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Leeds United failed to defeat Chelsea in the 1970
FA Cup final at Wembley on 11 April, but in every respect
other than the scoreline, they were streets ahead of their fierce
London rivals, striking the woodwork on three occasions and dominating
the game. They also had the consolation of finally doing themselves
justice in a Wembley final, expunging the dire memories of 1965
and 1968, when they had played in two
of the worst games in the stadium's history.
They had given a wonderful exhibition, all the more remarkable
taking into account the appalling state of the pitch. Geoffrey
Green of the Times reported, perhaps overstating the case a little,
"What must be beyond dispute is that here, technically - remembering
the killing conditions - was the finest Cup final seen at Wembley
since the war, better even than Manchester United and Blackpool
of 1948 and lacking only the emotional impact of the last 20 minutes
of the Stanley Matthews fiesta of 1953."
But, if the game demonstrated a lot that was great about English
club football, the replay that followed two and a half weeks later
at Old Trafford won a reputation for being the dirtiest final
Three decades later former referee David Elleray reviewed a DVD
of the match against the standards set by modern day refereeing.
He came to the conclusion that Leeds should have had seven bookings
and three dismissals (Giles, Bremner and Charlton), while Chelsea
deserved 13 bookings, including three each for Webb, Harris and
The referee in charge of the actual game, Stourbridge's Eric
Jennings, took a laissez faire approach to the contest, offering
plenty of leeway and booking just one player, Ian Hutchinson of
Chelsea. Blues midfielder John Hollins would later say, "People
were standing up to each other, head-to-head, as they do nowadays
except they were hitting each other. The ref would say, 'Play
on, keep going'. He played great advantage. If he had stopped
it, there would have been an incident. The incident didn't happen
because he simply played on."
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47-year-old Jennings was in his last season as a Football League
referee having reached the maximum age in January and had enjoyed
sixteen years as a first class official, running the line in the
1958 Cup final and officiating in the 1967 Amateur Cup final.
He had some history with Leeds: in November 1963 he had been forced
to stop play and call together both sets of players to appeal
for calm when United were involved in something of a bloodbath
against Preston; in May 1966 he had to do the same during an ill
tempered clash against Burnley at Turf Moor.
Johnny Giles: "There was so much stick flying around, I have
to admit it was pretty horrendous, and I make no excuse for it.
But we did have some strange code of honesty ... I'm sure of two
things. One is it that it was inevitable the game would come to
its senses, and that no one who played or managed the game back
then would have had any part of today's culture of diving. Then
you took stick and you handed it out, but you couldn't imagine
faking injury or trying to get a player sent off. Maybe he would
be carried off,
but that would be another matter."
Chelsea's Alan Hudson, who missed both the final and the replay
through injury: "Tommy Baldwin and Terry Cooper, two of the quietest
men in football, kicking lumps out of one another as the battle
began. Tommy, a prolific goalscorer when given the opportunity,
was handed strict orders not to allow the weaving Leeds full-back
to get too far over the halfway line, if over at all. Ron 'Chopper'
Harris did not need any telling. His scything tackle on the wing
wizard Eddie Gray in the opening minutes was chilling. That set
the pattern of the match. It was the only way we could have won
it, by fighting white fire with blue fire, and the outcome was
for all to see. Someone joked that Gray was picking Chopper's
studs out of his shins well after that final whistle. He collected
more shrapnel in that game than a veteran of the Somme in World
The Independent: "The match provided a lengthy sheet of misdemeanours.
Chelsea's hard men systematically targeted Gray, and Harris finally
nailed him late in the first half with a malicious kick on the
back of the left knee. Moments later, Charlton
headbutted and kneed Osgood after the Chelsea striker had tackled
him from behind. Wherever you looked on the field there was mayhem,
as players kicked, gouged and butted each other with impunity.
The next morning, one paper summed up with the banner headline
'Robbery With Violence'."
The game was awaited with great anticipation following the excitement
of the first contest, but Chelsea set their stall out to prevent
Leeds from enjoying the dominance they had at Wembley. Eddie Gray
had given David Webb a roasting and now manager Dave Sexton switched
Webb and Harris, lining the famous Chelsea hard man up against
Gray with the intention of kicking him out of the game. Webb's
reckless challenges were more easily compensated for in the centre
of defence, where his colleagues could offer him greater protection.
It was clear from the first seconds that Harris would be closely
shadowing Gray, denying him the time and space that he enjoyed
at Wembley. Conversely, Lorimer and Jones were far more dangerous
than in the first game, pulling defenders all over the place and
Sexton also switched the roles of Peter Houseman and Charlie
Cooke. As Geoffrey Green wrote, "It will be Cooke's job now to
ferret and supply his forwards from the rear, joining into attack
himself, of course, as the situation warrants, and leaving Houseman
to float down the left flank in his accustomed fashion. It was
Cooke's astute reading of the situation last time, when he sustained
Chelsea's flagging spirits by doubling back, supplementing midfield
and dribbling cleverly to win time and space that helped to save
the day for the south. It was this, no doubt, that influenced
Dave Sexton, the Chelsea manager, to rethink his line up."
For Leeds the only change was reserve goalkeeper David Harvey
coming in for Gary Sprake, who had been injured in the European
Cup semi final against Celtic. Harvey commented, "I'm very
sorry for Gary, and I hope I don't let him or the side down."
Heavy rain fell for hours on the Old Trafford pitch on the day
of the game, and Don Revie
smiled, "I am happy to see the rain. The ground will suit us much
better if it is soft."
He went on, "Naturally we are very confident but we must put
the Wembley match right out of our minds. We cannot use that as
a yardstick for what will happen at Old Trafford. We must treat
both matches as entirely separate events."
With a television audience estimated at 32m watching the game
live, Leeds kicked off and were instantly onto the attack - within
the first minute Lorimer's cross hit Dempsey and the deflection
almost took it into the Chelsea net. Then Gray had a sprint down
the left touchline and used his pace to go round Harris; he managed
to get in a smart low cross before the tackle came in. Mick Jones
flicked the ball on with Webb unable to get to him and Bonetti
got down well to touch the effort wide.
After 12 minutes Chelsea had another escape. Cooper's long centre
swung away from Bonetti and Lorimer turned it back across goal.
Gray could have shot but returned it to Lorimer. He went for the
spectacular and only succeeded in sending the ball miles wide
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United continued to press and for the ten minutes up to the half
hour they ratcheted up the pace, forcing Chelsea back onto desperate
defence. There was an exchange of punches between Hunter and McCreadie
as tempers frayed and with the crowd's attention diverted, Gray
took the opportunity to run into space, his shot running narrowly
In the 25th minute, Dempsey attempted a back pass to Bonetti
with the keeper miles away from his station. Lorimer beat him
to the ball, only to see his shot from an acute angle saved on
the line by McCreadie.
It required a tremendous Dempsey tackle to prevent Clarke capitalising
on a long ball from Lorimer. In turn the Scot hammered a right-footed
drive narrowly wide. Jones got into the action by putting an effort
into the side net from close range after Giles had combined with
Gray down the left to create the opportunity.
On the half hour Bonetti was injured in an aerial clash with
Jones as the two went for a steepling Madeley centre from the
right. There was a mass protest from Chelsea at what they saw
as flagrant foul play. Action was held up for three minutes for
the keeper to get treatment and he was badly limping when he restarted.
The handicap didn't stop him from continuing to substantiate his
long-held status as arch nemesis of Leeds United forwards.
Chelsea responded furiously to what they saw as intimidation
by launching an all out assault on the United goal. It cost them
heavily, for in the 36th minute Leeds took a deserved lead after
coolly playing themselves out of trouble.
Harvey's throw out of his goal area was picked up by a Chelsea
man who tried to set up a chance. A United defender nicked the
ball and Gray brought play away via a cool one-two with Giles
before feeding on to Clarke, ten yards inside his own half on
the left touchline. He set off on a wonderful diagonal run, escaping
three heavy challenges from different Blues men. Each time it
looked like he would be clattered but a combination of pace and
deft feints and swerves took Clarke through the eye of a needle
and left the defenders sprawling in his wake.
He slipped the ball short to Jones 40 yards out and let his partner
carry the move on. The centre-forward set off on a storming run,
coming away from Hollins and Harris and resisting intense pressure
from McCreadie to make his way
into the right hand side of Chelsea's area. From there he hammered
a thunderous right-footed shot across Bonetti and into the net.
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "It was a goal from the past, as
old-fashioned as the horse and carriage. It revived memories of
Ted Drake in his heyday."
Leeds took that well-deserved lead into the break.
Almost immediately after the resumption Cooke and Clarke started
kicking seven bells out of each other. Referee Jennings turned
a blind eye, as he had throughout the first half, but finally,
there came an incident which even he could not ignore. Charlton
and Osgood were involved in a scramble near the touchline and
the striker took Charlton out. The big man completely lost it,
got to his feet, stormed after Osgood and scythed him mercilessly
to the ground. Even then Jennings merely gave them a severe talking
to and no names were taken. It was the 65th minute before the
referee's tolerance was finally tested too far. Osgood and Bremner
tangled and when the Scot appeared to be hacking at the fallen
Chelsea man, the referee thought it worth only another cool glance.
So Hutchinson rushed up impetuously to push Bremner to the ground
and was cautioned. It was the only booking of the night.
Around the same time Harvey confirmed his worth as Sprake's deputy.
He had given a brave and effective performance whenever called
upon and his save from a close range Baldwin header after Madeley
had failed to prevent the opportunity was outstanding.
But Leeds still drove forward, pressing to increase their lead.
Hunter won a ball from a Chelsea defender 25 yards from the Blues'
goal line and slipped it to Gray out wide on the left. He flicked
it back to Cooper who played the ball forward and twisted and
turned round two defenders to catch it and loft over a cross from
the byline. Jones challenged a defender in the air and the ball
ran out to the edge of the area for the onrushing Giles to strike
low for the bottom corner. It was deflected by a Chelsea man and
scraped the post and the side netting with Bonetti stranded.
Cooper, as if intent on exorcising the ghost of Celtic's Jimmy
Johnstone and the personal nightmare that was the European Cup
semi final, was in superb attacking form throughout the game.
Moments later, he set off on another storming run through the
heart of the Chelsea defence to hammer a shot right-footed from
the edge of the area which Bonetti could only push away.
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Geoffrey Green: "By now Osgood, Cooke and Hollins had begun to
play beautifully, moving the ball smoothly in flowing moves of
unexpected angle. Suddenly, they began to burn some magic fuels.
Here was the echo of Wembley again. Having been largely overplayed
there for a long period, as now, they began to come at the right
moment. The change in the tide, and the feeling it communicated
to the packed company, gave out an intense radiation. It almost
dislocated the senses.
"Where once the great steam roller of Leeds had driven forward,
with Giles and Bremner putting Jones, Gray and Lorimer into full
stride, and with Clarke adding some highly cultured and sensitive
touches, it had all been one way. Now it was the elegant Osgood,
the elusive Cooke and the non-stop Hollins who oiled Chelsea's
wheels at last.
"With 10 minutes left they suddenly
were level. Theirs, too, was a beautiful goal: more complicated,
more finely ingrained, more liquid and created virtually out of
nothing. Here was the poetry of football and it came with a magical
exchange of passes between Hollins, Hutchinson, Osgood and then
the hard-running Cooke. Over came Cooke's perfect chip and there
was Osgood infiltrating from the left to the blind side to head
a magnificent goal."
There was a clear lack of concentration in United's defence;
Osgood found a huge gap with five United defenders stood round
him looking on and querying pathetically who was picking the striker
up. For a team with the mean defensive reputation of United, it
was an astonishing lapse.
Jack Charlton: "I blame myself for that goal. I'd been waiting
on their goal line for a corner kick when one of the Chelsea players
- someone who'd better remain nameless - whacked me in the thigh
with his knee. After the corner was cleared I started to chase
him, way over to the right. Then the ball was knocked in long
to our box and I started to run back, but I was still hobbling
after the whack in the thigh and I couldn't get there in time
to stop Peter Osgood heading his goal."
Charlton's defensive partner, Norman Hunter, writing in his autobiography,
also accepted the blame for allowing Osgood a free run, despite
a shouted warning from Paul Reaney from the sidelines.
In the normal time that remained there was some fierce and frenetic
action. Bremner was heavily involved: United had justifiable claims
for a penalty ignored when McCreadie appeared to be intent on
decapitating his Scottish international colleague.
For the umpteenth time Cooper went racing down the left wing
and lofted in a high centre. It bounced out from an aerial challenge
and McCreadie leapt up feet first into a wild and dangerous high
kick that took Bremner in the forehead. The Scot was left writhing
on the ground holding his head for what seemed an age.
Referee Jennings saw Cooper pick up the ball and shape for a
shot. He played advantage but none was taken as Chelsea blocked
the chance. Osgood and Hutchinson went away to fashion an opportunity
which ran narrowly wide of Harvey's post. Bremner required lengthy
treatment from trainer Les Cocker before he was anywhere near
fit to carry on.
Following that he tangled heavily with Hutchinson and received
a rebuke from Jennings; and finally he was sent crashing to the
ground as he raced in on goal, reacting angrily when more penalty
claims were refused.
Jones nearly snatched an injury time winner with a flying header
at a Lorimer cross
but the ball went narrowly wide.
210 minutes of football had failed to produce a decision and
the two teams thus had to line up for another 30 minutes of hard
Don Revie sought valiantly to rally his men to one last effort
in an extraordinary season, imploring them for one final push.
He got a response, despite the tired limbs and minds, but it was
the Londoners who rose to the occasion at the last to get their
noses in front.
One minute before the end of the first period of extra time,
Chelsea broke the deadlock, taking the lead for the first time
in this marathon contest.
The goal was created by one of Hutchinson's trademark whirlwind
long throws from Chelsea's left touchline 30 yards out. Charlton
met the ball at the front post but could only succeed in allowing
the ball to flick off his head in a lofty and inviting arc across
the face of his own goal. Harvey had tried to come through and
punch clear but couldn't find an avenue past Charlton. In the
melee that followed Webb rose above Gray and Cooper at the back
post to bundle the ball home with his head.
That reverse should have been enough to kill off any fight that
remained in the exhausted Leeds men, but they forced themselves
into a final throw of the dice, throwing everything into desperate,
headlong attack. It was a wild eyed attempt to claw something
from an amazing season that, when once so much glory had beckoned,
now promised to leave them empty handed.
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Osgood was replaced with eight minutes to go by Hinton as the
Londoners manned the defensive barricades, but he set up an opportunity
for Hutchinson before he departed, with Harvey left unprotected
as his team chased a late equaliser. Hutchinson put the chance
away but the goal was disallowed for offside.
That was a rare excursion upfield for Chelsea as virtually the
entire fifteen minutes were played out in and around the Londoners'
Leeds could not turn their late domination into a goal and were
left distraught at the end of four hours of combat. Charlton stormed
off the field ahead of anybody else - not bothering to collect
his runners up medal - furious that Leeds had lost. He said later,
"The disappointment was incredible. I went straight to the dressing
room and kicked open the door. I've never been more upset over
losing a game, maybe because it was partly my fault. Nobody else
came into the dressing room, and I just sat
there and sat there for ages, before all of a sudden the lads
started to drift in with their losers' medals. It was only then
I realised I hadn't collected my own medal. To this day I'm not
sure if I ever got it - though I suppose I must have done."
It was the most galling and inequitable of setbacks for a club
that had become hardened by a succession of near misses over the
previous six years.
The Yorkshire Post: "Victors take the plaudits, losers only consolation
in Cup football, but Leeds can draw justified solace from an unqualified
success last night - in their ability to entertain. Leeds' manager,
Don Revie, promised a more adventurous, more attractive Leeds
United at the start of the season and their last match bore indelible
testament to the fruition of his aim. Leeds went forward as though
they had never learned how to defend - by necessity in the final
analysis but from choice for most of the match - and wove into
their determination strains of admirable skill and invention from
Gray, Clarke, Bremner and Cooper.
"They had entertained magnificently; they had achieved more in
failure than most clubs in success, but the League championship
had eluded them, the European Cup had eluded them, and now the
FA Cup had slipped away. There is nothing so cruel as melted visions
of what might have been..."
Don Revie, clearly dejected after the game, admitted, "This is
the biggest disappointment of all. Coming after two defeats and
after we had put the pieces together it is bitterly disappointing
- more so for the players than for myself. I thought we played
as well in the first half as we did at Wembley, despite Chelsea's
tactical moves, and they didn't score until their first real attack.
"We were pushing the ball around well and might have had more
goals. Chelsea marked Eddie Gray much tighter this time but we
moved him inside and he got into the game. I have nothing but
admiration for the lads because this was their 64th game of the
season and everyone has been full of tension. They have worked
hard, trained hard and played well yet at the end of the road
there has been nothing for them.
"David Harvey did an excellent job for us. We have the type of
with the character to come back next season, and if anyone says
to me at the start of next season that we can finish second in
the League and runners up in the Cup final I will be well satisfied.
"I am sick and disappointed more for the players than for myself.
Now we'll have to start all over again. I think it was bound to
catch up on us. There have been no easy matches"
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "Leeds, like Sisyphus, have pushed
three boulders almost to the top of three mountains and are now
left to see them all back in the dark of the valley.
"Should it be any consolation to them, Leeds have now probably
won something more in defeat as good losers than they would have
done in many hours of victorious celebrating - universal public
sympathy. They have done their image good."
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