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The relationship between the football establishment
and Don Revie's Leeds United
was always a fractious one. After the
club won promotion to the First Division in 1964, they were
branded 'Dirty Leeds' when the Football Association singled them
out as "the club in the Football League with the worst record
last season for players cautioned, censured, fined or suspended."
The figures took into account all the various teams
operated by a club - from first team to youth side, as Revie was
at pains to point out. "We did not have a single first team player
sent off last season and we had only one suspended, Billy Bremner,
after a series of cautions, which is a lot more than many clubs
can say. The majority of our offences were committed by junior
second team players or boys."
The FA were presented with another opportunity to
make an example of United in 1971 following the
club's controversial game against West Bromwich Albion on April
At the time, United were locked in a race for the
title with Arsenal and badly needed the points to bolster their
challenge. After falling a goal behind, they were pressing furiously
for a second half equaliser when disaster struck. With a linesman
frenetically flagging for offside, referee Ray Tinkler waved play
on as Albion broke away. The official awarded a goal when Jeff
Astle slid the ball home. The decision sparked a furore; irate
supporters poured onto the playing surface to protest at the injustice
and matters threatened to get seriously out of hand.
Revie and United chairman Percy Woodward spoke in
emotive terms after the game, apparently endorsing the crowd's
misbehaviour. Woodward had claimed there was "every justification"
for the anger, while Revie said, "I regret the crowd scenes like
anybody else, but I can understand why they cut loose."
Leeds city councillor Bernard Atha, a former deputy
chairman of the local Watch Committee, said of Woodward: "I think
it is a disgrace that any member of the Watch Committee or anyone
concerned with law and order should make a comment that there
was every justification for an act of hooliganism and almost barbarism."
The Leeds police joint branch board had commented: "The problem
of keeping soccer violence in check is difficult enough without
the impression being given that crowds have a right in protesting
violently against an unpopular decision."
A disciplinary commission was appointed to conduct
an inquiry into the events and they reached their verdict on 10
June, as reported in the Times: "The Football Association announced
yesterday that Elland Road, home of Leeds United, the Fairs Cup-holders,
will be closed from August 14 to September 4. Leeds United, who
must now find another venue for their first four home League games,
were also fined £500 by the FA disciplinary commission and their
manager, Don Revie, and chairman, Alderman Percy Woodward, were
severely censured regarding press statements following the game."
Geoffrey Green took up the story: "This means that
another ground must be found by Leeds
for that period - not less than a distance of 12 miles' radius
under FA Rule 38 - to accommodate the opening four games on their
fixture card against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur,
Newcastle United and Crystal Palace. Should the gate receipts
at any of those matches fall below the Elland Road average, the
opposing club must be paid the equivalent compensation.
"None of this is new. Leeds, in fact, have now become
the fourth club to be punished in this way since the war. Yet
in this case it is not so much the inconvenience, the possible
revenue involved, or the loss of home advantage in a playing sense
that will bite deep, but the stigma attached.
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"Since pushing their way to the forefront over the
past seven seasons, they have fought hard in recent years to improve
their public image on and off the field and have largely succeeded
in their aims, particularly priding themselves on one of the better
behaved band of supporters. Now a spanner has been thrown in their
works. The trouble has been caused by no more than some 50 or
so firebrands from the terraces who could not accept defeat, howeyer
unpalatable and debatable, at a critical stage of the race for
the League title with Arsenal.
"It was a situation thought by the FA committee
to have been further aggravated by the attitude of the Leeds players
themselves towards the referee, Mr Tinkler, and one of his linesmen
when feelings were running high.
"However, I suspect that this verdict is aimed primarily
at the Leeds chairman, Mr Percy Woodward, and the manager, Mr
Don Revie, for their unwise, bitter public statements on television
and otherwise, made thoughtlessly at the time, before allowing
the dust to settle. Their subsequent explanations and apologies
have since been accepted, but both are now severely reprimanded
for bringing the game into disrepute.
"It is all intended as a stern warning to football
as a whole and underlines the desire of the FA to support and
protect referees in a thankless task, which only tends to become
At first, the club tried to come to an understanding
with their opponents and rearrange the relevant fixtures for later
in the season, thus getting round the sanction; though it seemed
their manoeuvring might bear fruit, it quickly became clear that
United would have to toe the line. They were eventually forced
to concede defeat and seek support from Yorkshire neighbours to
stage the four matches.
Their first two games ended in drab draws, 0-0 against
Wolves at Leeds Road, Huddersfield, on 21 August and 1-1 with
Tottenham at Boothferry Park, Hull, four days later. With those
results following on a shock 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United, fault
lines were showing in United's title challenge.
On Wednesday, September 1, Leeds faced the third
of their 'home' fixtures, against Newcastle United at Sheffield
Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium. A 2-0 victory away to Ipswich
Town on 28 August had brought some relief, but Leeds badly needed
another win to get their season back on track.
If they were to succeed against the Geordies, they
would have to do so without the injured Mick Jones and Eddie Gray.
They were otherwise at full strength; Rod
Belfitt continued to cover for Jones and the versatile Paul
Madeley was deployed in midfield.
Newcastle came to Sheffield in poor form, with a
single victory from their five games. They were
hopeful, though, of adding to Leeds' problems with former United
midfielder Terry Hibbitt
and £180,000 centre-forward Malcolm Macdonald eager to impress
in the colours of their new club.
Macdonald had been a prolific goalscorer with Second
Division Luton Town and had marked his St James' Park debut on
August 21 by crashing home a hat trick against Liverpool in a
memorable 3-2 victory. While going for a fourth, Supermac had
collided in mid air with keeper Ray Clemence, losing his front
teeth in the process. He was stretchered out of the action to
rapturous applause from the Geordie fans. From that moment on,
he was the idol of the Toon Army.
Hibbitt had moved to Newcastle in a £30,000 deal
on 9 August in pursuit of regular first team football after years
of bit part appearances with Leeds. Ivan Ponting in the Independent:
"Hibbitt made his Magpies debut on the same day as Macdonald and
immediately the two men struck up a rapport. The schemer's sweeping,
perceptive passing offered ready ammunition for the explosive
Supermac to fire and the upshot was half a decade of memorably
The crowd of 18,623 at Hillsborough was lost in
a stadium that in those days could accommodate around 50,000 spectators
(meaning that Leeds would need to compensate Newcastle to the
tune of around £2,000). As Barry Foster reported in the Yorkshire
Post, "There was a practice match atmosphere as Newcastle kicked
off. The ground was less than half full and one wondered if the
players would be able to raise their game with so little encouragement."
Foster had no need to worry, for Leeds demonstrated with some
alacrity that rumours of their demise had been greatly exaggerated.
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According to Foster, they "immediately slipped into
a brand of cultured attacking play which quickly had McFaul under
heavy pressure. It was good, clean stuff, with the eager way in
which everyone found and used space a telling factor in Leeds'
United forced a corner within 90 seconds and a minute
later they opened the scoring. They had won a second flag kick,
and Johnny Giles played it short to Paul Reaney on the edge of
the area. With a smart piece of opportunism, Jack
Charlton diverted the full-back's shot past goalkeeper Iam
McFaul and into the net.
After such a bright start, the Leeds supporters
expected their favourites to overwhelm Newcastle,
but they had a while to wait for a second goal. The Geordies,
in fact, came close to an equaliser; Macdonald was unlucky not
to score after a strong run down the left, but his powerful drive
struck Gary Sprake's right hand post.
Seconds before the break, Leeds made it 2-0. Newcastle
midfielder Tommy Cassidy sought to feed a team mate in midfield,
but had something of a brainstorm. He was woefully inaccurate
with his pass and only succeeded in serving the ball up to Peter
Lorimer, who drove home from fully 25 yards.
The half time advantage gave the Whites the foundation
for a second half charge.
After 59 minutes Newcastle skipper Bobby Moncur
fouled Billy Bremner in the area, though there were accusations
that the Leeds captain made the most of the contact with a theatrical
dive. Giles sent McFaul the wrong way from the penalty spot and
Leeds were three ahead.
Before long Paul Madeley had increased the advantage,
scoring after Newcastle struggled to clear a Lorimer corner.
Around the 75th minute, Newcastle pulled one goal
back when a shot from Tommy Gibb struck Norman Hunter. Sprake
looked to have the original effort well covered but he was helpless
as it was diverted into the net.
There was to be no Newcastle comeback and Terry
Yorath added a fifth for Leeds after coming on as substitute for
Rod Belfitt. According to Barry Foster, it was "one of the best
moves of the night. Yorath started the move near his own penalty
area. The ball was transferred from Madeley to Giles, who centred
it at the right moment for the young wing-half to blast the ball
into Newcastle's net from close range."
The 5-1 victory saw United climb to second in the
table behind pace setters Sheffield United and represented their
best score since routing Sparta Prague 6-0 in the Fairs Cup in
December 1970. They had not managed five in the League since February
1970 when they had given West Bromwich Albion a drubbing.
It was a masterful and dominant display, as described
by Paul Fitzpatrick in the Guardian: "Last night they achieved
emphatic victory. They gave Newcastle a pounding: and they also
gave warning that any talk of their being in decline is ludicrously
"Leeds were not, perhaps, at their very best, but
they were not far short of it. Bremner, who in thought and action
was light years ahead of most others on the pitch, and Giles,
who seems to have fully recovered his assurance and appetite for
the game, controlled the middle of the field with a subtlety and
brilliance that was nothing short of inspiring. Repeatedly, the
Newcastle defence was stretched by the
length and accuracy of their passes, and repeatedly were bewildered
by the changes of pace and direction of the midfield pair.
"Bremner uses the length and breadth of the field
to air his talent, and last night those talents looked to be equal
to anyone's in the game. If Newcastle had been playing Bremner
on his own, they would have had their hands full, but Leeds carried
far too much power all round for a Newcastle team of spirit, but
nothing like enough imagination or forward strength to upset Charlton
"The second half was embarrassingly one sided. Driven
forward by the ubiquitous Bremner, Leeds tormented Newcastle mercilessly
... Mr Kirkpatrick, the referee ... was moved to join in the standing
ovation for Leeds at the end."
After such a lamentable start to the season, this
was a real fillip for United. Three days later they won their
final game in exile, beating Crystal Palace 2-0 at Huddersfield
Town's Leeds Road, to maintain their momentum.
The Whites struggled to sustain the excellence of
their display against Newcastle with any consistency, but the
game provided ample evidence that they still had what it takes
to mount a serious challenge for the League title.
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