For Leeds United, their FA Cup semi-final against
Wolverhampton Wanderers in April 1973 was the sixth time they
had progressed to that stage in the nine seasons since they
returned to the First Division in 1964. It was an extraordinary
feat of consistency that has rarely been equalled and was absolutely
unique in the ultra-competitive Sixties and Seventies.
In contrast, it was Wolves' first appearance in
the last four since 1960, when they beat Aston Villa and went
on to win the trophy by beating Blackburn Rovers in the final.
That was also the last time that Manchester City's Maine Road
had staged a semi-final.
When the draw was made, United
manager Don Revie commented, "It does not matter who you play.
When you are only 90 minutes away from the final at Wembley, it
is always a hard game. It is simply a matter of the side playing
the better football on the day going through. I can only say that
we shall do our best."
Revie's Molineux counterpart, Bill McGarry, said:
"It is not the one I would have chosen, but you cannot pick and
choose anyway. We have just got to get on with it and with the
right attitude of mind there is nothing we cannot achieve… If
ours is right we have the ability to beat them. We don't see ourselves
as no hopers. We can reach Wembley."
A couple of weeks prior to the game, the two sides
met in the League and played out a goalless draw which put a serious
dent in United's pursuit of the League championship.
Tom German in the Times: "As a sensitive gauge of
the likely course of events two weeks hence when they joust for
a place in the FA Cup final, Saturday's meeting of Leeds United
and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Elland Road was clouded, and rendered
unreadable, by what it omitted rather than what it contained.
"Wolves lined up without some significant names,
Bailey, McCalliog and Hibbitt to mention just three; Leeds were
shorn of Cherry and Clarke and any predictions from a match that
ended goalless would be no more than a dip in a bran tub.
"Without Clarke to dart at the defence and provide
variety and point, Leeds' attack leaned
too heavily on the elusiveness of Gray, with shrewd promptings
from Bremner coming from behind. Gray responded in the second
half with searching excursions up the left wing, which drew two
and sometimes three opponents, but there was only a muted challenge
in the middle where Jones and Jordan sometimes challenged each
other for the same high ball.
"Wolverhampton left an impression of a side properly
versed in organising itself in effective defence. Apart from a
solid core, Parkin gave Lorimer the sort of attention which denied
him a recognisable shot and Shaw was in the thick of a lot of
activity around the centre of the field. There was little to allow
measure of the attacking understanding between Dougan and Richards.
Like many other partnerships of repute, they could make little
headway against Madeley and Hunter.
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"There were a couple of tense moments for Harvey
as Richards suddenly aimed in a shot which skimmed the post and
again in the second half when the young forward missed his kick
completely as Wagstaffe's trickery set up a promising opening
- but there was hardly more than that to Wolverhampton's intrusions.
Though Leeds could not fan their usual spark in attack, the argument
always revolved around whether they would score. They made chances
enough to have won.
"Jones twice got too far beneath accurate centres
from Lorimer and Gray to put headers over the top. Twice Parkes
stretched himself to turn aside shots from Gray and when the winger
was spreading anxiety in the second half, the goalkeeper was more
than content to see a couple of efforts by the Scot deflected
at a crucial moment.
"So it was stalemate - but the semi-final in Manchester
in a fortnight's time gained an extra touch of piquancy."
Both clubs were still nursing injury worries in
the days leading up to the game, and Norman Hunter, Eddie Gray,
Mick Bates and Gordon McQueen were all in United's treatment room.
"Progress is being made but they will not train
with the first team. They will continue to do light work under
the guidance of our club physiotherapist, Bob English," Revie
In the event, none of the four were available for
selection, though Revie left it until the latest possible moment
before naming his eleven, and the veteran
Jack Charlton, a month shy of his 38th birthday, retained
his place at the heart of the Leeds rearguard alongside Paul Madeley.
In Wolves' camp, midfielders Jim McCalliog, who
spent four months on United's books as an amateur in 1963, and
Mike Bailey were struggling. McCalliog did not make it, but Bailey
was named sub. To fill the void, McGarry selected 19-year-old
Barry Powell, with just 300 minutes' of first team football behind
him. Centre-half Frank Munro passed a fitness test on a pulled
duly took his place in defence. Up front, 35-year-old Northern
Irish international Derek Dougan partnered John Richards, 22,
who would make his England debut a month later. The pair formed
an effective combination at the time, scoring 53 goals between
them in all competitions that season. Don Revie once said of the
pair: "We know exactly how they will play and exactly how they
will work it, but we just cannot cope with them."
The Maine Road pitch looked in good condition for
the game, which commenced under steady rain in front of a crowd
of 52,505, paying receipts of £70,000.
The contest began predictably enough, with both
teams determined to deny their opponents space. It was clear that
while they had the breeze at their backs Wolves would use the
swift long ball forward to Dougan and Richards whenever they could.
The ball was pinged forward from their kick off and when Charlton
headed it clear, Wanderers full-back Derek Parkin hurled it up
again, but too lustily and it ran out for a United free kick.
Minutes later Trevor Cherry's forward run led to
a United free kick when John McAlle obstructed Billy Bremner in
the centre just outside the Wolves penalty area. That gave Peter
Lorimer the chance of an early strike at goal, but his shot cannoned
off a wall that did its job admirably.
Wolves almost took the lead after four minutes.
Kenny Hibbitt, brother of former Leeds
midfielder Terry, split the United defence with a through
ball for Powell. The teenager had to hit the ball first time and
David Harvey, quickly off his line, dived to smother the effort
Munro was the first player to be spoken to by the
referee after he brought down Allan Clarke twice in the first
quarter of an hour, but Giles' floated free kick into the Wolves
box was easily cleared.
Leeds were starting to build some forward momentum
and Terry Yorath, wearing No 6 but playing in midfield, showed
some uncommonly nimble footwork down the left. Munro tried a short
pass out of defence to Hibbitt but it wrongfooted the midfielder
and Yorath was in swiftly to nick the ball away. He rounded the
desperate sliding tackle of Munro and flicked the ball past Hibbitt
on the very touchline. While Yorath's mind was on crossing the
ball, the Wolves man had clearly decided that enough was enough
and carried on into a lunging foul with his studs up. He caught
Yorath on the shin and sent him writhing in agony. Referee Pat
Partridge had little option other than to dish out the game's
Giles drove the resultant free kick in towards the
heart of the Wolves area. Clarke flicked it on but as Jones sought
to meet the dropping ball, goalkeeper Parkes touched it away.
It fell nicely for Bremner, in space on the six-yard line, to
fire goalwards, but McAlle blocked it. Jones tried but failed
to get to it and when Clarke struck at the loose ball it was blocked
once more and hoofed away.
There was not a Wolves man in the Leeds half and
the ball came back again, with Yorath and then Bremner setting
Jones up for a shot from the edge of the box, but Parkes gathered
back to top
United kept up the pace - Jones had another shot
saved by Parkes, who followed up with another
good stop at the near post from Lorimer.
Just after the half hour, Parkin was raiding at
pace down the left and fired a ball through for Wagstaffe to chase.
The winger got to it just as it reached the byline, but his cut
back was easily cleared by Madeley at the near post. Unfortunately,
the move brought tragedy for Jack Charlton, who pulled up in pain
as he sought to catch Wagstaffe.
The centre-half was in agony with a pulled hamstring
and despite lengthy treatment had to go off. Joe Jordan came on
to play up front, and in a tactical reshuffle, Yorath took Charlton's
place at centre-back while Lorimer came deep to strengthen midfield.
Wolves sought to cash in on the disruption, pressing
strongly as Leeds sought to settle into their new formation but
Yorath showed his defensive abilities when he cut out two dangerous
attacks. He was penalised for holding Dougan just outside the
penalty area but the free kick was wasted.
Jordan's first contribution of note brought a Leeds
corner and more mayhem in the Wolves box, ending when Parkes touched
a Jordan piledriver just wide of his goal. The verdict, however,
was a free kick to Wolves for a foul in the build up.
The keeper's dead ball clearance was poor, only
finding Bremner 30 yards away, but the half time whistle blew
before the Leeds skipper could make anything of the opportunity.
Leeds had enjoyed the best of a fast-moving first
half and carved out what chances there were, but the game was
still anybody's as the teams kicked off after the interval.
The half time break seemed to have rekindled Wolves'
spirits and the Midlands side made a concerted effort to raise
Paul Madeley had hurt his shoulder in an incident
inside the game's first ten minutes and was playing in great discomfort;
with a substitution already made he was forced to soldier on.
He carried his arm gingerly throughout, telling Yorath to look
after Dougan so he could protect his limb. He manfully stood his
ground to the very end, never bemoaning his lot.
United continued to press strongly, determined to
get the opening goal that Don Revie believed would be sufficient
to win the game.
Wolves had little answer to the waves of United
attacks at this stage of the game and were starting to grow frustrated
at being penned back. As the needle started to creep in, Clarke
caught a knock in the face off Wagstaffe and then Dougan became
the second Wanderers player to have his name taken when he kicked
out carelessly in a packed Leeds penalty area.
Bremner was playing a captain's game and was at
the heart of everything United did in midfield. A determined 40-yard
run saw him shrug off a number of fierce tackles before the move
broke down as it neared goal.
A rare Wolves thrust, manufactured by Hibbitt, ended
when young Powell headed wide of Harvey's left hand post. Then
Dougan tried a speculative drive from 30 yards but Harvey dived
to gather the effort.
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Bremner earned a free kick when he crashed into
Wagstaffe on the right touchline and Lorimer lofted the dead ball
to the edge of the area. Jordan got to it but his header seemed
to be drifting harmlessly behind for a goal kick until Clarke
took it upon himself to chase and catch it on the goal line. He
sent it back to Cherry and the full-back drove the ball low towards
the penalty spot. Jones collected the ball as it ran loose off
a Wolves clearance and fed back to Giles. The Irishman clipped
it into the box and Bremner teed up a chance with a back header.
Jordan was moving in nicely and looped a header from eight yards
narrowly over Parkes' crossbar.
Wagstaffe brought the ball out for Wolves on their
left and he found Richards on the far edge of the United penalty
area in space. He had time to steady himself but Madeley managed
to deflect his effort narrowly wide of Harvey's left hand upright.
United were quickly back on the attack and Jones
challenged for a ball downfield. It came off a defender to set
Lorimer free for a run at a retreating and outnumbered Wolves
defence. He squared Munro up, dropped his shoulder and ran past
the defender's challenge to make his way for goal. Seeing the
danger, Parkes came racing out to narrow the angle, but Lorimer
managed to flick the ball past him. Right-back Gerry Taylor was
covering and came across to clear up the danger as Clarke waited
for the chance.
Lorimer protested that he had been fouled by Parkes,
but he had to be content with the corner. Lorimer took it and
the ball found its way to Jones at the far post. He shot hard
from the six-yard line only for Parkes to block it away at point
blank range for another corner.
United were not to be denied, however, and took
the lead following that 69th minute corner. Giles' inswinger was
headed away but Lorimer hooked it over his head and back in from
30 yards. The falling ball was misjudged by both Hibbitt and Jones
and dropped into space in the middle of the box. Bremner was lurking
with intent and was on the chance in a trice, flashing in a fierce
left-footed shot. It beat Parkes' dive and billowed the net.
Bremner's extraordinary knack of bagging vital semi-final
goals had served United well once again; his goals had also been
decisive in 1965 and 1970. There were
joyous celebrations behind the Wolves goal as Leeds players mobbed
their delighted leader in front of their cheering followers.
It was the first goal Wolves had conceded in their
Cup run and they were not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
The shock of the goal seemed to kick them into fresh life. They
certainly looked more dangerous as an attacking unit and when
Parkin fired the ball to the feet of Richards in the United area,
the young striker wriggled smartly round Madeley to fire low past
Harvey. Unfortunately for Wolves, the ball trundled against the
inside of the far post and bounced back kindly to Harvey.
With 15 minutes left, Wolves boss Bill McGarry brought
Mike Bailey on for Hibbitt as his final throw of the dice.
In the closing stages Yorath's clearing long ball
allowed Jordan to burst between tiring Wolves defenders and race
into the penalty area. He seemed to have taken it too far as Parkes
came out to face him down, but the ball ran on and from virtually
on the byline, Jordan cut it back low right across the face of
goal. It ran inches off the line and beyond the far post with
Wolves defenders desperately trying to reach it. The Scot hung
his head in frustration.
Still there was sufficient time remaining for a
dangerous free kick from Wolves, taken by Bailey from near the
right touchline. It came down perfectly for Dougan, horribly unmarked
and in an acre of space just outside the six-yard box. The striker
met the ball perfectly with a flicked header, but it crept fractionally
around Harvey's left hand post as the keeper stood flat footed,
his heart in his mouth.
But that was enough; the Wanderers had no more time
and referee Partridge blew his whistle to signal that Leeds had
reached their third FA Cup final in four seasons.
Don Revie described the semi-final as "the best
of the mix we have been in so far. I thought it was a tremendous
match, much better than semi-finals usually are. All our experience
in Europe stood us in good stead because of the tension involved,
and once we settled down, we played a lot of really attractive
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"I was a bit worried when Jack Charlton came off
because Wolves can be so dangerous in the air through
Dougan and Richards, but I moved Terry Yorath and Paul Madeley
back and both did a fantastic job.
"The winner was a long time coming, despite a lot
of pressure and I must admit it seemed we were never going to
get a break. When Bremner's shot was blocked on the line, then
Lorimer had a shot booted away, we thought it was going to be
one of those days when the ball simply will not go in.
"But it was typical of the lads that they stuck
to it. They never give up. Wolves had their chances, of course,
when Richards hit a post and Dougan was very close with a header,
but overall I think we played more constructive stuff and had
"When you consider that we played without three
of the best left sided players in Europe - Hunter, Cooper and
Gray - and that we lost Charlton early on, I consider it a truly
fantastic performance to win."
Jack Charlton: "I knew as soon as it went that it
was a hamstring. I have pulled one before, in the other leg. It's
impossible to describe the pain to anyone who hasn't actually
had an injury like this.
"Watching is ten times worse than playing. Still,
we're back at Wembley and that's what matters. I thought the lads
played magnificently and although the goal was a long time coming
I never thought we wouldn't win. When the whistle went I was so
excited I jumped off the bench and pulled my hamstring again."
Billy Bremner: "We've played together for so long
that we take everything in our stride… When Big Jack Charlton
went off after half an hour, we didn't even have to look for instructions
to the trainer's box, we all knew instinctively what could be
done and we did it. You get this by playing together and there's
no doubt our experience served us well against Wolves.
"We never really worried during the game but we
went so near on so many occasions that I was beginning to think
a goal would never come. When it did, I was over the moon. It
was a fantastic feeling but my only thought after scoring was
that we must settle down again and not ease off.
"We did that at Wembley and Chelsea came back to
equalise. I was determined not to let that happen on this occasion.
"But I don't mind admitting my heart was in my mouth
when Richards hit the post. I was on my knees practically nibbling
at the grass."
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "With Wembley so close
on the brow of the hill, a semi-final is always the most tense
moment of the whole competition. Leeds were determined to get
there again; Wolves, last seen at a climax in 1960, were equally
keen to play a part in the final pageant of the season. In the
event, Leeds deserved their narrow victory. Yet they needed all
their deep experience, expertise and courage - plus a little luck
- to hold off a courageous final rally by a Wolverhampton side
that burnt itself down to the wick.
"Leeds, however, played the neater, more controlled
game. They were driven on by the tempestuous Bremner, whose temperament
at times slipped the reins. Their moves were
held together and threaded by the wily little Giles. These two
were the generals of midfield, given invaluable support by Yorath
all through, a reserve now forced to play two different roles
and play them well.
"Leeds, indeed, have to be admired. Not only did
they take the field without Hunter and Gray, with McQueen and
Bates, other members of their team pool, also injured, but now
after only half an hour the 37-year-old Jack Charlton, recalled
to centre-half, pulled a thigh muscle and had to be replaced by
Jordan, a lively centre-forward. As the old warrior limped painfully
away one felt it to be the last curtain on a long and faithful
career, forcing Leeds to rejig their formation.
"Madeley switched to centre-half, Yorath fell back
into the rear four and Lorimer withdrew to midfield. And, of everyone,
the proudest perhaps could be Madeley. A badly winged bird, his
right arm held across his chest, he produced a calm, stylish,
even majestic performance amid all the thunder as he kept a close
watch on the Wolves spearhead of Dougan and Richards. Clarke also
ended with a depressed cheekbone so that Leeds limped home triumphant
from the wars."
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