printer friendly version
In a season when Leeds United finally realised the rich potential
they had hinted at for five years, one particular game stood out
like a sore thumb, a very, very sore thumb, indeed. Their campaign
was founded on ruthless efficiency and leaving the minimum to
chance, but it was punctuated by the most extraordinary of calamities
one Saturday afternoon towards the end of October.
United were sitting atop the Division One table as they travelled
to Turf Moor to face a promising young Burnley team. They had
dropped just four points in 13 games and came into the game on
the back of three successive clean sheets in the League. Their
only Division One reverse had come the month before, away to reigning
champions Manchester City, though during the week they had bowed
out of the League Cup after losing 2-1 at Second Division Crystal
Palace. It was clear, though, that United had treated the defence
of the trophy they had won in March less than seriously.
Terry Lofthouse in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "When the final
reckoning is made at the end of the season, Leeds United's 2-1
defeat by Crystal Palace in the fourth round of the League Cup
may have been a blessing in disguise. Their primary aim now that
they have tasted success in the League Cup and the Inter Cities
Fairs Cup, both trophies being currently held by the club, is
the supreme title - the League championship. So with no further
interest in the League Cup they can concentrate on achieving their
Manager Don Revie had recognised
that sustaining a four pronged assault on the honours, as Leeds
had done in 1967/68,
was simply too taxing. The priority this year was solely the securing
of the championship.
United had 'enjoyed' a difficult relationship with Burnley since
they returned to Division One in 1964.
In March 1965, referee Jack Taylor had called the two teams together
on the pitch and dished out a general warning for their rough
behaviour. A year later, Eric Jennings was forced to repeat the
dose and in September 1966 there was a very public falling out
between Revie and Burnley manager Harry Potts after another stormy
Revie said: "After what he has said in a Sunday newspaper, I
must speak, if only to defend the lads. Mr Potts should put his
own house in order before he attacks Leeds United players and
supporters. I was shocked by what I read. Our young players were
dismayed after the match at the way they had been tackled."
Potts retorted, "It is always Burnley's intention to go out and
play constructive and attractive football. That is our approach
- but it takes two teams to make a good football match. You can
draw your own conclusion from that."
Referee Ken Stokes booked five players and warned the police
in the second half about the Turf Moor crowd hurling objects at
Gary Sprake. He was reported to have threatened to abandon the
match, though he later strenuously denied it.
back to top
Relations between the clubs were further strained by notorious
Burnley chairman Bob Lord, who would fall out badly with the United
board five years later, banning his own
directors from attending games at Elland Road.
Kenneth Wolstenholme: "Bob Lord is a strange man. For his name
is known by football fans all over Britain - and by people who
don't care a fig for football. For Bob Lord is one of the few
real characters in football. He has made more enemies and more
friends than anyone else in the game. To his friends he is a brilliant
chairman and a fair man. To his enemies he is just a loud-mouthed
tub-thumper. To himself? 'I'm the chairman of Burnley Football
Club, the best club in th' world' is how he would put it.
"Bob Lord is Lancashire through and through. He is a typical
Lancashireman in so far as he will say exactly what he thinks.
So many people - and many of them are in football - are happy
enough to speak their minds in private, but once they get into
public session they keep quiet, accept what is given to them even
though they may be unhappy about it. That is not the way of Bob
Lord. He says what he believes about an issue. And what he has
to say doesn't always make him popular.
"Not long after the Munich disaster in 1958, Bob Lord described
the new Manchester United as 'a bunch of teddy boys.' That was
at the time when the doings of Manchester United were saturated
in public sympathy. When Burnley were facing a congested fixture
list due to their success in the FA Cup and the European Cup,
Bob Lord supported manager Harry Potts's decision to select 10
reserves for the League game against Chelsea. Even after Burnley
had been fined £1,000 by the Football League, Bob Lord still came
out and said, in effect: 'We were right and the Football League
is wrong to punish us.' After one of Burnley's European Cup matches,
Bob Lord scorned the usual clichés and attacked the referee."
Uptheclarets.com: "Certainly Lord never went out of his way to
be popular. His comments were frequently ill-thought out and rebounded
on him and Burnley FC. He got publicity for the club, but the
old adage that all publicity is good publicity certainly does
not always hold true. Among a wealth of faux pas perpetrated by
Lord included a claim that Jews who ran television were trying
to obtain soccer on the cheap. And most players he knew couldn't
run a chip shop, let alone a football club, and no more than ten
percent of them knew the laws of the game. When the criticism
became too fierce, he would try to distance himself from the remarks,
but never with too much success.
"One way he responded to criticism was to blame the messenger.
Journalists often incurred his wrath and he was quick to ban individuals
and the titles they represented. Jack Cochrane got to know Lord
through his involvement with Lowerhouse Cricket Club, where he
was at one stage chairman. He remembers a Lancashire League knockout
competition and Lord was approached by a young reporter asking
for a comment on the game. 'Piss off,' was the reply from the
Burnley FC chairman. Cochrane chided him for being discourteous
when the reporter was only doing his job. He replied: 'I'm sick
and tired of reporters always on my neck.' The journalist working
for a local newspaper was David Davies, now the Football Association's
executive director and one of the most powerful figures in English
At the start of the season, Don Revie, seeking an answer to United's
lack of goals, had offered £80,000 for Burnley's Scottish forward
Morgan had been due to sign a new contract but Lord's intervention
put a stop to that and the two fell out badly. Morgan: "When negotiations
started, Bob Lord made things very difficult. He wasn't used to
players talking back to him and banned me from the training ground.
He had wanted to bury the hatchet although I hadn't realised that
he wanted to bury it in my head! I decided to move on."
A transfer to Elland Road looked a done deal, but, for some reason
known only to himself, Lord refused to sell to Revie and Morgan
moved instead to Manchester United.
Burnley had started the season poorly, but were starting to recover.
Tony Scholes on the ClaretsMAD website: "I suppose the story starts
at the beginning of October and a depressing Saturday afternoon
which left us on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline at home against
Liverpool. Three days later we were due to meet West Ham with
no fewer than eight first team players unavailable for one reason
"In came some of the younger players, including two who had only
just a few months earlier been in the side that had lifted the
FA Youth Cup. With another home defeat expected, the new look
team won 3-1, and with only Ralph Coates ready to return from
injury we then went to Stoke and won by the same score.
"In the following midweek we went one better and beat Leicester
City 4-0 in the League Cup, but now was a different sort of test,
a Leeds United team who were top of the League and had been beaten
only once that season.
back to top
"It was the day surely to bring back some of the more experienced
players for a game as tough as this. John Angus, Arthur Bellamy
and Dave Merrington were back in light training but not close
to a recall whilst one of the two recent signings, Doug Collins,
was suspended. That left Andy Lochhead, Brian O'Neil and Jim Thomson,
but none of them won their places back and all had to be content
with playing a reserve game at Maine Road as the youngsters were
given a vote of confidence.
"Let's get this really into perspective. The team, with an average
age of 22, albeit with three future England internationals and
an Irish international on the bench, was about to take on the
League leaders, the champions elect … There was a nervousness
about Turf Moor, the fans didn't want to see their young team
suffer an embarrassing defeat, but there was no need to worry."
Leeds' midweek defeat at Crystal Palace had seen them in diffident
form, with few of the players living up to expectations. Skipper
Billy Bremner was on Scotland duty in Copenhagen but returned
to the side at Turf Moor, with Peter Lorimer dropping to the bench.
The young Burnley eleven were clearly up for the contest and
determined not to allow their illustrious opponents to establish
any sort of rhythm. They opened brightly: Ralph Coates made a
sharp, weaving run down the middle spreading panic through the
Leeds defence; winger Dave Thomas earned a corner after a run
down the right; two minutes later Thomas forced another and then
drew a foul from Terry Cooper. United cleared all three dead ball
situations, but it was clear that Burnley meant business.
United responded with some pressure of their own as Cooper, O'Grady
and Jones went on the offensive, but Gary Sprake had to catch
a Steve Kindon centre as the Lancastrians refused to slacken off.
They got the breakthrough that their early pressure merited with
two goals in a two minute spell.
Dave Thomas set up the first, scored after 18 minutes, with a
60-yard pass from his own penalty area to Frank Casper down the
other end. Casper laid the ball back to Coates who let fly first
time from 20 yards to beat Sprake.
Almost immediately, United went two down. Sprake seemed to be
at fault when he allowed a long dropping centre from Coates to
float over his head, leaving Casper to old off Cooper's challenge
and nod the easiest of heading opportunities into an open net.
A third goal came three minutes later as Leeds roused themselves
from their torpor. Burnley skipper Colin Waldron's clearance scraped
his own post as he conceded a corner. O'Grady's flag kick dropped
to Billy Bremner, who lashed the ball home emphatically, but the
goal provided little respite.
True enough, United stoked up a head of steam and came close
to an equaliser; Mick Jones shot over from inside the six-yard
box and then Eddie Gray struck the upright before Giles put a
rising drive just wide from close in, but Leeds could sustain
no permanent dominance.
Eric Stanger in the Yorkshire Post: "They were outthought, outpaced
by these youngsters who ran, chased and never gave in in the manner
that Leeds used to do before they reached maturity. They never
allowed Leeds to settle, particularly Bremner and Giles, who were
prevented from controlling the middle by close marking and even
quicker tackling. Seldom can those two have spent a less profitable
Sprake had to pull off a smart save from a piledriver by Martin
Dobson after Coates fashioned the opening and Waldron's header
went close from a Thomas free kick as Burnley finished the half
well on top, receiving an enthusiastic ovation from the home crowd
as they went in 2-1 ahead.
The game was all but over seconds after the restart. Burnley
inside-forward John Murray had been in blistering form for the
Lancastrians in recent weeks. He earned the epithet the Goal Machine
with eight successful strikes in as many games, securing an England
Under-23 spot as reward. Eddie Gray tried to clear a long through
ball from Waldron, but only set a chance up for Murray, who collected,
barged past Madeley and Gray, swivelled and left Sprake rooted
to the spot with a superb shot.
All of Don Revie's half time words of wisdom were now irrelevant
as Leeds fell into disarray before Burnley's inspired assault.
back to top
James Holland wrote in the Guardian of the youngsters "impudently
toying with the opposition. Time and again United's defenders
were drawn out of position by the bewildering mobility of the
Burnley forwards all of who responded sharply to the inspiration
and subtle guidance of Coates, who at inside-left looks a different
player again compared with when he used to operate on the wing
and he was never a failure in that position. The way in which
Burnley find unknown young players and fashion them for stardom
is their own enviable and particular brand of magic. Thomas, Murray
and Kindon are rich in promise and if their heads are not turned
by fulsome adulation they should all make their mark in the game.
Once Kindon realises he must make ground down the wing or come
inside in anticipation of the pass that invariably is bound to
be made, opposing defences will be in an even greater state of
By the middle stages of the second half, Burnley had settled
for controlling the play, content to play on the break. Coates
led some gentle mickey taking as Burnley taunted Leeds, always
having the ability to shift into sharp and incisive movement as
the mood took them. The Whites had no answer to their tormentors.
Terry Cooper was the one United player who played to his reputation.
Phil Brown in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Cooper was easily United's
best player, in attack and defence, but it was in keeping with
a grey day for the club that 20 minutes from the end he had to
come off. He helped to save a goal at the foot of a post, was
bumped right over the byline, and there turned an ankle through
tripping on a cable which was on the ground in front of the new
end stand being built."
Peter Lorimer came on for the left-back, and Eddie Gray was withdrawn
to cover the gap in defence, though he "was no sort of a left-back
in his place, and wants to put more steel and effort into his
play altogether" (Brown).
Burnley were enjoying great success down the wings with Kindon
giving Reaney a torrid afternoon and Thomas now tormenting Gray.
Kindon was a real powerhouse, standing 6ft 2in and broadly built
with genuine pace. When the ball was placed accurately inside
a full-back it provided Kindon with a real chance to use that
The ClaretsMAD website: "Reaney was quick, very quick, but he'd
no answer to Steve who beat him time and time again down the left
wing. Kindon's was a brilliant showing of pace and strength and
with just thirteen minutes to go he put the result way beyond
Leeds with Burnley's fourth, and it all came from a Leeds free
kick on the edge of our box. The kick was played in by Johnny
Giles, but Colin Blant headed it out to Murray who in turn found
Kindon. He once more left Reaney helpless and then rode a bad
tackle (take your pick, Bremner, Hunter, and Giles were all playing)
before blasting an unstoppable shot into the net."
Three minutes later Burnley completed the rout with a fifth goal.
The ball seemed to be drifting out of play near United's byline,
but Coates refused to give it up. He prevented it from going out
and crossed it first time. Casper came in from the right to secure
the ball on the edge of the area. He
assessed the situation instantaneously and calmly lobbed the ball
back over everyone's heads, including the stranded Sprake, and
into the net. It was a breathtaking score and set the perfect
seal on a brilliant win for the men from East Lancashire.
back to top
The League leaders had been left in shreds and the press quite
rightly gushed about Burnley's performance. The Daily Telegraph:
"Burnley's capacity for producing the goods just when they seem
about to join the other Lancashire teams in the Second Division
is enough to send rich clubs flocking to see what the Turf Moor
boffins do in their mysterious laboratories." The Daily Mirror:
"The best defence in England was thrown into confusion by players
who have not yet achieved the status of household names in Burnley,
never mind the country."
Eric Stanger in the Yorkshire Post: "Youthful Burnley certainly
won a man sized victory. They buzzed round Leeds United at Turf
Moor like a swarm of angry bees, got into their hair and stung
them well and truly five times. Their enthusiasm was extraordinary,
their speed and stamina remarkable and their individual talent
"While all five Burnley goals were excellently conceived Sprake
ought to have prevented three of them. But it would be unfair
to lay the blame for defeat entirely at his door. Charlton
was often left stranded by Casper, Reaney found the lithe Kindon
setting him more problems than most outside-lefts and had it not
been for Cooper, nearly United's best attacker as well as defender,
Hunter and Madeley, Leeds might have fared even worse."
Phil Brown in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "They'll talk about
the Leeds United match at Burnley for many a long day, and good
luck to them. Burnley's 5-1 win was a magnificent effort, so good
that some of their supporters were thinking in terms of Burnley
for the championship before tea on Saturday!
"Burnley's youngsters, as gallant as home spun, took United,
the League leaders after the match despite their 5-1 drubbing,
to pieces. Faster, brighter, harder working - and how often is
the Leeds work rate beaten? - They cut and carved at United's
defence and baffled the forwards in front of it with shrewd and
hard marking and tackling.
"The only consolation for United was that they were too bad to
be true. There was so much wrong with them that only Cooper got
good marks, and Charlton, Hunter and Madeley just scraped a pass.
Sprake was right off form, and was completely unrecognisable as
the hero of Budapest and Liege. He really must try to be more
consistent. It is the curse of the goalkeeper's job that his mistakes
are generally costly.
"The stocky and gritty Durham man, Coates, converted from a winger
to No 10, was Burnley's chief executioner. He had a magnificent
match - Raich Carter class - running through or around all United's
international half-backs. He made more attacks than United made
in total, and his boy
wingers, Thomas and Kindon, responded in their contrasting ways.
Thomas is as tricky as a footballing cat would be, and Kindon
runs like a horse."
There was never any love lost between the two clubs; Harry Potts
and Don Revie had more than once aired their differences publicly,
but this time Revie was all praise for the young guns at Turf
Moor. "Burnley have a great young team here," he said. They played
well, deserved the win, and all I can say is that they were a
revelation." This was the game that began Revie's fascination
for the talents of Dave Thomas, whom he would later select for
full England honours. He said that "Thomas was the finest talent
in Britain and possibly in the whole of Europe". The manager tried
unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to secure the winger's
signature. Revie later claimed that the night before the match
Gary Sprake "had suffered a close family and paid a sad mental
price next day. Everything Burnley tried came off - they would
have beaten any side that day."
The 5-1 result was hard to take for United fans and there were
a number of confrontations round the stadium afterwards and several
arrests as they sought to vent their frustration, provoking ugly
scenes of mindless violence.
It was a sad day in the history of Leeds United and they were
given the most extraordinary of warnings that there would be no
procession to the title. It may have been just a bad day at the
office, a temporary blip, but United's serene self assurance was
badly pricked. Only time would tell whether the wound would prove
back to top