The 1967/68 season was scarcely under way before Leeds United
were pitched into high profile battle for silverware. In the spring
they had battled through to the Inter Cities Fairs Cup final,
but fixture congestion had meant that the two-legged final against
Yugoslavia's Dinamo Zagreb was deferred.
The first leg, in Zagreb on August 30,
was lost 2-0, leaving United with a steep hill to climb at Elland
Road on Wednesday, 6 September.
It had been United's fourth game of the season, and they had
scored just once, through Jimmy
Greenhoff in the opening day draw with Sunderland. Leeds had
suffered three straight defeats, though they managed to beat Fulham
2-0 three days after losing in Zagreb with goals from Rod
Belfitt. The performance suggested that the Peacocks were
at long last running into form.
As was the wont of a United board made up of sharp, self made
businessmen, they announced a hike in ticket prices for the home
leg of the final. Phil Brown covered the story in the Evening
Post: "While Leeds United directors did only a logical thing in
raising their prices … they placed a big responsibility on their
side for a good gate. For United have been unfortunate, their
finance chairman, Mr Albert Morris, thinks, in having had to wait
until now for the final to be played. Being played so early in
September, the Elland Road leg of the final comes just at a time
when a large number of Leeds and Yorkshire people are feeling
the financial effects of holidays, Mr Morris remarked, adding
that he would have been much happier if the final could have been
played last May. However, top class football is no respecter of
"I have been repeatedly asked about United's sharp increases
of prices, and have had a few letters on them from complaining
supporters, but nothing else could be expected but that United
would lift prices for their European final. Every final is played
at higher prices - except the West Riding Senior
Cup, bless it. One increased Elland Road price jarred me - the
10s for the paddock. Ten shillings to stand seems a bit grim even
Chairman Harry Reynolds: "We trust the public will accept the
normality of us putting up our prices this time, and will realise
that any profit we make will go back into the club to help pay
for not only its costly running as a leading side but for the
very large scale ground improvements we have been and are undertaking."
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For the record, these were the prices:
- West Stand (including the new paddock seats) - from 15/6 to
- Lowfields Road Stand - from 12s 6d to 20s
- Paddock - from 6s 6d to 10s (children 3s 6d to 6s)
- Terrace - from 5s 6d to 8s 6d (children from 3s to 5s)
- Ground - from 5s to 7s 6d (children 2s 6d to 4s)
There was a crowd of 35,604 for the game, with the price hike
boosting gate receipts to £20,177. It was a new Elland Road record,
beating the previous best, £16,000, at the Sheffield United v
Leicester City FA Cup semi final of March 1961.
The main speculation before the game was whether former England
No 9, Alan Peacock would
be recalled to the side for his heading ability. There was a notion
that if the Slavs were to be undone it would come through aerial
domination. Peacock's last game for Leeds had been as an emergency
centre-half in the final League game of 1966/67; his last game
up front had been on April 8 in the FA Cup quarter final against
Instead, Don Revie opted
for the two 21-year-olds, Greenhoff and Belfitt, operating in
tandem. He did, however, spring one surprise by drafting Paul
Reaney in at right wing to make up a midfield four with Bremner,
Giles and O'Grady. It was a curious selection, overtly negative
and smacking of caution. The move may have been prompted by the
away goals counting double rule that had been introduced for European
competitions; United knew that a single Dinamo goal would leave
them needing four strikes themselves. Gary Sprake, Willie
Bell, Jack Charlton,
Norman Hunter and Terry Cooper formed a consistent and experienced
United rearguard to avert such a setback, and Reaney was enlisted
for some midfield insurance.
In later years, Mike O'Grady
hinted at the frustration felt by many of his colleagues at the
extreme prudence of the manager: "Revie was really defensive although
we had been beaten away. He filled our heads with the opposition
… He was really cautious, despite the away result. For
one thing, he had Paul Reaney on the right wing but also he filled
our heads with the opposition. I was a winger yet he was warning
me about the other winger ... expecting me to operate defensively
as well as up front. It was hard work. You'd be sitting there
thinking: 'God, just let us play!'"
Gary Sprake: "We felt extremely confident going into the game
but we were better suited to defending a lead than overturning
one. We still sometimes lacked that creative guile and someone
who could put the ball away on a regular basis - Johnny Giles
was our top goalscorer. We were still too rigid in our tactics."
The Dinamo eleven was unchanged from the first leg. The Slavs
were renowned for their defensive resilience, though they represented
less formidable opposition on their travels, as noted by Revie:
"They were nowhere near as good against Eintracht Frankfurt at
Frankfurt in the semi final when I saw them lose 3-0 in the first
leg even with their great centre-forward Lamza, now injured, as
they were last night. Now that we have played them we know a lot
more about them … Their crowd here last night was also very valuable
to them with their enthusiasm."
Billy Bremner was similarly upbeat: "They are nothing marvellous.
They are good, but not so good that we can't beat them and win
the Cup at Elland Road. Our scoring blank has just got to end
sometime, and the same attack that we had last night even without
Johnny Giles is quite capable on form of getting the three goals."
Ivica Horvat, who was now managing Dinamo jointly with Branko
Zebec, said after the first leg: "I am delighted my men are two
up. It is very comforting. But the final is not over and Leeds
is, I hear, a difficult place to win even narrowly or even draw.
I would have been in sheer delight if we had got three, but two
is at least a foundation. However, we do not regard the final
as over by any manner of means. We have come here to win not to
defend. Obviously, the best form of defence is to attack, and
we shall attack. Besides, it would be difficult just to defend
for the whole match."
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Despite United's defensive formation, they took the game to Dinamo
early doors and made some decent chances. In the opening minutes
Jimmy Greenhoff flicked on a left wing centre from Giles but his
subtle header slipped past the far post with goalkeeper Skoric
rooted to his line. The miss set the tone for the evening.
The return of Giles, in only his second appearance of the season,
made a difference, bringing poise and incisiveness to the Leeds
play. As Eric Stanger observed in the Yorkshire Post, "They were
faster, quicker to the ball and prepared to chase the flimsiest
of chances." Giles formed his usual telepathic partnership with
Billy Bremner and dominated affairs, though United struggled to
make headway. They never made the space out wide that might have
been crucial, playing most of their game through the middle.
Dinamo focused doggedly on retaining possession and slowing the
tempo, belying Horvat's promise of attacking football; their deliberate
play prohibited any serious Yorkshire impetus. Brncic, Belin and
Ramljak proved particularly adept at sustaining a suffocating
defensive blanket and had no need for wild clearances. With
Cercek, Zambata and Gucmirtl constantly suggesting a Zagreb counter
attack, Leeds could never wholly abandon their defensive obligations.
For all that, the game was played in and around the Dinamo penalty
area. Stanger: "One long range shot from Hunter whistled past
the post. Greenhoff, slightly off balance, shot over after a dazzling
run by Bremner, and Skoric once dived to clutch Giles' shot on
the line with Belfitt and Greenhoff rushing in for the kill."
The disappointing thing was not the number of United chances,
for there were many, but rather the lack of imagination and refinement.
There was a sad inclination to metronomically lump the ball high
into the war zone of the Zagreb penalty area, and the tall Dinamo
defenders made easy meat of such tactics. Had Peacock been present,
the tactic might have been reasonable, but Belfitt and Greenhoff
were never dominant in the air and Jack Charlton could not be
wholly devoted to attack. When the Dinamo back four was breached,
goalkeeper Skoric, "an athletic, prehensile goalkeeper, as lithe
as a black puma" (Geoffrey Green in the Times), was there to clutch
the ball safely.
At times, Leeds did try a more thoughtful approach, but often
fell into the trap of over elaborating, running onto the rocks
of smart covering.
Green reflected sadly on United's efforts: "Charlton spent more
time in the Zagreb goal area than he did in his own, as he tried
to connect with a stream of corners and free kicks. Once he had
a goal disallowed in the second half amid a ruck of players, and
twice the full-backs, in turn, stopped a header by Charlton and
a shot by Bremner on the line. Skoric was momentarily missing
from his trapeze.
"Leeds were thoughtless and unsubtle … They were like automatons
crushing themselves against an iron defensive fortress, with no
effective methods to break down the citadel. Sprake, at the other
end, was virtually an addition to the national unemployment figure,
except once when, in a quick break out of defence, Piric left
his bar twanging like a guitar string with the first shot of the
"The Slavs gladly surrendered midfield and settled to argue things
in one half of the pitch, and that mostly their own penalty area.
Thus, wave after wave of white shirts beat like breakers against
an impregnable rock. Giles, Bremner, Hunter, even Charlton, ran
their hearts out. But heart is not enough in football. There must
be a cool, cunning brain somewhere, and not even little Giles,
the schemer, could provide that against these ruthless, uncompromising
In the closing minutes of the first half, Bremner looked to be
getting somewhere with a neat dribble from the halfway line before
unyielding defenders unfairly blocked his path. With depressing
predictability, the free kick came to nothing, and it was evident
that United were running short on ideas.
They were also lacking any fortune, as Eric Todd observed in
the Guardian. "It became increasingly obvious that Leeds would
need luck as an ally, and the first few minutes of the second
half suggested no less obviously that they were not going to get
it. Belfitt, as he fell, unbelievably made contact with the ball
when Bremner centred but it went over the crossbar. Then, after
a corner, Leeds forced the ball past Skoric and were refused a
goal, presumably because the goalkeeper had been impeded. After
another corner Gracanin cleared off the line from Charlton."
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Try as they might, United could not make the vital incision and
Yugoslavian wall simply shuffled across the pitch as circumstances
dictated, always too knowing, too assured, simply too refined
to break under the incessant waves of naïve and one dimensional
attacking. There was not a single goal to show for all the effort.
Leeds had gone close many times, but always there had been the
niggling doubt that it was not to be their night, and the Slavs
were impressive in securing the goalless draw that had been their
mission from the start. Apart from Charlton's disallowed effort,
the nearest United came was in the second half when Brncic headed
a corner onto the top of his own bar.
Dinamo rocked on a couple of occasions when their area was packed
with players and the physical power of Leeds men threatened to
sweep them aside, but, through a combination of woodwork, rushed
United play, cool defending and luck, they held out.
Eric Stanger in the Yorkshire Post: "Dinamo, on the two ties,
were worthy winners of the Cup … In Zagreb they were the better
side in attack, last night Leeds could not break down their tough,
hard tackling and wonderfully positioned defence. For all their
efforts, Leeds had just not the class in attack to seize the half
chances which were all this solid phalanx of blue permitted them.
A Greaves, a Ball, a Hurst or a Ron Davies might have done the
trick but unhappily for all their willingness, Leeds had not a
marksman in that class.
"If anything, Leeds had too much of the game. Had Zagreb been
drawn upfield more there might have been greater room for the
counter raid. As it was, the constant weight of the Leeds pressure
to draw the Zagreb net tighter. It was always tough, relentless
football. Zagreb did not stand on ceremony and conceded 23 kicks
for fouls against nine by Leeds, but only once did real trouble
threaten. That was 15 minutes from the end when Gucmirtl and Giles
The Evening Post featured an anachronistic post-match review,
which merits recording for posterity if only for its encapsulation
of the Elland Road atmosphere:
"It was an odd sort of a Cup final really. The most sensational
of the preliminaries was a loudspeaker announcement that Kenneth
Crispin had come without money and would David Lister, already
in the ground, please go to his aid. They appealed to David again
at half time. Unhappy Kenneth!
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"We were at the Gelderd Road end, Elland Road's Kop of concrete
terracing. It was possible to stand easy. There was no surging,
no swaying. I kept my number nines firmly on the same piece of
concrete right through the match. Two men behind drank coffee
out of plastic cups without spilling a drop.
"'Thirty-five thou,' said a 50-year supporter. He was only 604
"There are things to learn about an Elland Road crowd. It's divided
firmly into US and THEM. WE on the Kop were on the side of the
angels. THEY were the fans packed into the echoing, corrugated
iron-covered Scratching Shed at the opposite end of the ground.
'The only way to deal with THEM,' said a young man somebody called
Cliff Michelmore, 'is to make seats for all and charge 100 guineas
"'You want to get in with THEM' a young man was told after delivering
a lurid oath.
"But the US and the THEM became a communal WE during the game.
"In fact, the angels take their lead from the Scratching Shed.
the opposite end of the ground, this now notorious enclosure resembles
an assembly of puppets. They act as one, raising their scarves
in parallel lines, and they speak as one. There's nothing ragged
about a Scratching Shed chant heard across the ground. It comes
over as a kind of choral shouting. United's retired chairman came
in for a salutary volley. 'Harry Reynolds! Harry Reynolds!' But
in the main it was the plainsong of 'United! United!' and sadly
plaintive it became as the match went on and the goals didn't
come. We picked up their chants but our efforts were sadly ragged
"There wasn't much that we could do with the names of the Zagreb
team. The goalkeeper, Skoric, who came out of the dressing room
pirouetting and kicking his heels above his head was viewed with
admiration which turned to awe as the game went on. 'Champion
the wonder horse!' we shouted when he fielded the ball. I wonder
what Skoric made of that.
"The tension and excitement of the first half ebbed like tepid
bathwater after half time. It was United's disallowed goal - accepted
on the terraces as a near inevitable blow of fate - that really
pulled the plug out. After that you could hear fragments of conversation…
"'A bob for bus fares, 7s 6d to get in, 2s 6d for this Leeds
United book that tells you that Ronnie Hilton will be waiting
for the result, a bob for a programme - twelve bob before I've
drowned me sorrows!'
"'… so I said to Joe, come on, it's the final. But he said, no,
he'd see it on t'telly…'
"The result must have been a cruel disappointment to the fans.
But in an odd sort of way they, the fans, won. They took Zagreb's
medicine with good humour and not acrimony.
"'Krauts!' one youngster had been shouting in the mistaken idea
that Zagreb is in Germany. 'Krauts!' he still called at the end,
but added almost sotto voce, 'Good
"They viewed the ineffective yet wholehearted efforts of the
young men in white with tolerance and even affection.
"'Send for t'seventh cavalry,' shouted one man. Another capped
that with 'Send for Donald Peers.'
"And at the end, originating in the stand, came the low crackle
of applause for Zagreb which suddenly swelled to a thunderous
tribute from all quarters of the ground. Leeds United's fans,
once again winning nowt, did not grudge the Yugoslavians their
After the final whistle, United director Albert Morris wished
his visitors well and applauded sportingly as FIFA president Sir
Stanley Rous presented them with the trophy. West Yorkshire could
only look on enviously as its team missed out on the silverware
once more and wish that one day it might be their turn to sample
some glory …
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