printer friendly version
It is difficult to imagine today the seismic nature of the shock
when Leeds United went down by five goals
to one at Burnley in October 1968. Leeds NEVER conceded five
goals … period! In fact, in the 19 games played up to that point,
United's iron clad defence had kept 10 clean sheets, including
matches against Liverpool, table-topping Arsenal and mighty
Ferencvaros (twice) in the Fairs Cup final. But there was
no hint of a fluke about the result: Burnley had been on fire
and took the Whites apart with some breathtaking football.
By the time of the return fixture at Elland Road the weekend
before Christmas, normal service had been resumed … Leeds were
undefeated since Turf Moor and were hot on the heels of Liverpool
in pursuit of the League title; Burnley were tenth, without a
win since November 9, having shipped seven goals at Manchester
City in the first week of December.
It took Leeds a while to get the result out of their system even
though they managed to quickly stabilise things. A refocusing
on defensive basics delivered three successive goalless draws
in the League immediately after the debacle at Turf Moor, though
the points they dropped cost them top spot. By now they were fully
back on song, conceding just six goals in ten games, and a few
days earlier they had beaten Hanover 5-1 in the Fairs Cup, their
best result since January.
Goals had been a scarce commodity - United had not managed more
than 2 in any game since August - due to an overly defensive approach.
For the most part they worked to a rigid 4-5-1 formation, relying
on Mick Jones as lone front runner. It made them exceedingly difficult
to beat, but they struggled to convert possession and territorial
superiority into goals.
The game with Hanover brought an emphatic end to the drought.
Leeds hit peak form, as reported by Terry Lofthouse in the Yorkshire
Evening Post: "Well, it's happened - at last! Some team had to
suffer a thrashing in Leeds United's present mood, and it turned
out to be the West Germans, Hanover. Not for a long time have
the fans been treated to such a magnificent show, and Hanover's
coach, Zlatko Cajkovski, was rich in his praise after his side
had been completely overrun. He paid this handsome tribute: 'Leeds
are the best English team I have ever seen, and it was a fair
result on the run of play.'
back to top
"Don Revie, of course, was
highly delighted. 'My boys were brilliant. They played exactly
"Indeed, United's exciting football amply demonstrated that when
a team are prepared to be uninhibited in their approach, the result
can be devastating. Hanover were simply bewildered by the speed,
the skill and the power of the Leeds play, coming from all angles
as it did as United interchanged and supported one another with
remarkable dexterity. This was why the Germans could not cope.
They were hammered, battered and crushed by the howitzer punches
of United's goal hungry raiders. The long striding Madeley … the
midfield culture of Bremner and Giles … the deftness of Gray …
the sheer determination of Jones … the shooting of O'Grady
and Lorimer. These were some of the highlights. But not the most
memorable. The honour unquestionably went to Hunter, whose 30-yard
blockbuster of a shot flew into the far corner of the net with
Podiasly grasping at fresh air. And it was Norman's right foot.
The one it is said he does not possess."
United were unchanged for the visit of Burnley, Mike O'Grady,
Eddie Gray and Paul Madeley having shaken off injuries, and went
into the game determined to make their point. Burnley had eight
men on duty who had played in the 5-1 victory. One of the changes
had 18-year-old Michael Docherty, son of new Aston Villa manager
Tommy, operating at right-half.
Dave Thomas, Ralph Coates, Frank Casper and Steve Kindon, who
had dissected Leeds in October, were all present and correct.
That day Burnley's pace and power had been far more than an off
colour United could handle. Don Revie was determined that this
time would be different - professional pride was at stake and
Burnley had to be put firmly in their place.
United went all out for an early goal and got the start they
wanted, with Peter Lorimer opening the scoring after just 90 seconds.
Billy Bremner fed Mike O'Grady out on the right and the winger
hared down the touchline. He reached the byline before pulling
back the cross and Jones rose to meet it. His header was blocked
but ran out to Lorimer at the back post. Without a moment's hesitation,
the Scot fired it unerringly into the net.
Any faint hopes that Burnley might have had of living with United
effectively vanished with that simple, lightning break. United
had set their minds on the annihilation of the visitors and they
were up and running.
It was all Leeds in the opening quarter as Burnley were pushed
deeper and deeper into their own half. Goalkeeper Harry Thomson
had to be alert soon after to save another Lorimer piledriver.
All season long, the Leeds defenders had been ever ready to throw
their considerable weight into the fray up front. For much of
the first half they spent their time firmly on the offensive,
with full-backs Paul Reaney and Paul Madeley regularly overlapping,
Jack Charlton a constant
threat at dead ball situations and even Norman Hunter pressing
forward as the opportunities arose. Gray, O'Grady and Lorimer
were constant adjuncts to Jones as Giles and Bremner secured a
midfield stronghold. There was little that Burnley could do to
stem the tide with United in such dominant form.
back to top
After 24 minutes, the Yorkshire siege bore further fruit. A long
range shot from Giles seemed to spell no danger, but the goalkeeper
spilled it. Lorimer was on the loose ball in a trice to slide
it home for 2-0, despite the attempts of Thomson to atone for
his error with a charge.
The Scot had managed a brace against Hanover and another pair
on 7 December against Sheffield Wednesday, demonstrating that
he had put a somewhat barren autumn well behind him. He had been
on the transfer list since the end of November, dissatisfied with
a lack of first team football. Don Revie had opted to use Paul
Madeley in a defensive midfield role for many games, leaving Lorimer
the odd man out, though his return to goalscoring
form made it a difficult choice.
When Terry Lofthouse asked Revie about the situation after the
game, he was told: "It's still up to him, the situation has not
Lofthouse went on: "The Scot asked for a move a few weeks ago
because he wanted regular first team football and United, who
cannot give him that assurance, intimated they would consider
an exchange deal. But no club has come for Lorimer. Yet the player
is having second thoughts so I understand, and I expect him to
see Mr Revie before long to ask to come off the list. Lorimer
felt that a change of club might give him a change of luck, too,
for he had a lean scoring spell up to this month. Now, with Paul
Madeley having dropped back to left-back to replace injured Terry
Cooper, Lorimer has regained his appetite for scoring goals."
There were hints that the Scot would be used in a player exchange
deal for Nottingham Forest's Joe Baker, Peter Cormack of Hibernian
or Colin Suggett (Sunderland). Nothing materialised, though Lorimer
remained on the list until the very latter stages of the season.
Under normal circumstances, securing a two-goal lead would have
tempted United to shut up shop. However, on this occasion, there
was no question of that and they continued to go for the jugular.
By the 36th minute, they had added two further goals. First Giles
crashed home a fearsome volley, and then Jones showed that he
was much more than a goalscorer by centring perfectly for Bremner
to head home. Burnley, who had not been in the game to any great
extent, seemed suitably shell shocked.
Kindon should have pulled a goal back before the break after
a rare error from Hunter left him an opportunity, but, as if disbelieving
his luck, he shot wide. Coates then had two chances but fired
both over the bar and United were quickly back on top, punishing
the Lancastrians for their impudence. Jones, who had been without
a goal since 9 October, looked like breaking the run as he beat
two men to shoot, but keeper Thomson managed to prevent a goal
at the last moment.
United went in at half time well satisfied with their work.
back to top
Richard Ulyatt in the Yorkshire Post: "Burnley withstood the
tempest for nearly 25 minutes, but then Lorimer, Bremner and Giles
scored with what seemed to be viciously fierce shots as though
to say: 'Take that, take that, take that; don't dare score five
against us again.'
"By the end of an excitingly one sided first half the score was
4-0 and the points settled. There was a certain degree of nonchalance
in Leeds' play after the interval, just sufficient to give Burnley
the opportunity of scoring a goal through Coates and indicating
that under normal circumstances they were a promising side, likely
to become first rate with experience.
"But whenever Leeds decided that it was time to crack the whip,
either a goal was scored or Thomson, with adroit goalkeeping,
Jones and Lorimer combined well to promise a fifth goal early
in the second half, but the move came to nothing and Burnley started
to rally. They moved threateningly on several occasions and Sprake
had to save from Casper. Then Thomas twice went close. They got
the reward for their effort when Coates took a pass from Thomas
and chipped a clever goal over Sprake from all of 25 yards.
If the response hinted at any genuine danger of a revival, Burnley
got little chance to build on their breakthrough. As if sensing
that they had taken their collective
feet off the accelerator, if only by the merest fraction, United
were quickly back at them, like worrying terriers - Lorimer twice
went close, first with his head and then with a typical long range
effort; Jones was felled in the box by the keeper, but the referee
waved all appeals away.
United did earn a free kick when O'Grady was fouled on the edge
of the box, but the chance came to nothing. Eventually, though,
Leeds did get a fifth goal. Jones broke his long scoreless run
by converting a relatively simple chance.
It was a real relief for the former Sheffield United striker,
as he recalled later: "Everything clicked when we played the return
fixture against Burnley. I was particularly pleased because I
hadn't scored for a couple of months and managed to grab a goal.
Scoring is all about confidence and that game was the start of
a tremendous run for me."
Don Revie: "I don't care if Mick fails to score again this season
… he does his fair share of creating the openings for others.
He is one of the most unselfish players I have seen, always willing
to take the knocks and wait to let someone else through. There
is not a better clubman in the game."
With two minutes remaining, Gray completed the scoring to round
off the perfect revenge, with the 6-1 final tally proving that
anything that Burnley could do, Leeds could do better.
back to top
It seemed a matter of professional pride that the wrongs of October
should be righted and the callow young things from East Lancashire
put firmly in their place. United certainly achieved that particular
As Richard Ulyatt wrote afterwards, "I have never seen a team
so efficiently and comprehensively beaten by skill, plus determination,
plus run of the ball. Players' pride was satisfied, spectators
gave their gladiators the thumbs up and Thomson, the busiest man
on the field, showed his appreciation of a notable performance
by joining in the clapping as Leeds trooped off the field.
"Burnley were not equipped to contain Leeds in this mood. Giles
and Bremner opened out play with telling passes of varied ranges
but consistent accuracy. O'Grady recaptured the brilliant form
he showed at Huddersfield ten years ago with added discipline
in use of ball. Madeley, running from full-back, moved in with
forceful, ice cool purpose and Jones by making two goals, one
of them with deft feint of feet and body, showed that goalscoring
is not essentially the most important part of a centre-forward's
"A more experienced half-back line than Burnley's would possibly
have made greater impact in the middle of the field. One of lesser
pride and promise would have given up the ghost at half time.
Burnley did not, but instead demonstrated that in a year or two
Thomas on the right wing, Kindon on the left, 18-year-old Docherty,
a chip off the old block as he tried to take the ball off Giles
and assist the referee, will probably hand out similar treatment
to some other unfortunate club.
"Leeds United have never given their supporters so handsome a
present: 11 goals in four days. What a team!"
Tom Holley in the Yorkshire Post: "After this magnificent display,
who can doubt that Leeds are still capable of brilliant attacking
football? In a terrific first half blitz, they
took Burnley by the scruff of the neck to hand out a real spanking."
Terry Lofthouse: "Even through this barrage of strength in which
Madeley's determined running from the back was again a feature,
Jones saw his luck remain bad … Nevertheless, the work put in
by Jones off the ball and his intelligent use of it brought Bremner
the fourth goal, a header from a perfect centre … and there was
Burnley just about down for the count. O'Grady, despite being
the only forward not to score - Jones eventually got that elusive
first goal since October 9 and Gray also scored - maintained his
high standard on the wing. His constant moving inside and to the
other flank in a switch with Gray bothered the Burnley rearguard.
Wrigley, their centre-half, did not know whom to mark, so well
did United interchange.
"Not since their visit to Ipswich in August have United hit three
goals in a League game and their 4-1 win over QPR in the same
month, was their previous best.
"This was United in brilliant attacking form - Sprake will be
catching the Hong Kong flu if he is not careful - and it provided
a thrilling pre-Christmas feast for the fans."
The ghosts of Turf Moor fully laid to rest, Leeds could press
on with their seemingly unstoppable pursuit of the League title
- the win kept them within three points of pace setters Liverpool.
9 victories in their next 10 League games saw them catch and then
overtake the Reds, putting a clear 6 points between the two sides.
The hammering of Burnley had a pivotal impact in a memorable campaign,
a clear turning point.
back to top