw in West Yorkshire,
with Jack Charlton and
two Spaniards sent off.
When the draw was made for the 1967 tie there was speculation
about a potential bloodbath. The misgivings proved unfounded and
there were just 15 fouls in the first leg at Elland Road on January
18, 11 of them against the Spaniards. There were, however, a couple
of torrid incidents in the game.
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Just before half time, keeper Pesudo was laid out after a frenetic
United onslaught and five minutes' treatment was required before
the referee could restart play. With the custodian refusing to
get up, the Leeds crowd bayed with bad tempered scorn, convinced
that he was playing for time. He was ultimately replaced by Abelardo;
goalkeeper was the only position that was allowed a substitute
under the UEFA regulations in force at the time.
The other clash was reported by Eric Stanger in the Yorkshire
Post: "There was nearly a flare up early in the second half when
in a fierce goalmouth tussle Cooper tried to hack the ball out
of the new goalkeeper's hands. It took all the tact of a good
referee and Collins, the
Leeds captain, to calm Spanish tempers." The Spaniards exacted
retribution when Paquito scythed Terry Cooper down.
By then, we had seen all the goals we were going to. Jimmy
Greenhoff's scorcher from 15 yards gave United a 12th minute
lead, but it was nullified by Valencia right winger Claramunt's
effort after 39
The Spaniards had proven themselves able opponents, as reported
by Stanger: "Valencia unquestionably looked a better side last
night than a year ago. They fought a brilliant tactical battle,
their close ball control, superb team work and covering finally
extracting the sting from a Leeds side which played with rare
dash from the start until they almost ran themselves into the
ground trying to pierce the prickly barrier of the Valencia defence."
United could never exploit their early advantage and Don
Revie conceded after the 1-1 draw that it would be difficult
in Spain, adding, "You never can tell though with these boys.
They surprise even me sometimes." The recently introduced away
goals counting double rule meant that Leeds would need at least
one score in Valencia to stand a chance of getting through.
The second leg, three weeks later, looked daunting, given United's
injury crisis. England Under-23 right-back Paul Reaney was ruled
out after a calf injury suffered days earlier at Everton and joined
Jimmy Greenhoff, Mike
O'Grady, Albert Johanneson,
Terry Cooper, Alan Peacock
and Rodney Johnson in
the Elland Road treatment room.
Revie took a party of 13 players to Spain, omitting both Bobby
Collins, in discussion with Bury about a prospective move, and
Jim Storrie, who had come
on as sub at Everton but was also looking for a new club. The
emphasis was on youth - seven players were 21 or less, including
reserve keeper David Harvey, who turned 19 during the trip. Eddie
Gray, Terry Hibbitt and Mick
Bates were also 19, with the latter two having just 205 minutes
of League football between them. Peter Lorimer (20), Rod
Belfitt and Gary Sprake (both 21) completed the youth brigade.
Remarkably, the only members of the party who had seen their 27th
birthdays were Willie Bell and
Jack Charlton. It was emphatic endorsement for Don Revie's youth
programme, with Johnny Giles and Bell the only imports.
Bates was the player omitted, and versatile Paul Madeley deputised
for Reaney at full-back with Rod Belfitt ploughing a lone furrow
up front. United were familiar by now with the archetypal waiting
game in Europe, a prototype 4-5-1 with midfielders breaking at
pace when the opportunity arose.
Midfield general Johnny Giles
forced a breakthrough after seven minutes. The ball eluded Valencia
left-back Tota near the halfway line and Giles was on it in an
instant. He broke into space with magnificent control and, resisting
challenges by Paquito, Mestre and Roberto, he veered at pace towards
the area. He coolly drew out keeper Pesudo before firing home
an unstoppable left footed drive. As Billy Bremner said afterwards,
"They never saw him for dust on his way to his goal."
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Giles had other reason to rejoice as his wife had been heavily
pregnant with their second child: "I felt terrible at having to
be away at a time like that and found it almost impossible to
concentrate on the match. Even just before the kick-off, when
Don Revie was giving us our tactical instructions, I kept worrying
about what was going on back home. Fortunately the suspense was
lifted when we took the field, for it was then that Les Cocker
handed me a telegram which read: 'We've had a little girl - Anne!'
I felt so elated at that moment that I knew I would have a good
It was the first time United had scored on their travels since
Christmas Eve, and they nearly snatched a second goal moments
later, but Belfitt was blocked as he made to shoot. The shock
of the score provoked a forceful response and the Spaniards battered
the Leeds rearguard with a will, though United always threatened
on the break.
Phil Brown reported in the Evening Post that the goal "rocked
the Valencia team, who had been playing commandingly and well.
They came back at United with every trick and move in the book,
all at speed on a lovely fast pitch, but United's defence, brilliantly
marshalled all through by Bremner, trumped all their aces. United,
naturally, concentrated on protecting their lead … Valencia's
almost frenzied, best half dozen efforts were met either by superlative
saves by Sprake or by the ball whizzing narrowly wide."
Jack Charlton: "To be fair to Valencia, this goal did not see
them throw in the towel - instead, they fought like demons to
demolish that lone goal lead. They mounted attack after attack,
they surged forward and often
had all eleven Leeds players back desperately in defence. But
somehow, we kept these goal hungry Spaniards at bay. Gary Sprake
pulled off magnificent saves. Billy Bremner - due to begin a two
week suspension the following Monday - inspired the men around
him with his ice cool brand of courage and skill … For Waldo,
the Brazilian inside-right who topped the Spanish League's scoring
chart, this was a night of sheer torture. He passed up chances
with magnificent abandon. Once, when he had nothing to do but
fire for goal, he managed to put the ball well wide; and within
a few minutes of this astounding miss, he headed the ball inches
over the bar."
Despite a number of scares, Leeds looked capable throughout an
exhilarating match of getting the result they required. Valencia
grew hasty in their approach play and increasingly ragged. Given
confidence by their lead and cool ability to retain possession,
United played poised football, always in control of the game.
The Spanish forwards and midfielders were clearly frustrated;
they carried the ball too far or played directionless passes.
With Poli directing their play, Valencia tried everything they
knew, but the English team made the clearer opportunities, even
with so few men in advanced positions. The youngsters performed
far beyond their years, as noted by Eric Stanger: "With only two
men up for the most part Leeds were often able to make more running
than Valencia. Belfitt, the reserve centre-forward, worked himself
into the ground chasing up and down the middle while little Hibbitt
on the left wing played as if a Fairs Cup occasion was no more
awe inspiring than a Central League match."
Three minutes from the end, United got the critical second goal
that their display merited.
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Jack Charlton: "Valencia became desperate to score even one goal.
Roberto had his name taken for a foul on Willie Bell who became
a victim again later when Guillot hacked him down; and young Eddie
Gray was led to the touchline for treatment to a cut eye. But,
even as he remained off
the field, we slammed the final nail into Valencia's coffin with
a killer goal three minutes from time. Paul Madeley once more
moved up into the attack, and saw his shot beaten out only for
Johnny Giles to whip the ball straight away to Peter Lorimer,
who lashed home a shot from close range."
That was the killer goal and exhausted any remaining resistance.
Valencia were devastated by the outcome, neutered by an English
team at the peak of their powers; it was a thoroughly impressive
exhibition of how to prosper in European football.
Phil Brown: "There was not a weak link in the United side. Belfitt
worked like a fresh young horse at centre-forward and Gray and
Lorimer showed the judgement of veterans. It was an incredible
performance … (Valencia) could make nothing of United's defence
… Charlton ruled the middle relentlessly, air and ground … He
had two giants with him at full-back in Madeley and Bell, and
another in Hunter as the withdrawn wing-half. The absent Reaney
has never played better than Madeley did last night, and Reaney
has played some grand games."
Billy Bremner recalled later that he felt the match had been
won during the preparation. Don Revie had been doggedly optimistic
before the game: "The Boss really won it for us. He hammered it
into us day after day and time after time that we would win -
not that we might win or could win but that we would win. The
result was we went on the field really believing that we were
the better side and we proved it. I was under his orders for no
pessimism, and as I went on telling the lads we would win, I began
to believe it ma'sel. It was wonderful and always will be with
me, even if I play until a'm a hundred. We were absolutely convinced
we could win when we went out."
Don Revie: "I am a great believer in the psychological approach
and that if you are really convinced you are the better side you
will be … Funny things can happen in football, and it was no good
being mouldy about the match in any event. It came off for us,
and that's the main thing. But if they ever make me any prouder
I'll burst. I don't know how they did it really. I didn't think
a team, even a United team, could produce such a rate of work.
And to win here with a forward line whose average age was hardly
20! It just shows that nothing is impossible in football."
A contented Johnny Giles, recalling one of the greatest nights
of his life, remembered, "Afterwards, all the drinks were on me
and, needless to say, few members of the Leeds squad were sober
by the time we got to bed!"
An elated Leeds United party flew back to Yorkshire in high spirits
having secured one of their greatest victories under the leadership
of Don Revie. As chairman Harry Reynolds beamed, "This was our
best win yet. A wonderfully good job of work all round with the
team we had."
Vice chairman Alderman Percy Woodward added, "Frankly, I was
so overcome with pride and joy that when the whistle went I was
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