One of the lowest points in the history of Leeds
United Football Club came in early May 1973, as they sought to
defend the FA Cup they won for the first
time twelve months earlier. They were the hottest favourites
for years, considered certainties to beat their Second Division
opponents, rank outsiders Sunderland. A day that should have been
one of celebration and triumph ended instead with United in a
trough of depression and despair.
"Everything points to a United victory" read the
unusually confident headline of Don
Revie's column for the Yorkshire Evening Post the Saturday
before the final. The Leeds manager was in buoyant mood, writing:
"Leeds United's experience of playing at Wembley is likely to
prove the decisive factor in next Saturday's FA Cup final against
Sunderland… As far as the FA Cup final is concerned, I consider
the Sunderland players will suffer to a certain extent as none
of them has played at Wembley previously.
"This will be Leeds' fifth Wembley Cup final in
eight years (including the 1968 League
Cup final against Arsenal). Apart from this, most of the players
have also appeared on this ground in international matches. With
such a background, they are less likely to be affected by the
tension of the occasion. Playing on the Wembley turf for the first
time can prove a tremendous ordeal … as, indeed, I discovered
when making my FA Cup final debut for Manchester City against
Newcastle United in 1955.
"I found it almost impossible to relax in the weeks
leading up to the final, when City were caught up in the traditional
Wembley ballyhoo. During this period, all the players are inundated
with requests to attend special functions, endorse various products
and do newspaper, radio and TV interviews and it is always difficult
to know where to draw the line if you haven't encountered this
type of problem before.
"Any player who has appeared in the Cup final will
no doubt confirm that the most nerve wracking moment comes about
20 minutes before the kick off. You feel the sweat waiting in
the tunnel for the signal to take the field. Believe me, those
minutes can seem like hours…
"I was very tense during the early part of the game,
when my legs felt as heavy as lead and I just couldn't get going.
This was true of all the City players and Newcastle, slightly
the more experienced of the two teams, took advantage by going
ahead in the first minute. They eventually won 3-1.
"No doubt, Sunderland's manager Bob Stokoe, ironically
Newcastle's centre-half against City in 1955, will spend a lot
of time next week telling his players what to expect … but I doubt
whether his advice will fully compensate for their lack of experience.
"This final will present a tremendous challenge
to the Leeds players as, since the war, only two clubs have won
the FA Cup for two years in succession, Newcastle (1951-52) and
Tottenham (1961-62). If only because of our big match know how
I must rate our chances of becoming the third."
The experience upon which Revie laid such heavy
emphasis was epitomised by his Irish schemer, Johnny Giles, making
a fifth appearance in the Wembley showpiece. He was only the second
player in 60 years to do so, repeating the feat of Joe Hulme,
who did the same for Huddersfield and Arsenal.
Giles commented, "There is nothing quite like reaching
the FA Cup final. Playing in such a game at Wembley is fantastic.
There is nothing really to rival the feeling of Cup final day
when you are taking part. I am looking forward to this game against
Sunderland just as much as I did my first final when I was at
Manchester United. I am as excited now as I was then."
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Away from the frothy veneer of the media's Cup final
previews, there was a darker story of revenge and mind games unfolding.
Bob Stokoe, appointed as Sunderland manager in November when they
were fourth from bottom of Division Two, had inspired an astonishing
upturn in the Wearsiders' fortunes. The North Easterner held a
bitter grudge against Don Revie, dating back to 1962
when, Stokoe maintained, Revie had attempted to bribe him to throw
a match against United when he was player-manager of Bury.
Playing up his avuncular image, Stokoe launched
a master class in public relations in Cup final week to undermine
Revie and United, as outlined by Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson
in The Unforgiven.
"Bob Stokoe was an even more virulent critic of
Revie than Clough. It was the definitive David versus Goliath
encounter. A team from the Second had not won the FA Cup since
1931 and, under-standably, the media consensus was that Sunderland
did not have a prayer against probably the finest club side in
Europe. 'No way Leeds can lose it,' asserted the Daily Mail on
the morning of the match. While Revie made his routine noises
about respecting his opponents, in private he was less equivocal.
'Before the game I could not see any way we could lose,' he later
admitted. 'We had the players, the experience, the firepower and
the team spirit.' Ever-cautious, however, he would not countenance
any public display of confidence, and once again this would contribute
to his team's undoing. As his squad set off for London, he explained
how the 'quiet route to success' meant treating this game 'as
just another match'.
"It was a catastrophic misjudgement. A carefree
Sunderland had been grandstanding in London for days, determined
to extract every last ounce of enjoyment from an occasion they
can never have expected to grace. Moreover, with United in purdah
Bob Stokoe had free rein to begin an unsubtle but effective bout
of psychological warfare against his opposite number. His first
outburst was the usual nonsense about the allocation of 'England's
dressing room', which had gone to United, and the matter of having
the Leeds fans at the tunnel end, where the teams would enter
the stadium. The latter complaint was especially meretricious.
Stokoe knew full well that 81,000 of the 100,000 crowd - the Sunderland
supporters and 62,000 'neutrals' - would be rooting for his team.
"Rather than dismissing or simply ignoring Stokoe's
absurd gripe, Revie unwittingly revealed that it had fed his neurosis,
commenting wearily that, 'We get blamed for practically all it
is possible to get blamed for these days.' Wolves manager Bill
McGarry's attack of sour grapes gave Stokoe more ammunition, as
he declared himself 'staggered', in the aftermath
of his side's semi-final defeat, 'at the way Bremner went
the whole 90 minutes disputing every decision that went against
his team'. 'I am not trying to knock Leeds in any way,' agreed
a disingenuous Stokoe, 'but we are playing a real professional
side and, let's face it, the word professionalism can embrace
a multitude of sins as well as virtues. The case about Bremner
is the only comment I want to make about Leeds. My message is
simple. I want Mr [Ken] Burns, the Cup Final referee, to make
the decisions and not Mr Bremner.' Holed up in the team's hotel,
Bremner declined to get drawn into a slanging match. 'It's like
Wilfred Pickles' "Have a go" week' was the Leeds captain's gnomic
"It is impossible to prove that Stokoe's bid to
prejudice Burns had an effect on the outcome of the match, but
when the game came around, the Leeds captain would be uncharacteristically
out of sorts. We also know that Burns' relations with Leeds had
been strained since the 1967 semi-final. Certainly the Sunderland
boss had no doubts: 'They [the media] did a marvellous job for
me,' confirmed Stokoe, proving himself a master of the gamesmanship
he had so hypocritically con-demned to some credulous journalists.
'I'm not saying the referee was influenced, but he didn't allow
Bremner to get at him.'
"By the morning of the match the Leeds players were
unsettled, their manager's innate anxieties heightening their
own. A team used to snapping and scrapping and battling against
the odds was acutely uncomfortable in the role of overwhelming
favourites. One photographer in the team hotel who was rash enough
to take a picture of the team had his camera torn from his hands.
Revie did not like the team being photographed before games -
another daft superstition.
"Dave Watson, the craggy Sunderland centre-half
who would later play under Revie for England, recalled watching
the Leeds players being interviewed at their hotel. 'They were
very subdued,' he observed. 'No one was cracking any jokes. The
answers were very clipped, as if they were afraid to give something
away. We thought: What's wrong with them?' Sunderland's mood could
not have been more different. 'Our lot were the complete opposite,
clowning around,' said Watson. 'We all fell about. Bob Stokoe
was there, with one of the directors, and everyone was splitting
their sides ... everyone except (ITV's match commentator) Brian
even allowed the cameras on to the team coach, something then
unprecedented. In the tunnel Sunderland wore their cares as lightly
as Leeds were tense and preoccupied. 'When we came out the noise
was like being hit in the face by a sledgehammer,' Dave Watson
remembered. 'All the neutrals seemed to be backing us. Again,
that seemed to get to Leeds.'"
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The day was a wet one in London, and as Clarke and
Jones kicked off for Leeds, light rain continued to fall incessantly.
The pitch was in decent condition and seemed perfect for football,
though it would later start to cut up a little under the prolonged
showers with several players losing their footing on the greasy
Stokoe had obviously done his job well: Sunderland
were supremely motivated for the game, brashly enthusiastic and
full of running, determined not to let their illustrious opponents
settle into the game. They were up and at United from the very
start, hassling and harrying and denying them space and time.
Hunter had to block a long range shot from Dennis Tueart as Sunderland
swept straight onto the offensive.
The Observer: "The first three minutes were ominous:
a violent foul by Richie Pitt on Allan Clarke, then a repetition
of the same offence, and there were three successive passes, by
Norman Hunter, Bremner and Johnny Giles, which were remarkable
for their massive misdirection. The inevitable, taut nerviness
and enough rain on the pitch to produce miniature fountains whenever
the players struck the ball hard combined to produce a great deal
From an early free kick, Peter Lorimer struck a
low, hard drive into the area and Mick Jones was fractionally
short of getting a vital touch on it as it sped across the face
of goal. But Sunderland refused to be overawed and it was they
who had the first shot in anger after twelve minutes. Billy Hughes
sought to round off a fluent passing movement with a strike from
20 yards but his effort flew high and wide of Harvey's goal.
Hunter brought Leeds back onto the attack with an
incisive run which took him to the Sunderland area. He took on
Black Cats skipper Bobby Kerr at the byline and managed to get
a cross round him and towards the front post. Lorimer attempted
a flicked volley from an acute angle, but the ball flew wide.
Sunderland snapped back and came close to a goal
on the quarter hour. From a throw on the left Porterfield found
full-back Guthrie coming forward. His curving cross was headed
out by a diving Reaney from the edge of the area, but only to
the unmarked Horswill. The midfielder sized up his shot from 22
yards as Madeley came at him and saw it fly inches wide of Harvey's
right hand post with the keeper struggling to reach it.
Back towards Montgomery's goal poured Leeds, Giles
coming inside off the right wing to float a high ball to the heart
of the Wearsiders' area. From the aerial challenge, the ball came
back to Bremner, who fed Lorimer to the right. He worked his way
into space and looped over a cross. Jones and Clarke both went
for it, but full-back Malone got the vital header to deny them
both. The ball dropped to Eddie Gray, who blazed it wide with
his weaker right foot.
Leeds pressed again, with Madeley spearing a beautiful
through ball towards Clarke near the penalty spot. As the striker
was turning to get in his shot, Watson came flying in to deflect
the ball away.
Minutes later Clarke's name was the first to go
into the referee's book as he helped out in defence, bringing
down Hughes from behind. After 24 minutes, it seemed Hunter might
follow suit when he kicked out wildly at Tueart. The Sunderland
wide man needed treatment to his injured shins but Hunter escaped
without a caution.
If those unsavoury moments hinted that the game
might descend into outright violence,
there was little else to concern referee Ken Burns, though play
in the first half brought huff and puff rather than any meaningful
Sunderland hinted at a threat when Hughes rounded
Reaney on the left but Hunter managed to clear up the danger and
bring the ball out of his defence. The game's first corner went
to United in the 26th minute after Malone headed behind under
pressure from Clarke. Cherry got to the corner to try his luck
with a shot, but saw it deflected over the bar.
United were rocked to their foundations five minutes
later when the Second Division side took a shock lead from their
first corner of the game.
A smooth Sunderland passing movement brought them
into the United half and gave Kerr the space for an impudent chip
from range which came plopping down under David Harvey's bar.
With Hughes racing in, the keeper opted for safety first and tipped
the centre-cum-shot over his crossbar.
United's preoccupation with Dave Watson's aerial
threat at corners was their undoing. Hughes sailed the flag kick
out to the far post where Watson was waiting, with Madeley and
Jones ready to compete with him. In the eventuality, the ball
beat all three of them as they tussled, and sailed on to bounce
off the chest of the incoming Vic Halom.
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It fell nicely for Porterfield in space in the centre
of the area. He cushioned it on his thigh and stroked a lovely
volley goalwards. It was down the throat of Harvey, but the effort
was simply too true and at too close a range to be denied. As
if in symbolic surrender, Harvey was rooted with upraised arms
and hands as the shot clipped Clarke's shoulder on its way and
the keeper could do nothing bar touch the ball up into the roof
of his net.
Sunderland were ahead!
The stadium erupted in celebration as the excited
Sunderland lads mobbed the scorer. It was exactly the inspiration
the outsiders needed, and, urged on by what seemed the entire
stadium, they pushed for a second.
Hughes was proving an enthusiastic and mobile force
in the Wearsiders' front line. He made ground on the right and
Harvey could not reach his centre. There were no takers, however,
until Horswill got to the ball but he was stopped in his tracks
by Giles' challenge.
United, deafened by Sunderland chants, were forced
to soak up more pressure as the interval dawned, though they fashioned
a little pressure of their own. Lorimer had two shots blocked,
one by a defender and the second by Montgomery, who was thankful
to see the ball rebound clear, for he had no control as the shot
rocked him on his heels.
It was all hands to the pump for a period as United
stoked up the pressure in the Sunderland area, but always there
was a man in red and white stripes throwing himself into challenges
and blocks to parry some hurried shooting from Leeds.
Half time came with Sunderland still ahead and they
had every reason to be proud of their first half performance.
They had been the more forceful side.
United had been unable to get a grip in midfield
during the first half but they restarted with a renewed sense
of purpose. Clarke, Lorimer and Madeley all had a go at prising
open a solid defence at the heart of which Watson was a resolute
Bremner made space for himself on the edge of the
Sunderland box after 49 minutes, wrongfooting Pitt with a lovely
drag back. He flashed in a left footed shot which came back off
the goalkeeper but there was no Leeds player close enough to capitalise
and Malone was happy to put it behind for a corner.
United continued to exert pressure and Cherry had
the ball in the net a minute later. Bremner lofted a free kick
from the right touchline deep into the Sunderland six-yard box
and when Montgomery rose to claim the centre, Clarke barged into
the keeper, causing him to drop the ball as he fell. Cherry was
on hand to poke home the loose ball, but Leeds relief was rudely
ended when referee Ken Burns disallowed the effort. Cherry and
Clarke's protests against the decision held little conviction.
Sunderland surged into concerted attack, ending
with quick fire shots from Tueart and Porterfield. Both were blocked
by Madeley, before Guthrie hammed the ball powerfully just into
the side netting with half the crowd thinking it was inside the
United, though, were doing more pressing in this
half and Madeley pushed a good ball through for Lorimer, who turned
and fired a fierce shot low into the side netting.
They were also denied what seemed a blatant penalty
in the 56th minute when Watson looked to have tripped Bremner,
but, as Geoffrey Green noted in the Times, "Perhaps Bremner's
own past told against him instinctively as the referee dismissed
the swift passage with an imperious wave of the arm."
After 65 minutes came the moment when realisation
dawned on United that this was simply not to be their day. The
ball was worked from Hunter on the left to Giles and then Jones
on the edge of the Sunderland box. His back to goal, he held play
up before sliding the ball to Reaney in the deep. The full-back's
lofted cross to the far post found his defensive colleague Cherry
in for a full length diving header on the blind side. Somehow,
Montgomery got to it and palmed across the face of goal.
Lorimer moved in with a gaping goal in front of
him, no more than five yards out, and struck his shot well and
on target. "And Lorimer makes it one each!" was the assured summation
of BBC commentator David Coleman.
Except he hadn't…
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Montgomery had scrambled back to his feet and hurled
himself instinctively at the shot, somehow turning it up onto
the underside of his crossbar and out. The prostrate Cherry flicked
an involuntary leg at the ball, as if in mute protest at the lack
of justice, but it ran away to be cleared.
Cherry beat the ground in frustration, Lorimer looked
around in disbelief and a nation held its breath… this was the
stuff of dreams. Or nightmares, in United's case.
Peter Lorimer: "I had so much time that I had the
luxury of thinking to myself, 'Right. Don't blast it. It might
go over. Just nice firm contact back into the empty net and we're
out of trouble.' I hit it just as I wanted to hit it, sweetly,
right off the middle of my foot. Monty was on the ground and I
turned with my arm in the air. But with a desperate effort the
keeper raised himself and somehow the ball hit his elbow, cannoned
onto the underside of the bar, bounced on the line and was scrambled
United were not yet ready to surrender, however,
and continued to fight their cause.
Kerr had closely shadowed Gray throughout the game
and the off colour United wingman found few chances to shine.
But when he did take one opportunity to do so he made good ground
down the left before his progress was halted by a fine Watson
As time went on with no breakthrough, United's sense
of urgency increased and they began to push more men forward.
Cherry was on almost permanent attack while Madeley took every
opportunity to throw his weight behind the forwards.
Giles shot over following a centre from Lorimer
and soon afterwards Clarke got away from the defence but had his
shot deflected wide by a defender.
With 15 minutes to go United brought on Yorath for
Gray. He was no match winner, but Revie gambled that his robust
determination would serve Leeds better than Gray's somewhat insipid
forays. The Welshman was involved almost immediately in the move
that led to Cherry drawing another good save from Montgomery as
he came in for another diving header on the blind side.
Montgomery was in action again shortly afterwards,
this time when Yorath went through before unleashing an angled
shot which the goalkeeper saw very late. But he recovered well
to make a good stop. Then Hughes was booked for pulling back Cherry
when the United full-back had got the better of him out on the
United threw everything into attack as the clock
ran down and Madeley had an angled shot stopped on the line. But
Sunderland, having fought so well throughout, were in no mood
to surrender their advantage.
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A foul on Hunter by Porterfield just outside the
Sunderland penalty area raised United's hopes of a last gasp equaliser
and when Giles tossed the ball to Lorimer the United striker's
power drive rebounded off the Sunderland wall.
With two minutes remaining and United committed
to kitchen sink aggression, there was a breakaway from Sunderland.
They had a four on two advantage, but it looked like the move
had broken down when Tueart could only find Madeley as he sought
to play a killer through ball. But Hughes robbed the United man
to revive the move and Halom, socks rolled down round his ankles,
had two shots from the edge of the Leeds box. Harvey leaped heroically
to turn aside the second and better effort.
Sunderland had the ball in the Leeds net deep into
injury time when Halom clumsily barged Harvey over the line, but
the effort was disallowed for a clear infringement. The incident
ate up valuable seconds for Leeds, and they had no time to fashion
another opportunity with referee Burns
blowing the final whistle as they sought to come out from the
On raced Bob Stokoe, raincoat flapping, in a joyous
sprint to embrace his heroic goalkeeper in one of the most memorable
moments in Wembley history. The no hopers had won the Cup and
Leeds' ambitions were dead in the water.
Leeds had no complaints and few excuses. United
manager Don Revie sportingly conceded that Sunderland had earned
their victory. "Naturally I am extremely disappointed and so are
all the boys. We did not play well in the first half, but I do
not want to take anything from Sunderland. Full credit to them.
All their team played well and I give them 100 per cent marks
for their efforts."
Paul Reaney summarised a drab day of disappointment
by admitting, "We weren't Leeds, were we?"
Don Warters in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "United
certainly never played as well as they are capable. They rarely
found the time and space against a hard running Sunderland in
the first half to make much impression on the Second Division
side's defence, and though there was a big improvement after the
break it was still United below their best.
"Hard as skipper Billy Bremner tried to rally his
side, neither he nor Johnny Giles could gain command of midfield.
"Sunderland, playing it just as they were expected
to, chased everything, ran well and determinedly when they had
possession and generally did not allow United any time to settle.
Kerr did a first class job in blotting one of United's potential
match winners, Eddie Gray, out of the game, and former Rotherham
player Dave Watson did a magnificent job at the heart of the Roker
Park side's solid defence. He hardly put a foot wrong and his
confidence in the Sunderland rearguard did much to keep United's
forwards at bay, particularly in the second half when Revie's
men stepped up their pressure.
"Even the most ardent supporter of United would
surely agree that this was a day when their side did not reach
the usual high standard. The rhythm of their play was missing,
yet it was also a day when the breaks went against them."
Johnny Giles: "There was a feeling out there that,
by beating Wolves, we had already won the Cup. And now we would
just have to go through the formalities at Wembley against a Second
Division side who were just happy to be there and to enjoy the
"The Leeds lads didn't think like that though. We
appreciated the fact that they had good players like Dave Watson,
Jim Montgomery and Dennis Tueart. But most observers felt that
we would have too much for them, and understandably so. Nobody
thought this was going to be a great epic like the final against
Chelsea, when we had gained a few admirers for the quality of
our football and the cruelty of our defeat.
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"This time, in the minds of everyone, we were clearly
the bad guys, who were going to turn the Cup final into something
of a non-event by hammering little Sunderland. It couldn't be
any other way. And, of course, we did hammer Sunderland
on the day. We slaughtered them. We did everything we could possibly
do to them, except one thing - we didn't score a goal against
"They scored a goal against us. And that was that.
"The big moments from that day are known to all
- the miracles performed by Montgomery, the shock of Porterfield's
goal, the sight of Don's old enemy, Bob Stokoe, racing across
the pitch at the final whistle to embrace his keeper. To me, the
whole thing still has a horrific quality, the biggest disappointment
of my career. It wasn't one of those horrible experiences that
you might learn something from, except this one thing - as I watched
the Sunderland players going up the steps to collect the Cup,
I finally knew what people meant when they said that something
'felt like a bad dream'.
"And we'd had a few of those already. But sometimes
when you lose the League, you don't know you've lost it, on the
day. You may realise six weeks later that that was the moment
when you lost it, but it's not quite the same as standing on the
pitch at Wembley looking at Second Division Sunderland receiving
the Cup, realising that it's actually happening to you right at
that moment, and knowing what's in front of you - all the jeering,
the gloating, the demolition.
"In my case, they'd be saying I was past it. For
the younger lads, playing for Leeds in itself would be enough
grounds for mockery. And it continued to feel like a bad dream,
which was somehow getting worse as we sat in the dressing room
and Bobby Kerr, the Sunderland captain, came in with the Cup.
"Bobby wasn't a bad lad, he wasn't trying to rub
our noses in it, but it was still a totally surreal experience
as he handed the FA Cup around to us, so we could take a drink
from it. One by one, we all had a sip of the Sunderland champagne.
Nobody told Bobby to f*** off. Which on a day of miracles was
probably the most astonishing of them all.
"And then the scene of this rambling horror story
shifts to the Savoy Hotel, where the Leeds victory dinner was
due to take place - a familiar enough arrangement at this stage,
except, this time, there'd be a lot more than myself and Peter
Lorimer at it. All the wives and girlfriends would have stayed
at the hotel on the Friday, and everyone would have been ready
for a fantastic night. If only we could have scored a goal against
Sunderland, just the one. If we had scored one, we would have
scored all day. And then we'd all be looking forward to our big
night at the Savoy, instead of dreading the very thought of it.
"Don was in bits. When everyone had sat down in
the banqueting hall, he stood before us and he tried to make a
speech. It was so sad for a man who was so driven, to have to
face this. He started speaking, but he couldn't do it. He just
Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson in The Unforgiven:
"Watson, later capped sixty-five times for his country, was the
unsung hero of the occasion, though it is not his name that is
remembered. Yet he was lucky on 10 minutes when
a foul on Bremner in the penalty area went unpunished. Had referee
Ken Burns taken Stokoe's entreaties on board? Watson, too, had
a hand in Sunderland's goal, which came on 31 minutes, taking
three United players with him as Billy Hughes curled in a corner
from the right, beyond Leeds' defensive cover. Watson's run caused
the sort of carnage that Jack
Charlton had patented for United. If any team should not have
been distracted by it, that team should have been Leeds, who'd
been using the trick for almost a decade. Over-preparation and
Revie's obsession with Watson's aerial potency in those assiduously
devoured dossiers was their undoing, as the defence was left open
to a sucker punch by Watson's clever dummy.
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"With an hour to go, and regular chances coming
their way at frequent intervals, Leeds should not have been unduly
concerned; but something was patently wrong. As the teams emerged
for the second half, the red and white striped shirts galloped
past those in white, eager to return to the fray. 'United players
appear to know their fate' was the caption to a newspaper photograph
published the next day of the Leeds players ambling back on to
the field. Of the eight men in shot, only Peter Lorimer is not
staring fixedly at the ground.
"At the final whistle Revie stood rigid in the rain,
pain etched into his face. Stokoe, who had flouted Cup Final protocol
by wearing a red tracksuit, came skipping and jumping onto the
pitch to hug his match-winning goalkeeper. Grace in victory was
not in the script. 'I hadn't a lucky suit like Don Revie,' he
jibed, 'so I just came as one of the lads.'
"In the war of words whipped up by Fleet Street
in Cup final week Revie had been hopelessly outgunned and, although
the result might have embarrassed the pundits, it delighted his
numerous detractors. Artistic license was freely issued, the Daily
Mail's Vincent Mulchrone being among the more fanciful observers.
'In Sunderland,' he wrote, 'there is one job for every forty boys
and the thirty-nine stepping straight from school to the dole
queue wrote a sign on the wall begging the lads to put Sunderland
on the map. The lads obliged.' One Sunderland supporter was so
overcome with delight that he hurled an armchair through his front
window. When Stokoe's team returned to Sunderland to parade the
Cup, bed-ridden patients at the local hospital demanded to be
wheeled outside so they could salute their heroes. 'Leeds, a paradox
of arch-professionalism and high superstition,' wrote another
scribe, 'wilted like men crushed by divine intervention.'
"Commendably, Revie declined the opportunity to
vent his spleen at Stokoe after the game: 'The better team won
on the day,' he admitted. However, he would later acknowledge
that the result was the most shattering experience of his career
- and by now he had a raft of them to choose from. In an unaccustomed
the post-match banquet he struck that note of plaintive defiance
he habitually adopted under siege. 'It's a bit unusual for me
to stand up,' he began, 'but I feel our players have done enough
in ten years to walk in to your applause, even without the FA
Cup. We never tried to cheat, we tried to be honest, and I would
be less than honest if I did not ask you to salute the most consistent
side that ever lived.'
"For some Leeds supporters, however, defeat by Sunderland
was another signal that the long-serving backbone of Revie's team
had reached its sell-by date. Debate raged on the letters page
of the local paper, where several self-consciously heretical correspondents
started to lambast the manager and his team. 'The unpalatable
truth is that Leeds had only themselves to blame…' declared one
of them, 'but were betrayed by a malady which seems unforgivable.
Giles, the midfield mainspring, is no longer the effortless general
and is too easily caught in possession ... United must hope the
much-missed Cooper recaptures his England form and Don Revie must
also consider the claims of Jordan and the promising Frank Gray.'"
May 5, 1973, was a momentous day for Leeds United.
It caught them at a low and Sunderland at an irrepressible high,
but it was far more symbolic than that: the determined young men
of Revie's Golden Age had grown into weary, ageing troops and
next to the energy, vibrancy and spirit of Sunderland they looked
like shadows of their former selves. In fact, it felt almost like
Sunderland were the new Leeds, callow young men from the depths
of the Second Division, unsettling higher class opponents, as
Revie's kids had done a decade earlier.
United were not finished, as some critics gleefully
claimed, and would come again, but on this particular day it felt
like their time had passed.
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