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Ray Crawford earned his status as one of the Football League's
greatest ever goalscorers with his deadly penalty area poaching
in the early 1960s. However, his page in the annals of the game
owes more to a display in a single FA Cup-tie one bleak Saturday
afternoon in the evening of his career, when he sparked one of
the greatest upsets in the history of the competition.
Born 13 July 1936 in Portsmouth, the son of a professional boxer,
Crawford joined his hometown club as a trainee in 1954. His first
team breakthrough was delayed by a spell of National Service in
Malaya, whence he earned his nickname of the Jungle Boy. It was
the start of the 1957/58 season before Crawford finally earned
his League debut, but he made up for lost time by scoring nine
goals in 19 games that campaign. His contribution helped Portsmouth
avoid relegation from the First Division by virtue only of a superior
goal average to that of Sunderland.
For Crawford, though, the immediate future lay in the lower division.
Former Spurs and England full-back Alf Ramsey was appointed manager
of struggling Ipswich Town in 1955 following their relegation
to the Third Division (South) and he arrested their slide, leading
them to the divisional championship in 1957.
Ramsey earmarked Crawford as the man to help Town cement their
Second Division status and he obliged with 25 goals in 1958/59.
Fellow striker Ted Phillips missed most of that season through
injury, but when the duo came together as a regular pairing in
1959/60 they netted 42 goals between them. Town went on to secure
the Second Division championship in 1961 - Crawford's 40 goals
and 30 from Phillips represented the lion's share of the exact
century of League goals notched by the Tractor Boys.
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Most critics confidently predicted that Ipswich would struggle
in the top flight but they took the division by storm. They ended
the season as surprise champions, with Crawford netting 33 times
and Phillips chipping in with 28. That level of productivity earned
Crawford two full England caps. He scored once, but was never
given the chance to add to his meagre collection, though he did
win Football League representative honours.
He contributed another 33 League goals in 1962/63, topping that
off with five in Town's European Cup debut, a 10-0 victory over
Floriana of Malta. However, by the beginning of the following
campaign, both Ramsey and Crawford had departed Suffolk, the manager
to coach the national team and the forward signing for Wolves.
He had scored 143 goals in 197 games for Town.
Crawford made 61 appearances for Wanderers over the next couple
of years, amassing 41 goals in the process, before moving on to
Black Country rivals West Bromwich Albion in January 1965. He
was at the Hawthorns for just
over a season and then returned to Ipswich.
He remained at Portman Road for three more years, lifting his
overall goal tally for the club to a record 259. In March 1969
he joined Second Division Charlton Athletic and then dropped into
the Southern League for a period at Kettering Town.
Crawford was now 34, and it was widely anticipated that he would
eke out his playing days in obscurity, but Dick Graham, manager
of Fourth Division Colchester United, had other ideas. He gave
the veteran striker the chance for a final hurrah, snapping him
up in a £3,000 deal in June 1970.
Graham was a football man through and through. His playing days
as a goalkeeper were spent in relative obscurity with Northampton
Town, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, though he went on to
serve as a trainer at West Bromwich Albion throughout the 1950s.
He cut his managerial teeth at Crystal Palace in the early 60s,
before brief spells at Leyton Orient and Walsall and a sojourn
in Greek football. He took over at Colchester in 1968 when Neil
Franklin was sacked following the club's relegation from Division
Three. Colchester finished sixth at the end of the new man's first
season at the helm.
Graham had a predilection for experienced players and it was
not for nothing that Colchester were dubbed "Grandad's Army".
Crawford was 35, but three of his new colleagues were even older,
while more than half of the side would never see 30 again. Graham
knew what he was doing, however, and his collection of veterans
spent the season pushing hard in the upper reaches of the table.
However, thoughts of promotion were temporarily shelved as Colchester
unexpectedly reached the fifth round of the FA Cup. Their run
had started with a 5-0 victory against non-League Ringmer in the
first round, which owed much to a hat trick by Crawford. In the
fourth round against Rochdale, Colchester were 3-1 down with five
minutes to go before securing the draw and going through after
a replay. That earned them a plum tie, at home to mighty Leeds
United, then top of the League and hot favourites to win the Cup.
The Times: "Graham has never had a free hand and a deep purse.
His greatest value lies in his ability to make a little available
talent go a long way. The most he ever paid for a player was £20,000
and most of them cost less than £7,000 or were on free transfer.
His policy has always been to obtain players he knows, which is
why so many have rejoined him whenever he has moved. He has rarely
had petty cash to speculate on players and the hard facts of football
life in the lower divisions have convinced him that the right
player for the right task is the realistic approach.
"There are other familiar names at the small Layer Road ground.
Bobby Cram was with Graham when he was assisting Vic Buckingham
at West Bromwich Albion. Cram was brought back from Vancouver
after playing in the American League and now lives next door to
the Colchester ground. John Gilchrist served Millwall well; Brian
Garvey was with Watford. But Colchester's forward line was ripped
open earlier this season when Massey and Owen were injured. Graham
spent £10,000 on urgent repairs, buying Brian Lewis from Oxford
United, and Dave Simmons of Aston Villa, both of whom played important
roles in the 5-0 win over Rochdale in the fourth round. Lewis
was with Graham at Crystal Palace."
Graham had been a team mate of Leeds
manager Don Revie's when the two were players at Leicester
City in the post war years. They had lined up against each other
as opposing managers in the Cup once before, back in 1965, when
it was Palace who sought to spring a shock. Then, Graham had tried
a number of psychological tricks: in those days, the number on
a player's shirt was a fair indication of where he was going to
play, but on this occasion Graham mixed up the numbers in the
hope of gaining a temporary advantage by leaving Leeds uncertain
as to who was playing in which position. Graham also directed
his men to rough up United, a team then renowned themselves for
mastery of such tactics. The move backfired badly and Palace were
At the time of the Colchester contest, Leeds were carrying all
before them in the race for the championship, and few people doubted
that Colchester would be easily disposed of. "Indeed," according
to Jason Tomas, "they were given
so little chance of victory that there was talk of switching the
tie to Elland Road, where the Essex club would, at least, be guaranteed
a reasonable financial reward."
Privately, though, as Andrew Mourant wrote, "Revie had professed
some unease, and his disquiet had a habit of being transmitted
to players. Whereas Leeds United's expedition
to Sutton the previous season had had the air of a state visit,
Fourth Division Colchester turned out to be startlingly disrespectful."
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The minnows were brimming over with confidence: Ray Crawford
boasted that he always played well against Jack
Charlton. In a newspaper article during the week he described
the big centre-half as his 'Rabbit's Foot'.
The striker remarked in later years: "We were fit and well prepared,
and on our tight pitch, we had a chance. I don't think the Leeds
players were mentally up for it ... Dick Graham was really clever.
He knew Leeds liked to play on wide open spaces and he made our
tight pitch feel smaller by placing chairs and benches round the
edges! ... Graham reckoned Gary Sprake was vulnerable coming for
crosses and basically that's what we tried to exploit."
Sprake was pilloried after United's defeat at home to Liverpool
the previous weekend, with fans and reporters widely blaming him
for the goal that won the game for the Reds. He spilled Phil Boersma's
shot as he collided with Paul Reaney, allowing John Toshack to
Don Revie defended Sprake stoutly in public after the game, saying,
"He's still the best for me in spite of what our crowd may feel
... The sort of treatment Gary came in for from some of our spectators
on Saturday was sickening."
According to Terry Yorath in his autobiography, however, away
from the public's gaze, Revie was critical: "He looked at Sprakey,
who wasn't in the best of form, and said, 'Gary, this is your
last chance!' Now I don't know if this was meant to gee up Sprakey,
but if it was, it didn't work."
Leeds had to face Colchester without skipper Billy Bremner and
Eddie Gray, both injured; Mick Bates and the versatile Paul Madeley
continued at No's 4 and 11, while centre-half Jack Charlton returned
after a fortnight out with a broken nose.
Striker Allan Clarke was also passed fit to play, despite having
a temperature of 106 overnight. Reserve striker Rod
Belfitt was rushed down by taxi from Leeds on the morning
of the game as a precaution, though it was Yorath who was named
Clarke: "I shouldn't have travelled. At the hotel I went straight
to bed; I had no strength at all. The gaffer sent for a doctor
and I was given an injection, which knocked me out until Saturday
morning. When I woke up I did feel better but my ribs were really
painful whenever I breathed in ... I wasn't
right but when the gaffer wanted you to play, you did, and we
all played through the pain barrier many times. How I got through
the match I'm not sure ... On the way back I still wasn't feeling
too good before the gaffer told me I'd done really well because
I had pleurisy. I was stunned, but I still played the following
The game started in scrappy fashion, with neither team taking
any risks, though Leeds tried to adopt their normal cultured game.
Colchester refused to allow them to settle and there were a number
of physical clashes in the opening minutes: in the fourth minute,
Bates needed attention from trainer Les Cocker after getting a
knock on the head; two minutes later Norman Hunter tangled angrily
with Dave Simmons after the pair went for an aerial ball; then
Sprake was taken out in the box as he caught a lofted free kick
from Colchester skipper Bobby Cram.
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Amidst all the chaos, Clarke should have given the visitors the
lead. For a man under the weather, he was showing some decent
early touches, but he uncharacteristically missed a chance from
the heart of the penalty area.
Colchester refused to be overawed and fashioned some openings
of their own. After eleven minutes, Brian Lewis and Mick Mahon
combined in a neat passing move to cut through the Leeds rearguard.
Mahon was left with a clean run at Sprake, but the keeper dashed
out to end the danger at the expense of a corner.
That was only the start of the problems as Colchester mercilessly
harried the Whites' defence. Albert Barham in the Guardian: "Leeds,
on a day when capricious
wind made control on this small, compact pitch difficult, were
unbelievably bad. There were disastrous mistakes by Charlton -
'Go on, Ray, you can beat that old big head' - and Crawford, urged
on by the crowd, did just that - often. Sprake was unsure, and
the two England backs, Reaney and Cooper, were, as they say in
soccer dressing rooms, 'taken to the cleaners'.
"That having been recorded, nothing must detract from Colchester's
merit ... They harassed Leeds. Cram, who later had his name taken
for a foul on Clarke, Gilchrist, Garvey and especially Kurilla
gave them no time to settle. They struck the ball firmly forward
where the raiding Hall, Lewis, fleeing down the wing, the burly
Simmons, and Mahon snapped like terriers at the heels of Leeds
as they made the passes to Crawford.
"There was no pretence to finesse or ball holding. It was full
steam ahead. It was the right tactics on the day; any other and
they faced crucifixion. What matter there were no elegant flowing
moves when Leeds were undone by the simple high pass into the
After 18 minutes, the impossible happened: the home men took
the lead to prompt fervent celebrations among the supporters.
From a free kick out wide on the left by Lewis, Leeds defenders
were caught napping. Sprake misjudged the swirling ball in the
strong wind and it sailed beyond him to the back post. No United
man tracked Crawford as he ran into space to rise and flick the
ball home with his head.
If that was an eye opener, the second goal in the 25th minute
shook Leeds to the core. Colchester midfielder Brian Gibbs lobbed
the ball to the heart of the area from the right. Crawford rose
to meet it with Reaney, but both men fell to the surface as the
ball ran free. Sprake came out to clear things up, but it was
Crawford who reacted more quickly than anyone, instinctively flicking
out at the ball from his prone position to send it trickling in
off the past, "watched by a forlorn and statuesque Charlton".
2-0, and few would dispute that Colchester were worthy of their
advantage. They were still a couple ahead at the break, having
nullified any threat from United, and they continued to spread
panic among the Leeds rearguard.
It was generally expected that Don Revie would shake
his men out of their torpor during the break, but Colchester were
unperturbed. With ten minutes of the second period gone, they
were three ahead.
The ball was launched from the halfway line, out on the right
touchline. It flew towards the edge of the United area for Reaney
and Simmons to chase. Sprake rashly came racing out in an attempt
to clear his lines. Reaney hesitated momentarily as he saw his
keeper advancing and the two Leeds men ended up running into each
other. Simmons capitalised on the confusion to outjump both of
them and nod the bouncing ball into the unguarded net.
That sparked excited scenes of joy on all sides of the tiny Layer
Road ground as Simmons basked in the adulation of the cheering
But now, when all seemed lost, United rallied fiercely. Throwing
Charlton forward as an auxiliary attacker, they penned the home
men deep into their own half. Hunter ("the one man with a vestige
of northern defiance still flickering", according to Geoffrey
Green in the Times) was also on constant attack and launched himself
at a Lorimer corner to loop a header into the net. 3-1, with half
an hour yet to play.
There were still 17 minutes remaining when Jones showed neat
footwork in the D to push the ball through a forest of legs and
find Giles in space on the edge of the box. The little Irishman
flashed home the second goal to leave Colchester tottering on
the precipice of surrendering their hard won advantage.
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Leeds now had the scent of redemption in their nostrils. They
flew headlong at their opponents in a last ditch attempt to rescue
the game. They had finally found their form and were playing the
ball around with their normal nonchalance and finding space and
time. It was evident, though, that desperation permeated every
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "What followed had us chewing our
fingers to the bone while Leeds belatedly rose from their bed
of nails ... all at once the future was trembling in the balance.
How Colchester hung on at the finish only they will know. Those
dying minutes were an eternity as Leeds, at last with a controlled
ferocity, sought salvation. But they were denied it - and rightly
- by one final, marvellous reflex save by Smith as he dived on
a point blank shot from Jones after a fast, low centre by Lorimer
flew across the goalmouth.
"Had Colchester been robbed then it would have been a tragedy.
Until their legs understandably began to wilt over the last furlong,
all the glory was theirs for a 101 per cent team effort, in which
the frills of football took second place to an honest, straightforward
approach, with the ball hunted every yard of the way.
"Whether Bremner's presence would have rescued the giants we
cannot know. But never before have I seen the Leeds defence -
Hunter excepted - so rattled and bemused. Alarming gaps appeared
as fast, long passes were sprayed up front for Crawford and others
to chase. It was this ceaseless harrying at speed that took Charlton
and the rest apart. It is no exaggeration to say Colchester might
well have scored five or even six. As it was, Crawford again put
the Indian sign on Leeds. Beginning with three goals one afternoon,
a few years ago, he now brought his personal bag against them
Many people cited the tightness and bumpiness of the playing
surface and the vicious wind as reasons for Leeds' inadequacies,
but Norman Hunter told Phil Brown of the Yorkshire Evening Post
later, "I never noticed it once and I'm sure the other lads didn't.
It wasn't because of that." In later years, however,
he admitted that he had looked with apprehension at the surroundings
when he came out and whispered to Jack Charlton that this would
not be easy.
Brown wrote after the game: "Colchester won because they had
the sharper attack and the sturdier defence ... United seemed
completely bewildered. They had never played so poorly as a team,
remembering the calibre of the opposition, nor, excepting Cooper,
Hunter and Giles, as poorly as individuals. Personally I feel
United's defence in their box needs overhauling. It was at sea
each time Colchester scored, and only a bad bounce stopped veteran
Crawford from a hat trick. Yet he is 35 in July, and a stone and
a half heavier than when he last played against United."
Don Revie was beside himself with anger at the paucity of United's
display, but publicly he acknowledged the home side's display,
saying: "Colchester won because they deserved to and we salute
them on a great performance, but Leeds were beaten mainly because
we gave away three goals through elementary errors in defence,
and adopted the wrong attitude towards the tie.
"Although Colchester don't possess Leeds' individual skill, they
made up for this by 100 per cent physical endeavour, making it
hard for our players to settle on the ball and express themselves
... We should have got down to Colchester's level in the first
half, concentrated on wearing them down physically before producing
our skill. Had Leeds done this, I doubt whether Colchester would
have posed a serious threat. Instead, the Leeds players tried
to play it around from the start, and were bustled out of their
"Frankly, I don't know why we slumped. I don't think anybody
does. Our players are all complete professionals and I don't think
such matters as the strangeness and the smallness of the ground
at Colchester or the closeness of the crowd had anything to do
with their defeat. I have not had a single complaint about either."
Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson: "Leeds' downfall prompted an outburst
of national rejoicing … 'The rest of English soccer could join
Colchester in celebrating the new-found truth that the last dregs
of romance have not been drained from this competition,' opined
a breathless Daily Telegraph. 'Leeds had used familiar tactics:
tackles had been ruthless, fouls stealthy and sophisticated. In
these drab days when a footballer's action seems always to be
prompted by cold, commercial instinct, it was the first breath
of spring to watch the Colchester players galloping over to their
manager and lift him high at the final whistle.' For the Leeds
supporter it was a game to be spoken of only in whispers."
Goalkeeper Gary Sprake was to receive the brunt of the post match
criticism. He later defended himself thus: "In the memoirs of
my colleagues it seems that I was the only one that played badly
but I remember it differently
... When I made a mistake and it was costly I have held my hands
up but against Colchester it was collectively a poor defensive
performance. I should have done better on the first goal but it
was certainly not a clear mistake that cost a goal and the other
goals were down to poor defending by Jack Charlton and Paul Reaney.
"It has been said that after this game Revie blamed me and I
was dropped but again this is not the truth. We were all bollocked
by Revie and in training the following week it was really competitive
and in one practice match I was caught on the hand and had to
have several stitches, which put me out of the game for over a
Wherever the fault for the result lay, the game was widely acknowledged
as the biggest upset in the FA Cup since Third Division Walsall
beat mighty Arsenal in 1933, when the Gunners were on the way
to the championship. This match retains its place as one of the
darkest days in the history of Leeds United and that status is
unlikely ever to change.
In the sharpest of contrasts, for Ray Crawford, it will remain
the game of his life, a glorious event that catapulted him back
into the national headlines. He said many years later, when remembering
the day for the Times, "I've had so many good invitations and
mileage from that game, it's unbelievable. Even now, people regularly
come up to me and say, 'Are you the Ray Crawford?'"
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