For a club with such an appalling reputation as
big game bottlers, the record of Don
Revie's Leeds United in semi finals was not at all bad. After
a controversial defeat to Chelsea in the
FA Cup in 1967 at Villa Park, United won five of the next
seven ties they played at the last four stage. There were defeats
in the FA Cup in 1968 to Everton and
the European Cup in 1970 against Celtic,
but they won through three times in the Fairs Cup, once in the
FA Cup and once in the League Cup.
When they were drawn against Second Division Birmingham
City at Hillsborough in the FA Cup in April 1972 there promised
to be an extension of that record with Leeds overwhelming favourites
to reach the final. They had enjoyed emphatic victories against
Bristol Rovers, Liverpool, Cardiff
and Tottenham en route, with a goals
record of ten for and only two against. The team's form through
the early months of the year had been unbelievably good with heavy
wins against Manchester United, Southampton,
Nottingham Forest and champions
Arsenal and some breathtaking football on display at Elland
Don Revie freely admitted that, given the choice,
he would have opted to play Birmingham, rather than either Arsenal
or Stoke City who contested the other tie at Villa Park. He added:
"We have been at this stage now five times in the past eight seasons
and we feel we are equipped for the big occasion and its tensions.
It must be an advantage to us. Nevertheless, we have a high regard
for Birmingham and, of course, we know Freddie Goodwin very well
Goodwin had been a centre-half at Elland Road at
the start of 1960s, after beginning his playing career at Manchester
United. After the Munich air disaster in 1958 decimated the Busby
Babes he was given an opportunity; he appeared in the Cup final
defeat to Bolton later that year but was never a regular at Old
Trafford. He moved to Leeds in a £10,000 deal in March 1960, where
he became a team mate of Revie's.
Goodwin's final game for Leeds was a Cup-tie
in 1964 when he suffered a triple fracture of his leg while
playing against Cardiff at the end of a four-year stint with the
Elland Roaders. He thus knew all the United players well, except
for Mick Jones and Allan Clarke, who joined the club after his
As ageing players, Revie and Goodwin had regularly
engaged in discussions about future careers in club management.
When Birmingham sought to court Revie as their manager in the
summer of 1970, he rejected their overtures and recommended Goodwin
for the job instead. "He had a hard time at first with the supporters
but I wrote an article pointing out what a good manager he would
become and he has proved the point to the Birmingham crowd," said
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Goodwin was given his first shot at management in
December 1964, when he quit Elland Road to become player-boss
at Scunthorpe United. He enjoyed some success with the Iron before
taking over at New York Generals in October 1967 and then Brighton
a year later. After being appointed at St Andrews in 1970, he
had led a revival, introducing the sparkling talents of 16-year-old
Trevor Francis to the first team in 1970. Francis was still two
months short of his 17th birthday when he scored all the goals
in a 4-0 defeat of Bolton and he ended the 1970/71 season with
15 goals from 22 games.
The teenager was part of a celebrated Birmingham
front three with burly centre-forward Bob Latchford and the experienced
Bob Hatton, who had been signed from Carlisle the previous October.
Their goals were taking the Blues to an end of season runners
up spot in the Second Division.
There were other connections between Leeds and their
last four opponents: Goodwin's assistant was Willie
Bell, a member of the United side that lost the 1965
FA Cup final, while former winger Mike
O'Grady was in a loan spell at St Andrews.
The two clubs had never before been paired in the
FA Cup, but Leeds had unhappy memories
of their previous meeting in the League, on the Monday
before the Cup final in 1965. Victory in that game would have
left United well placed to win the championship, but the Midlanders,
relegated that season, took a 3-0 lead and the game ended in a
draw, allowing Manchester United to scoop the title on goal average.
"I remember that night well," said Don Revie when
asked, "but I can recall the last Cup match I played against Birmingham
- it was for Manchester City in the 1956 Cup final and we won
that one 3-1."
Birmingham were unhappy about the choice of Sheffield
Wednesday's Hillsborough as venue and lodged an official protest
with the Football Association. The Blues complained that the stadium
was only 33 miles from Leeds but 77 from Birmingham.
Freddie Goodwin: "We are objecting because it is
much further for our supporters to travel and it gives Leeds supporters
a much better chance of getting to Sheffield for extra tickets.
It will be a Yorkshire ground and there will be a lot of Yorkshire
supporters there. It does not seem a neutral ground to me. After
all, Leeds used it as a 'home' ground at the beginning of the
season when they had to play away from Elland Road. We had Everton's
Goodison Park in mind but there is also Maine Road and Old Trafford
at Manchester. We are telephoning the FA and a letter of protest
The FA confirmed, "A copy of their letter will be
circulated to each member of the Challenge Cup committee. It will
be up to them to decide whether the venue should be changed."
A new ruling had been introduced that the clubs
involved in the semi finals would each receive 40% of the ticket
allocation with the remaining 20% going to the staging ground.
In previous years clubs had been allocated only 33%. The semi
finals were now seen as big money spinners and with more and more
supporters wanting seats, Hillsborough had a lot going for it
as a venue.
It was understandable that City were sensitive.
They had managed to reach the semi finals without
playing away from St Andrews, winning home clashes with Port Vale,
Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and Huddersfield Town.
The FA Cup committee turned down Birmingham's request
for a move, issuing a statement that the matter had been given
"long and careful consideration" when the draw was made. "It is
not FA policy to reverse a decision which has been made after
such careful consideration," the statement went on.
After being informed of the decision, Birmingham's
secretary, Mr Allan Instone, commented: "We have made our point
and it has been considered. Now we must accept the decision and
get on with the game."
In addition to that dispute there were also some
issues with the colours of the two team strips. United's all white
clashed with Birmingham's kit, which included a blue shirt emblazoned
with a broad white stripe down the middle and white shorts. In
the end, Leeds opted to play in all yellow (beginning a tradition
that has continued largely, though not wholly, unchanged to the
present day), while Birmingham wore shirts with red substituted
for the blue.
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United had some selection difficulties: the previous
weekend England left-back Terry Cooper had suffered a hairline
fracture of his left tibia during the defeat of Stoke, while potential
replacement Nigel Davey suffered
a double fracture of his right leg during a Central League game
against West Bromwich Albion that same afternoon. Don Revie solved
that particular problem by moving Paul Madeley across to left-back,
allowing Paul Reaney to return on the right.
Gary Sprake sustained a knee injury on 5 April against
Huddersfield and had missed the win at Stoke; his long term deputy,
David Harvey, had come in for his fifth start of the season in
the Potteries and kept his place with Sprake failing a late fitness
Birmingham also had a young reserve in goal with
Goodwin continuing to prefer 18-year-old Paul Cooper to the experienced
Dave Latchford, brother of centre-forward Bob.
Freddie Goodwin did his best to unsettle Leeds with
some cheeky attempts at upstaging them prior to kick off, as reported
by Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Only once on Saturday at Hillsborough
did Birmingham City take the mickey out of Leeds United and because
it happened before the game it didn't really matter... Birmingham,
whose team for the programme was submitted several weeks ago judging
by the number of alterations... appeared to have brought along
more supporters than Leeds. And they roared
with delight when having witnessed United's customary callisthenic
display they saw Birmingham follow suit with variations. Only
Hunter among the Leeds players saw the funny side of it."
Allan Clarke claimed that the Blues "tried to psyche
us out by copying our pre match routine, but it backfired; it
was a shambles."
At the toss for choice of ends, City captain Stan
Harland presented Billy Bremner with a club pennant which "left
him with only an embarrassed grin as a reply," according to Gerry
Harrison in the Times. It was admirable bravado but ultimately
unsuccessful; as Harrison observed, Goodwin later described City's
"pre-match routine in the centre circle as the only time in the
afternoon Birmingham controlled the middle of the field".
As if they felt their honour was being impugned
by the impertinence of their lower division rivals, United set
about their work with smart professionalism and cool efficiency,
intent on slapping the upstarts down. They sought to exert early
pressure on the Birmingham rearguard to remove any chance of their
Second Division opponents settling. Goodwin claimed later, "We
had to come at Leeds. We could not allow them to settle and so
we had to harry and harass." Whether that was the plan or not,
it availed City nothing against experienced campaigners like United.
It was no more than Revie had expected; as he said,
"Without wishing to appear pompous, it is asking a lot of any
side to match Leeds for skill. That's why nearly all our Cup opponents
from lower divisions have attempted to nullify our flair at the
expense of their own creative ability."
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Birmingham it was said
were hoping to give Leeds a game and not much more and in spite
of a strong wind which played havoc with passes, they certainly
threw Leeds out of their stride in the opening stages. But Birmingham
relied too much on the individual thrusts of their wings, the
artistry of Francis, who should be in the First Division next
season even if his team are not, and the enterprise of Hatton.
All of them worthy antagonists in their right, not so in combined
City keeper Cooper twisted an ankle in the first
five minutes, hampering his mobility. It is doubtful whether even
at full fitness he could have offered much more than his token
effort to prevent United taking a 17th minute lead.
Birmingham had run themselves ragged in an attempt
to hold United, intercepting and tackling as if their lives depended
on it; Leeds were more economic and wasted no energy with their
methods, allowing the ball to do the work. They cruelly exposed
the shortcomings of the Blues with their flowing movement and
accurate passing game.
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Johnny Giles, in peak form, robbed Malcolm Page
on the edge of his own area and brought the ball calmly out from
deep to set up a seven-man move that clinically exploited poor
defensive play on Birmingham's left. The ball went from Mick Jones
to Bremner, who slipped the ball short to the overlapping Paul
Reaney. Two Birmingham defenders were drawn to the full-back,
allowing him to cut a pass back into space for Lorimer. The Scot
lofted a cross to an unmarked Allan Clarke on the far edge of
the goal area.
The goal poacher could have tried to score himself but instead
fashioned a goal for strike partner Mick Jones.
Richard Ulyatt in the Yorkshire Post: "Clarke, as
though playing head tennis with all the time in the world, nodded
the ball back into the goalmouth to Jones who, with studied calm,
again as though tackles and harassment did not exist, headed the
ball past the groping goalkeeper, who had no earthly chance."
The move told Birmingham all they needed to know
about Leeds and within seven minutes the men in yellow had doubled
Again the move was built smoothly from deep, Jones
feeding Eddie Gray on the left wing. The Scot launched the ball
unerringly across to the other flank to find Lorimer with remarkable
accuracy, cutting out a multitude of Birmingham players en route.
The marking Garry Pendrey did his worst to hold back the Scot,
even grabbing at his collar to do so. He was nothing more than
a minor irritation, a fly to be swatted aside, for Lorimer, who
was intent only on reaching the ball. He took it in stride and
dispatched it with power and precision past Cooper's groping right
hand and into the net.
The writing was on the wall for the Midlanders after
that, though they refused to throw in the towel and there were
no more goals in the first half.
After the break Birmingham were lucky not to concede
a penalty when it seemed a defender had handled, but referee Norman
Burtenshaw decided there had been no intent about the intervention.
65 minutes had elapsed before the third goal came.
As Page tried to bring the ball out of defence, Bremner crashed
into a splendid tackle to gain possession for Leeds and the move
was developed swiftly by Giles' penetrative run past Harland before
his telling cross took goalkeeper Cooper out of the game. Full-back
Tommy Carroll was struggling to keep up with the run through from
Jones and his desperate attempt at a clearance as he fell only
succeeded in knocking the ball into the centre-forward's midriff
as Jones bundled it into the net with his chest.
Birmingham had little fight left after that and
United ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Freddie Goodwin argued
the second goal was offside and that Bremner had fouled Page in
the run up to the third goal, but had few complaints afterwards,
"Leeds will win the title. They are a great side."
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Latchford was unlucky
with a great header, but saves by Cooper from Charlton, Bremner
and Clarke merely confirmed that Leeds could have won more easily.
After the interval it was a massive bore with both sides, for
different reasons, wishing that the referee would hurry up and
blow his whistle for the last time. Finally Leeds went home wondering
how Birmingham had reached the semi finals at all. Birmingham
departed with the consoling knowledge that with a bit of luck
they might get their own back on Leeds in the First Division next
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"Not often does class distinction amount to much
in Cup football but here was an exception. Birmingham looked what
undoubtedly they are, a good Second Division side. Leeds again
were formidable representatives of the First Division. And at
no time did the twain meet. Leeds had the class and the skill,
Birmingham the bustle and no nonsense approach which resulted
in the bookings of Page and Hynd. Clarke also had his name taken
for a petulant foul on Francis.
"In defence Birmingham had good service from Hynd
and Harland, and young Cooper was not to be blamed for being on
the losing side for the first time since he came into the team.
Birmingham nevertheless could have done with a general such as
Giles or Bremner. A Cup semi final side needs more than hard working
NCOs. And they had nobody to compare with the magnificent Hunter
who never put a foot or head wrong. So Jones and Lorimer prospered
and the various mesmeric flicks and runs of the other Leeds forwards
finally undermined the Midlanders.
"Birmingham did contrive a few good shots, all of
which were saved splendidly by Harvey, Sprake's deputy. Or possibly
his successor on this performance. His positional sense in dealing
with shots from Francis and Hatton was first class; his catching
under pressure quite faultless. He, Hunter and Reaney more than
compensated for the absence of the luckless Terry Cooper."
Despite their incisive attacking play, United indeed
owed a debt of gratitude to Harvey, who later revealed that he
played much of the match with no feeling in his left hand. He
said later: "I got a kick on the lower part of my left arm after
about five or six minutes and after fielding a high cross on the
half hour I suddenly realised I had no feeling in the fingers.
It must have caught a nerve."
Harvey was in inspired form throughout the game.
After United's opener he had flung himself across to his left,
safely clutching a powerful drive by Trevor Francis as he fell.
Following United's second goal, the keeper denied Francis again.
The Times: "Worst of all for Birmingham, the only non-international
in the Leeds side proved to be one of their biggest strengths...
Harvey ... did his future a power of good with two superb saves
from Francis, a brave block which foiled Latchford and a display
of confidence which the goalkeeper at the other end never matched."
Don Revie commented: "I have been
saying for two years that we have the two best goalkeepers in
the country on our books but no one would believe me."
It was one of the most one-sided semi finals for
many years, but United were not complaining at the lack of incident.
Gerry Harrison in the Times: "Leeds won this FA cup semi final
as they planned, a fact which took most of the tension and friction
from the game. It also deprived a gay and expectant Hillsborough
of any romance and reduced it, as a contest, to something of a
formal exercise. Such are the problems of being much too good
for Second Division opposition.
"Playing their fifth semi final in seven years,
Leeds revealed much more than experience in their 3-0 win... They
were more than a class above Birmingham and Hunter and Giles were
supreme... It is the punching that counts and Leeds floored their
lightweight opponents with a deceptive ease."
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