After years of being possibly the FA Cup's least successful competitors,
Leeds United were starting to become regular attendees at the
Old Lady's closing stages. They had reached their
first final in 1965, though they hardly covered themselves
in glory when they lost dismally to Liverpool. In
1967 they faced Chelsea in the semi finals, but missed out
when they had two late goals disallowed. A year later, they were
back again, this time facing Harry Catterick's Everton side in
an Old Trafford semi final.
It promised to be a mouth-watering encounter: Leeds were the
team of the season, still in the running for four major trophies,
while Catterick was building a highly promising team, featuring
England World Cup winners in Ray Wilson and Alan Ball and a host
of exciting young players, like Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey,
Brian Labone and Joe Royle. On the day, he was without the suspended
Ball and John Hurst, following an attack of jaundice and replaced
him with 21-year-old Irishman Tommy Jackson, who had only made
his League debut the week previously.
Leeds were at full strength, though that had meant being without
both Mike O'Grady and Albert
Johanneson for virtually the entire campaign. Lack of wingers,
though, made for a much more solid look to the team's midfield
combination, where Bremner and Giles were enjoying splendid seasons.
The arrival of England centre-forward Mick Jones in United's first
£100,000 deal in September had brought a keener edge to United's
hitherto limited attack.
From the first whistle from referee David Smith it was clear
that this would be a fiery encounter. Both teams were keyed up
for the occasion and launched into some fierce tackles. Within
three minutes, Everton right-back Tommy Wright was the first to
need attention, and he was soon followed by Harvey.
As the football began to emerge, Johnny Giles tried a neat lob
for Mick Jones to chase, but he lost out to Labone, who was quick
to turn and recover. Everton broke back into a period of pressure
and it looked like winger Jimmy Husband would get a chance, but
he was snuffed out after some good covering by Bremner.
Both sides were determined to give nothing away. At one stage
Paul Reaney passed back fully 40 yards to Gary Sprake and his
Merseyside counterparts were just as ready for safety first. There
was a series of scrappy fouls and even scrappier play, with Jones
suffering at the hands (or feet and shoulders,
for the most part) of Labone, though United were giving as good
as they got. After 25 minutes there had been 13 fouls, with ten
of them by Leeds players. However, it was Sprake who seemed to
suffer most, getting a thorough going over from young Joe Royle.
Clearly, the Goodison club had set out to disrupt and harry their
opponents. A foul was given for one heavy charge by the striker,
and after a second clash, Sprake was left on the ground and in
need of lengthy treatment by Les Cocker. He had badly damaged
his right shoulder.
United started to inject the decent football that the game was
crying out for, with Terry Cooper taking a pass 30 yards out from
Bremner and firing in a sizzling shot, which Gordon West did well
to save. Minutes later the Everton keeper crashed into Mick Jones
as he punched the ball out for a corner. Madeley nodded the flag
kick on to Jones, whose shot as he fell only just cleared the
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The game was bogged down for the most part in an untidy midfield
stalemate. It was clear that it would take a flash of brilliance
or else a lack of fortune on somebody's part to break the deadlock.
Sadly, it was Gary Sprake who was the day's victim. He had been
favouring his damaged shoulder for some time and was badly restricted
in his movement, unable to throw the ball clear as would be his
normal wont. Royle was taking every opportunity to harass the
Welshman into error and eventually his persistence paid off.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Two minutes before the end of a tawdry
first half, Sprake, with Royle dancing harmless attendance, was
required to get rid of the ball near the edge of his penalty area.
He swayed, bobbed, and feinted, and finally kicked it weakly to
Husband who was lurking on the right. Husband lobbed the ball
back smartly and I shared Charlton's view that it would have gone
into the net. The Leeds centre-half, hoping perhaps that Sprake
would save the inevitable penalty or that Everton would miss it,
turned the ball away with his hands. Morrissey did not miss."
Paul Reaney recalled later: "When the left winger put the ball
over I'm going across the line towards it - but Big Jack's coming
back and handballed it. I'm yelling at him, going, 'What you doing?'
I could have got it off the line, but instead it was a penalty
and they scored. I gave Jack some stick for that."
Stung into retaliation, United did all they could to get back
on terms before the break. Cooper was the prime threat as he pierced
the Everton ranks with some delightful dribbling before thumping
a splendid drive which beat West but struck the bar.
The second half was all nip and tuck with both sides having chances.
Leeds had the better of things, with some decent passing movements
as Giles started to exercise some influence.
Eddie Gray had been left limping from a first half challenge,
and after 64 minutes Greenhoff
was brought on to replace him. The striker brought a little more
zip and zest to United's approach work, though Everton came close
to increasing their lead when Husband hit the best chance of the
match well wide.
The play was considerably cleaner than in the first half, though
Everton were making some rugged stops to deny United's football,
which was beginning to flow. It was looking increasingly as if
an equalising strike was not going to come. Desperate times require
desperate measures and Leeds threw Bremner and Charlton
into attack as
they sought to get back on equal terms. It was a predictable tactic
and easily thwarted by intelligent defensive play by their opponents.
The move brought some moments of anxiety but there was little
in the way of any real direct threat on Gordon West's goal.
Everton were content to frustrate United, though they looked
quite dangerous themselves when they chose to mix in the occasional
attack. The Toffeemen resorted to some time wasting and spoiling
tactics, but the Whites had been guilty on too many occasions
of such gamesmanship themselves to have any legitimate complaint.
Don Revie's men just did
not have the guile or inspiration to find a way through or round
a committed defensive barrier and they had to give best on the
day to determined opponents.
Richard Ulyatt in the Yorkshire Post: "Everton deserved to win,
but it was a poor exhibition, with Leeds unable to raise their
game and Everton's superiority concealed only by the tremendous
amount of running the young players did, a strange, unreal game
won by a penalty awarded after an unusual situation had developed.
The pattern of the match was set early on by five free kicks for
fouls in the first three minutes and thereafter nearly every time
a player was tackled he went down, received careful treatment
and got up refreshed, in search of vengeance.
"Everton scraped to Wembley by a stroke of luck. In the second
half they had only one chance, and that was missed by Royle, and
another half chance. Cooper missed one exciting shot from 30 yards
for Leeds which hit the crossbar and Lorimer made West bring off
the best save of the match, but the vital play was in midfield
where the Everton tackling was so quick and persistent that the
Bremner-Giles link was not allowed to develop.
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"Everton's outstanding men were West in goal, the magnificent
Labone, who tackled, covered and worked unceasingly, Kenyon, who
joined him as a second centre-half, helping successfully to dominate
Jones, the ebullient Royle and Kendall, who harried every Leeds
player with the ball. Leeds could not rid themselves of these
untiring challengers who were frequently reinforced by Harvey."
Eric Todd: "Those people seeking excuses for Sprake's blunder
pointed out that he had injured his throwing arm earlier on. That
still left him with one good arm and two sound legs, any one of
which surely could have despatched the ball to comparative safety?
Poor, unhappy Sprake! He threw the ball
into his own net in December at Anfield where Leeds lost 0-2
- did he recall that episode on Saturday? - and now this. When
Leeds come to ponder on how and why they failed to win the FA
Cup and, as seems likely, the League championship, they may well
have blackness in their soul when they remember Everton and Liverpool.
Sprake's self analysis does not bear thinking about.
"Sprake nevertheless usually is an accomplished performer, and
he must not shoulder all the responsibility for Saturday's defeat.
Leeds played it too tough too often though some of the injuries
to Everton's dignity and persons were exaggerated by theatrical
tumbles and writhings. (Such tactics always sustain any campaign
against baddies and win sympathy for the alleged injured.) There
was, however, no sustained method behind the Leeds approach and
Giles, so often their general, did not remotely approach commissioned
rank this day. Nor did anyone else volunteer to take command.
This as much as Sprake's aberration cost Leeds the game.
"The output of Bremner, Lorimer and Cooper again was tremendous.
Beyond that, the less said the kinder about Leeds, who suffered
their tenth defeat in 61 matches this term. It is a considerable
record though its achievement has not impressed the purists. Thousands
of people who watched the League Cup final
and who have seen this hard, uncompromising Leeds side in action
elsewhere, will be relieved that St George, as represented by
Everton, has denied the Leeds dragon a second trip to Wembley.
There are, however, many bunches of sour grapes behind such expressions
of relief and if Leeds can muster sufficient reserves of energy
in the Fairs Cup closing stages, they may yet be in a position
to cock a snook at their many critics. And they won't half enjoy
doing just that.
"Everton without question deserved their victory and on their
overall record, too, they deserve to be in the final. They stood
up stoutly to all that Leeds threw at them in the first half,
and Mr D W Smith, an admirable referee, saw to it that Leeds did
not throw too much. There were too many fouls, but with less strict
supervision there might have been many more. Hunter, in particular,
seemed loath to take the referee's lectures to heart. A pity because
he could be a great player.
"There was little thrust and even less finishing power in the
Everton attack, which had to be reshuffled after the late withdrawal
of Hurst, a victim of hepatitis, which will keep him out of the
game for the remainder of the season. But young Kenyon worked
magnificently and gave further evidence that Mr Harry Catterick's
kindergarten is as rich in promise and actual fulfilment as any
of its kind in the country. In a year or two Everton should be
a very formidable side.
"No praise could be too high for Everton's backs, who tackled
effectively and who seldom surrendered their initiative in midfield.
Labone was the outstanding player
of the game, and Jackson, a Northern Ireland Under-23 international,
and Harvey gave fine support. In Jackson's only League appearance
- against Nottingham Forest - he did a good job. Giles now will
vouch for Jackson's devotion to duty. West, too, warrants special
mention for his excellent catching, and a superb save from Lorimer,
who can shoot harder from 30 yards than can some forwards from
ten. West, however, knew nothing about a drive from Cooper, who
beat five men in a brilliant run before letting fly from 30 yards.
The ball hit the crossbar. Sprake had far less to embarrass him.
Sad it was that when Fate called upon him, he was found wanting."
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It was a tremendous disappointment for Leeds as they lost at
the semi final stage for a second successive year. In the space
of four short days they had seen their challenge for both League
and Cup come a cropper - a defeat at struggling Stoke the previous
Tuesday had left them struggling to make up ground in the title
The following week Don Revie used his regular Saturday column
in the Yorkshire Evening Post to issue a defiant message to United's
critics: "As manager of Leeds United, I am not worried about being
in charge of a successful club! I am proud of Leeds United and
every player. Many critics and fans outside Yorkshire were delighted
at our FA Cup semi final defeat by Everton.
"Precious few successful teams are popular among rival fans,
and I do not care what the general soccer public feels about Leeds
United so long as we are still held in high esteem among our own
fans. That defeat has been taken out of all proportion. On grounds
all over the country, I understand that the fans cheered heartily
at the news that United would not be back at Wembley this year.
The feeling was that our downfall was a victory for attractive
attacking football - just like Celtic's win over Inter Milan was
in last year's European Cup final.
"But we take this with a pinch of salt. I am now heartily sick
of denying that we are an uninspiring, ruthless and unethical
side with little or no individual flair or confidence in scoring
goals. Our unpopularity began when we were branded a dirty side
when winning promotion to the First Division in 1964, and they
have gained momentum because of our tight, tactical approach in
away games. In other words, the general soccer public is too influenced
by what it reads about us, and the majority have not seen the
better side to our soccer.
two aspects to every team in the world nowadays - an attacking
face at home and a defensive one away. Surely, we have proved
that we are capable of playing attacking soccer this season in
being the only First Division club unbeaten at home?
"I predicted beforehand that the match against Everton would
not be a classic, and would be decided by one defensive mistake.
So it turned out to be.
"Apart from the fact that United and Everton possess two of the
strongest defences in the country, semi finals are rarely anything
else but close, cautious and uninspiring from the entertainment
point of view."
It all smacked of the rank paranoia that was constantly around
Revie and his club, but he was clearly riled at the criticism
they had faced.
United had already secured the League Cup and had a Fairs Cup
semi final against Dundee to look forward to, but their self confidence
had been badly shaken. Only time would tell whether the blow was
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