The Spring of 1972 saw Leeds United scale new heights
with a series of fantastic displays which earned them the nickname
'Super Leeds'; most football followers are able to recall the
heavy defeats inflicted on Manchester United
and Southampton, but the FA Cup quarter
final with Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road was, in some ways,
just as momentous an occasion.
The other games had been one-sided affairs with
United blitzing hapless opponents: Spurs promised to be more of
a threat and there was the prize of a semi final awaiting the
victors. Nevertheless, Leeds were imperious and in truth they
battered Tottenham despite the narrowness of the final margin.
Another memorable feature of the day was the introduction
of United's pre-match routine, the gimmickery of which was as
much a hallmark of 'Super Leeds' in 1972 as their spectacular
Spectators were streaming into the ground for nearly
two hours prior to kick off and United were given a terrific reception
when they came out twenty minutes before the start to limber up
under the watchful eye of trainer Les Cocker. They were wearing
new tracksuits, each bearing the individual name of its wearer,
and numbered and autographed stocking tags which they would hand
out to supporters after the final whistle.
Cocker took the players through a display of calisthenics
and ball skills, as reported by Don Warters in the Yorkshire Evening
Post: "Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles and Eddie Gray demonstrating
ball control; Peter Lorimer trying out his cannon ball shooting
power from the halfway line; Gary Sprake testing his reflexes
by throwing the ball against a post and saving the rebounds.
"These are some of the ideas Leeds United have for
extending the scope of their highly popular pre-match warm up,
which provided such an exciting curtain raiser to the Spurs Cup-tie.
United have had little hesitation in giving the all clear for
the continuation of these continental style displays."
Don Revie told
Warters, "Obviously we shall change our routine and it is our
intention to let the fans see what individual skills we possess
in all departments of the game... In addition, we shall continue
to give away the autographed stocking tabs after each game...
In other words, we hope to make the fans feel as important to
us as we hope the team are to them. We have a great team here
and we have some fine supporters, too, so anything we can do to
forge closer links between the two we shall attempt... Supporters
are very much a part of any club, and it is important that they
feel this. After all, they are the people who pay us our wages,
and I think it is
important that they associate themselves with the players.
"It would be great to see us average between 43,000
and 45,000 each home match, for the more support we get the better
chance we have of making Elland Road the finest club stadium in
the North and perhaps the country."
Terry Brindle in the Yorkshire Post: "On the eve
of his 11th year at Elland Road, Don Revie feels the time has
come to bury, once and for all, Leeds United's lingering reputation
as a 'method' side, a reputation which undervalues the extraordinary
depth of individual talent at the club.
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"At the same time, Revie had set himself the task
of expanding and deepening United's relations with their fans.
'They have been absolutely tremendous this season and everybody
at the club is delighted with our support. We want to show them
just how much we value the packed attendances of recent weeks
and the fact that they are right behind us,' said Revie last night.
"First steps in the creation of United's new image
were taken on Saturday when Leeds met Spurs in the FA Cup sixth
round. United took the field 20 minutes early, acknowledged the
support of the fans and then gave a demonstration of loosening
exercises led by their trainer, Les Cocker.
"The second part of Revie's blueprint for the future
- a new spotlight on the individuality of his players - was indicated
at the end of the tie when United's players threw into the crowd
autographed number tabs from their stockings. During the pre-match
warm up players wore individually named tracksuit tops.
"'For a long time, Leeds United have been described
as a team that works hard, that is well disciplined, that has
a machine like quality. What has been grossly underplayed is the
tremendous individual ability in the side,' said Revie. 'We have
the Welsh international goalkeeper, the Scottish captain, one
of the greatest characters in the game at centre-half. We have
individuals of the highest ability and flair - and they have not
been getting the credit they deserve. Every one of our players
is really talented and I want to see that talent recognised. I
feel that the crowd want to identify with the players and we want
everyone to feel they are part of the club and of its greatness.'
"United now plan more pre-match entertainment for
their supporters and are taking advice from a Public Relations
expert (Paul Trevillion). 'We have not hired a PR firm to advise
us in the proper sense, this is an individual who gives us some
guidance,' said Revie.
"After 11 years during which United have done most
of their talking on the field, the trend towards showbiz did not
come easily for everyone. Jack
Charlton played the first few minutes of the match in an undervest
until his shirt was brought from the dressing room. In putting
on his named tracksuit top, he had forgotten to put on his shirt."
The showmanship brought other benefits: the ticket
prices had been increased by 50% for the game, but there was still
a crowd of virtually 44,000 in the stadium at kick off time.
Don Revie had a full squad to choose from for the
game, and reverted
to his customary selection of the time, with Paul Madeley at right-back
and Paul Reaney sitting on the bench.
Spurs manager Bill Nicholson opted for the determination
and defensive steel of John Pratt in midfield in preference to
the attacking qualities of former Burnley star Ralph Coates who
he named as sub. Tottenham fielded their star-studded forward
line of Gilzean, Perryman, Chivers, Peters and Morgan, though
it was Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings who took the honours
for the visitors on the day.
United began the contest on the offensive with Peter
Lorimer and Madeley taking the ball on, but Mike England was nicely
placed to clear the Scot's centre before it could reach Mick Jones.
Billy Bremner created another opening when he sent over a centre
from the right. Allan Clarke was waiting but it was Eddie Gray
who got his head to it, nodding the ball against the crossbar.
Leeds continued to press and Clarke was only just wide with a
shot from 10 yards before England headed away from Jones.
With eleven minutes gone, Spurs finally got out
of their own half, Cyril Knowles feeding Tottenham skipper Martin
Peters, whose shot from six yards was turned behind by Gary Sprake.
That was a rare excursion into the United half by
the visitors and Leeds were soon back to test Jennings, who dived
to turn away a great shot on the turn from Jones, fingertipping
the ball over the bar. Seconds later the keeper went full length
again to touch a low shot from Terry Cooper away for another flag
kick. Clarke came close with a shot from a narrow angle which
went across goal and then Gray chipped over from a similarly challenging
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Spurs were creaking under the United pressure and
the game threatened to boil over with a succession of irritable
incidents. Knowles felled Lorimer and then Bremner lunged in on
Phil Beal. When Bremner was sent crashing as he went through,
felled by a challenge from Knowles, he gave a display of amateur
dramatics to ensure he was awarded the free kick. Centre-half
England took great exception to the histrionics and attempted
to drag the Scot to his feet by his shirt. Other players rushed
to join in as Bremner sought retribution. Referee Jack Taylor
looked to calm things down with bookings for both England and
the home supporters howled their displeasure at the caution for
the home captain.
Leeds continued to press with Jones shooting wide
when nicely placed, but five minutes before the break it was the
visitors who opened the scoring, much to United's surprise.
Steve Perryman fed John Pratt out wide on the left.
As Knowles overlapped, the midfielder cut inside and curled in
a hopeful long ball from 30 yards, in search of Martin Chivers
and Alan Gilzean. Sprake saw it coming, but hesitated fatefully,
assuming that either the strikers would get to it or Charlton
or Hunter would clear it away. The ball beat everyone and flew
on untouched into the far corner of the net with the flat footed
keeper making a late, desperate attempt to save. It was a poor
goal to concede.
A Tottenham lead at the break would have been an
injustice, and United drew level a minute before the whistle.
They swept into massed attack and shots rained in on a packed
area. Lorimer sent the ball in, Gray touched it to the onrushing
Bremner, but the Scot's shot was saved by Jennings. Cooper tried
again but the ball was partially blocked and bobbled on across
goal. Allan Clarke, the opportunist supreme, was able to reach
the loose ball two yards out and force it over the line as he
twisted into a shot. It was no more than the home side deserved.
The second half began with some end to end football:
Jones was caught offside just a yard into the Spurs half and the
long free kick put United's defence in trouble. With Sprake out
of position, Hunter had to be cool to bring the ball clear of
danger. United came away again and Lorimer headed over from Cooper's
centre. Then Hunter was forced to clear an awkward bouncing ball
in the middle of United's goal as Peters prepared to pounce.
In the 48th minute, United were awarded a free kick
when a decent run by
Cooper was brought to an abrupt halt ten yards outside the Spurs
box by Peters' illegal challenge. Charlton rose splendidly to
meet Bremner's free kick and nodded powerfully past Jennings.
It was the simplest of goals, but totally unstoppable.
Clarke continued to show sharpness and it was his
skill and speed which opened the Spurs rearguard when he raced
into position to square the ball across goal. Fortunately for
the visitors there was no Leeds man in attendance to take advantage.
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As United pressed strongly, Jones was thwarted by
the brilliance of Jennings once more as the keeper rose to tip
his effort over the bar.
Some of the referee's decisions had mystified the
crowd and United wasted a good opportunity when Gray wriggled
through only to be pulled back. He stopped, anticipating a free
kick, but referee Taylor waved play on.
A Charlton header zipped inches over the bar as
United pounded away and after 71 minutes Spurs brought Coates
on for Peters in search of an equaliser.
It made no difference, with Leeds continuing to
do all the running and Bremner and Jones forced further saves
out of Jennings. They had already done enough and merely had to
see time out to secure the victory and a place in the last four.
With eleven minutes remaining, Don Revie brought
on Paul Reaney for Cooper, who was feeling a knock. Lorimer was
stretchered off in the closing seconds with a leg injury. These
were rare issues for Leeds on a day when they touched perfection.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "In the second half,
Jennings made great saves from Jones, Giles and Bremner, but Sprake's
uncertainty when Tottenham rallied near the end embarrassed his
colleagues and the partisans. Still all was well and Leeds were
through by a nonsensical margin.
"On this form, Leeds are irresistible. They have
some outstanding individuals - Madeley alone is worth £300,000
of anybody's money - and when those individuals put the team before
self aggrandisement and pool their assets, the result is awesome.
As a Leodiensian, I shall again be accused of bias. That being
so, I quote the opinion of one London journalist: 'I've never
seen Tottenham so outclassed.'
"England and Beal tried harder than most to stem
the relentless tide, but Jennings took most of the honours for
Tottenham. Some talk of Alex Stepney and others of Gordon Banks,
yet of all the goalkeepers Leeds have met over the years, Jennings
must head the list of those whom they respect the most. If Jennings
had been available on that memorable occasion when the Romans
met the Etruscans, Horatius surely would have had to be satisfied
with a seat on the substitutes' bench."
Don Warters in the Evening Post: "Had it not been
for the amazing agility of Jennings, who confessed afterwards
that he enjoys the challenge of playing in the North and particularly
at Elland Road, Billy Bremner's pre-match comment that United
would win by three goals would have come true. Spurs lost fairly
and squarely. They played well, doing most of the things that
should be done, but on this showing they could not match the splendid
form which United showed.
"Jennings, to his credit, was quick to lavish praise
on United afterwards. Leeds, he said, are the best team he has
played against. 'Not only is it going to take a very good team
to stop them winning the Cup, it is going to take a lucky one,
too,' he added.
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"Jennings was in the best position to judge United's
power, but it was obvious for all to see that in this mood United
really are going to take some stopping. United began with the
huge sense of purpose which has been a feature of their play this
year, and although chances which fell to Eddie Gray and Mick Jones
were not taken, United would have been several goals up inside
the first 30 minutes had it not been for some superb goalkeeping
from Jennings. He thwarted several of United's forwards, and in
particular Mick Jones, who had three fine efforts saved.
"Although United's victory could once again be attributed
to team effort there were outstanding performances from Allan
Clarke, looking extremely sharp, and Mick Jones, who grafted away
in great style from start to finish. These two were a frequent
source of concern to the Spurs defence, in which Mike England
"Tottenham made a tremendous effort to force a replay,
but had they done so, it would have been a travesty of justice."
Terry Brindle in the Yorkshire Post: "Mr Sam Bolton,
who later today will make the draw for the FA Cup semi finals,
was asked a little irreverently on Saturday who he had pencilled
in to meet his own club, Leeds United. Mr
Bolton smiled confidently and replied: 'It doesn't really matter,
"I don't think it does. On this form, Leeds can
take on anybody with absolute confidence. After the rout of Tottenham
Hotspur, they should be a short price bet for the Boat Race, the
Grand National and the British Grand Prix (on foot), let alone
The Observer's Hugh McIlvanney described their football
as "breathtaking in its scope and fluency, alive with dazzling
improvisations... The full intimidating depth of their quality
was never more manifest than in those early minutes. There was
scarcely a weakness to be seen and excellence was everywhere...
In all essences of the game, except courage, Tottenham were outclassed."
John Arlott in the Guardian: "The dilemma of Leeds
United is not the less acute for the fact that the manager of
every other club in the country must covet it. Their win over
as good a side as Tottenham Hotspur in the sixth round of the
FA Cup last Saturday was the flowering they and all who have followed
them had been waiting for.
"In the past few weeks it was obviously imminent.
Here they proffered unquestionable evidence of their splendid
power while, at the same time, the narrowness of their win emphasised
the uncertainty of even the finest team's success.
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"They have been arguably the best side in England
for the past eight years. In that period they have been champions
of the First Division once and runners up four times; champions
of the Second Division once; from five semi finals, twice losing
finalists in the FA Cup; twice winners and once runners up in
the European Fairs Cup; and once winners of the Football League
Cup. Only Manchester United have had a comparably sustained period
of major success, yet in several instances Leeds fell short of
"Now the bookmakers - most objective of football
followers - make them favourites to win the Cup at 5-4, by comparison
with 9-4 Arsenal; meanwhile they still have enough matches and
goal average in hand to provide the ultimate challenge to Manchester
City for the League championship.
"Their eight years of success, however, have seen
not only changes but the fading of some major assets. Arsenal,
Manchester United and Tottenham in their periods of major success
made constant changes of personnel and method. Jack Charlton,
the best England centre-half since Cullis, and from set pieces
the most effective goalscorer among modern defenders; that splendid
passer, Giles; and Bremner - the driving force of the side - are
now near or over 30 years old. It is generally known that Don
Revie, in some ways a romantic but basically a pragmatist, has
been seeking replacements for all of them. Moreover, Sprake, Jones
and Clarke have all fallen slightly short of what was hoped of
them. Sprake had made expensive mistakes; Jones and Clarke have
not established quite the combination of strength and subtlety
to score the goals their ability promised. Blend is always a major
and unpredictable facet of team building.
"Judged on ability, Leeds would not be flattered
if they performed the double of Cup and League this season. Certainly
they are a more gifted side than Arsenal of two years ago; and
by comparative standards in a rapidly changing football world,
not inferior to the Tottenham Hotspur of 1961. Certainly they
will not fail through over confidence."
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