Two days after Leeds United's FA
Cup final debacle against Sunderland, came a rather happier
occasion, though it was one tinged with regret.
After more than twenty years as bedrock of the Elland
Road club, Big Jack Charlton
was finally calling it a day as a player and about to begin his
managerial career at Second Division Middlesbrough. The moment
was fittingly commemorated by Charlton's benefit game, against
Jock Stein's Celtic.
Charlton's testimonial year had been launched at
the start of August 1972 and the date with Celtic was fixed in
November, much to the centre-half's delight.
Don Revie was keen to see Charlton remain at the club in some
capacity and had offered him a new two-year contract at Elland
Road. Revie said at the start of the season: "Two of the hardest
things a manager has to face is to tell a 17-year-old he has not
made the grade and to tell a senior player you are going to replace
him. This is especially true when it is a player like Jack Charlton
who has hardly ever been in the treatment room and has played
for Leeds more than once with a broken nose and stitches in leg
Commenting on the dropping of Charlton at the start
of the campaign in favour of new signing Roy Ellam, Revie added:
"Knowing Jack, he will now train twice as hard to get back in
the first team." He also disclosed that Charlton would take on
a new role watching players, helping with coaching and playing
in the reserve team while still being ready for first team action
Charlton was given a speedy recall after Ellam was
found wanting in the 4-0 opening day defeat
at Chelsea. The veteran returned for the next game, against
Sheffield United, and rose to the occasion, earning rave reviews.
But by February Big Jack had decided that his future
lay away from the club, commenting: "As I see things at present,
I must make a complete break with the club and if I was offered
a job at Elland Road I would not take it… I have had offers to
go overseas to do some coaching and I may do that but having had
such a share of the limelight with Leeds over the past years I
do not think I could ever be really settled doing junior team
coaching or anything like that."
Charlton later revealed, "Long before the end of
the 1972/73 season, I had already decided to hang up my boots
and go into management, I was approaching my thirty-eighth birthday,
I had seen it all as a player and, frankly, I didn't fancy the
idea of soldiering on for another year. I was no longer an automatic
choice in the starting line-up. At the beginning of the season,
Don had signed Gordon McQueen as my understudy - a tall guy and
a good header of the ball, though he never knew where it was going.
Don had taken me aside at the beginning of the season and explained
that he would be replacing me in the first team from
time to time. 'The problem with you,' he said, 'is that you can
now only motivate yourself for the big games' - and, on reflection,
I had to admit that he was quite correct.
"When I told Don I wanted to retire, his initial
reaction was that I had still something to contribute to the team.
He offered me a two-year contract, and I think he had an idea
that I might finish up on the staff at Elland Road. But he didn't
push it too hard. Typically, he told me that his phone line was
always open if I needed any advice after leaving the club. That
was an invitation I appreciated. Don was the best in the business,
and if anybody could set me right on my new career as a manager,
it was him. As it transpired, most of my subsequent conversations
with him were purely social - but it was reassuring to know that
he was in the background if I needed him."
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After being written off at the start of the campaign,
Charlton had a first team Renaissance when it became clear Roy
Ellam would struggle to fill his boots. Big Jack lost his place
in mid-season but then earned a surprise recall at Coventry on
2 April and retained his place for the FA
Cup semi-final against Wolves. Unfortunately, he limped off
with a hamstring injury after half an hour. His final official
appearance came on 28 April at Southampton and once more he tweaked
his hamstring, but he declared himself fit to at least begin his
testimonial against Celtic.
The first whisper of a link between Charlton and
the Middlesbrough job came at the end of January following the
resignation of existing manager Stan Anderson. At that stage,
Boro chairman George Winney told the Yorkshire Evening Post, "I
can state categorically that at this stage it is all rumour and
speculation. We have no one in mind. We have no one lined up.
Apart from myself, Anderson's resignation took the directors by
surprise, so we have not had time yet to discuss his successor."
Though Charlton's appointment as Middlesbrough manager
was widely reported and was possibly the worst kept secret in
the game, it was not formally confirmed until the day of Charlton's
testimonial. Winney added, "I understand Charlton received offers
from home and abroad but he has stood by his promise to join Middlesbrough."
He said that Charlton's decision to move to Teesside was "a scoop
for the club… We feel we have got the best man available in the
British Isles. Charlton has many qualities to admire. He has character,
experience, drive and tremendous ability as a player and coach."
Before Jack's benefit match with Celtic, the Elland
Road crowd enjoyed a six-a-side match between sides captained
by Don Revie and Tom Finney, who took over when Liverpool manager
Bill Shankly dropped out. Revie's team included John
Charles, Bobby Collins,
Cliff Jones and Charlton's uncles, Jack and Stan Milburn, while
Ian St John, Ron Yeats, Syd Owen, Jimmy Tarbuck and Les Cocker
were on Finney's side. Revie scored twice as his side won 6-5
in a light hearted encounter.
For the main event of the evening, Revie had selected
the classic United eleven: Sprake, Reaney, Madeley, Bremner, Charlton,
Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles, Gray. Only Terry Cooper
was not there, still convalescing after fracturing his leg
in April 1972.
Scottish champions Celtic had also lost their domestic
Cup final, going down 3-2 to Old Firm rivals Rangers. The Glasgow
side picked a full strength eleven for Elland Road, giving a debut
in midfield to Stevie Murray, just signed from Aberdeen in a £50,000
Referee for the game was Bolton's Gordon Hill, revered
by professional footballers everywhere for the way he officiated
The football magazine When Saturday Comes once wrote
thus of Hill: "Between Burtenshaw and Partridge came Gordon Hill,
who, with his Sgt Pepper moustache and outspoken liberal attitudes,
was a kind of anti-ref, a brief whiff of early Seventies radicalism
in the most unlikely of arenas. Hill - denounced by both Burtenshaw
and Partridge for his use of 'industrial language' on the field
- is described without irony as 'a trendy, rebellious personality'
by Jason Tomas, collaborator on the hugely entertaining Give A
Little Whistle (1975).
"Hill, a teacher by profession, wanted to be mates
with the players ('I will always look on Emlyn Hughes as a friend')
and enjoyed being seen in their company. But he admits the easy
going approach (he never sent a player off in a League match)
was responsible for his worst games, a couple of rampant bloodbaths
in 1971, and naturally it failed to win him friends in high places
- the biggest game he ever took was the 1975 League Cup final.
"Perhaps the only thing the groovy Hill shared with
the buttoned-up Partridge and the more old fashioned Burtenshaw
(apart from a universal dislike of Peter Osgood) is a recognition
of what makes refs tick. Hill calls it 'a narcissus quality',
while Partridge admits that 'all referees are egotistical'. Surprising,
then, that so few of them have felt the need to tell us about
Hill was the perfect choice to referee the game,
ensuring genuine bonhomie.
The Glasgow Herald: "Celtic had come to this Yorkshire
city to pay homage to a great footballer on an emotional night.
In doing so they reminded people in another country that Scotland's
champions can go anywhere in the world without feeling fear or
looking for any favours. They were the honoured guests at a great
English occasion and the flattery accorded them eased any pain
remaining from Hampden.
"They were here to play against the same side that
had shared the field with them in that epic
European Cup semi-final of three years ago and to honour Jackie
Charlton, that fine infantryman of England's 1966 World Cup winning
side. After 21 years as a player he had the eminent good sense
to invite Jock Stein to bring Celtic to play for him. At the end
of the evening he was more than £35,000 richer and had the additional
comfort of the manager's job at Middlesbrough waiting for him
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"This was the third time that Celtic had been so
invited. They had drawn at West Ham and Manchester United
in matches in aid of Bobby Moore and Jackie's brother, Bobby.
Here the result in front of 34,963 spectators was better but,
in the time honoured cliché, forget the scoreline.
"Here we had two fine British sides giving a sporting
finale to the season and while it would be wrong to make comparisons
between Scottish skill and English method, it is more valid merely
to wonder that two countries of such different size can still
produce teams of such contrasting styles and such similar stature.
"Only one discordant note spoiled the occasion.
Celtic, after having presented a silver salver to Charlton and
conducted themselves with superb good manners, were let down by
their fans, who whistled throughout the National Anthem in the
presence of the Earl of Harewood, president of the Yorkshire club.
They are no credit to the man who leads them and who, 20 minutes
after the match, forced Don Revie out of the dressing room to
salute the spectators still massed on the terraces, waiting to
pay their last respects to the club and its fine centre-half."
Celtic were in wonderful form and showed a style
to befit the occasion; within five minutes inside-left Tommy Callaghan
struck an upright and there was little surprise when 22-year-old
Kenny Dalglish gave the Scots an 18th minute lead, finishing off
a move he started with a pass out to Callaghan. He came storming
into the United penalty area to meet Callaghan's cross with a
fine header, steered unerringly past Gary Sprake into the net.
Three minutes later Jack Charlton gave way to the
inevitable and limped off with a recurrence of his chronic hamstring
problem. His replacement was 20-year-old Gordon McQueen, who would
fill Charlton's No 5 shirt permanently from the following August.
By the 28th minute United were level, though Celtic
continued to have the better of the action. The Glasgow Herald
claimed he was "three yards offside", but Clarke was clinical
in the way he collected the through ball, drew out goalkeeper
Ally Hunter and then passed the ball into the net behind him.
The game was still tied at one apiece as the game
reached the halfway stage.
In light of United having a fixture against Arsenal
two days later, Don Revie rang the changes at the break, withdrawing
Jones, Giles, Hunter and Gray and bringing on Jordan, Yorath,
Bates and Cherry. Such mass team changes were unheard
off in those days though they would become de rigueur in future
The substitutions were intended to freshen up the
home side, but it was the visitors who were quicker to hit the
ground after the break and in the 49th minute they retook the
lead. Bobby Lennox showed up McQueen's comparative lack of mobility
on the edge of the Leeds box, turning him this way and that, seemingly
at will, before firing past Sprake with a left footed strike.
Back came United again and it was Clarke with another
equaliser, chesting down a ball from Peter Lorimer and evading
two Celtic challenges before scoring clinically.
Celtic responded twelve minutes later to edge ahead
again. Bobby Murdoch, soon to become Jack Charlton's first signing
as Middlesbrough manager, began the move with a pass to Dalglish.
The youngster avoided two United defenders before finding Jimmy
Johnstone, who was able to fire into an unguarded net.
United were nothing if not resilient and bounced
back inside three minutes. Skipper Billy Bremner unleashed a right
footed hammer blow as Celtic dithered in defence and the goalkeeper
had no answer as the scoreline moved on to 3-3.
The game craved a decisive flourish to top it off,
and it was possibly fitting that Celtic should register it, securing
a seventh goal with five minutes remaining. Again it was the admirably
tricky Johnstone who put Leeds to the sword, as he had done with
his wing trickery in the European Cup semi-final in 1970. He made
his way from midfield to the edge of the Leeds box without facing
an effective challenge and then sent a slide rule shot past Gary
Sprake to wrap things up in classic fashion.
This time there was to be no answer from United
and Celtic were full value for the 4-3 victory.
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Players from both clubs went on a joint lap of honour
the close, celebrating the entertainment provided and the career
of Jack Charlton.
Elland Road was full of happy supporters, who joyously
exchanged colours and scarves as a warm and fuzzy feeling descended
over West Yorkshire.
Don Warters in the Evening Post: "What a way to
go! Jack Charlton, that man of many seasons for Leeds United,
could hardly have asked for a more memorable climax to his 22-year-long
career at Elland Road!
"Almost 35,000 fans for the United-Celtic testimonial
game - 10,000 of them from North of the Border - gave the Big
Fella a tremendous salute and sent him on his way to the managerial
chair at Middlesbrough with an unforgettable experience behind
"The fans ensured that it was Charlton's night,
and it was not surprising to see him overcome with emotion at
the end of a thoroughly entertaining and skilful game.
"He lapped the pitch on which he has run his heart
out for United over the years, going to every corner to accept
a moving tribute.
"Then, when Don Revie, the man Charlton readily
acknowledges as having played an important part in the moulding
of his career, hugged him, the tears came."
Big Jack said later: "United have had a wonderful
time during the past few years, and I have been fortunate enough
to be a part of that success, but I firmly believe that there
is a greater future ahead of the club. They are no longer just
another club, as they were ten years ago. They are a great club,
and as long as there is a manager like Don Revie in charge the
future will continue to look rosy.
"As a parting shot to the people of Leeds and those
from outside the city who support the club, I want to appeal to
them all not to become complacent. Support the side as it deserves
to be supported. Get behind United and stick by them. You have
the greatest set of lads in the world and the greatest staff it
is possible to have working for you.
"Appreciate what you have got. Many other towns
would give the earth to be in your place. I mean it very much
when I say I wish Leeds well in the future - except that is, when
they play my team."
Charlton also thanked United supporters for the
tremendous finale given to him and for the treatment he
had received throughout his 22 years at Elland Road.
"I have always been treated well, both by the club
and by the people of Leeds. I have not been a footballer to Leeds
people. I have always felt that I was a friend. I can count on
one hand the number of times during the past ten years that I
have not been called simply Jack by people who have stopped me
in the street.
"Last night was a very sad time for me, having to
stand in front of all my friends for the last time as a player
with the only club I have known in my professional career. I have
been fortunate enough to go on longer than most people with one
single club and no matter where I go in the future I will always
regard Elland Road as my real home.
"There has got to be change in every walk of life.
It is happening to me now and it will happen to others in the
team in the future. No player can go on for ever. I have many
memories, but none will stick with me more than the wonderful
send off everyone gave me at my testimonial game last night. To
everyone, my heartfelt thanks.
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"If Middlesbrough ever play Leeds I'll be 100 per
cent behind Middlesbrough. But that won't stop me cheering Leeds
every time they beat somebody else.
"I intend to be a tracksuited boss, because the
day I take it off, I'll pack it in. I'll go on as long as I'm
enjoying it and as long as it is enjoying me.
"I'm delighted to be joining Middlesbrough. I'm
going up there tomorrow to meet people and then that's it. I'm
involved. I hope to keep on my registration as a player even if
it means turning out with the reserves.
"I am especially grateful to Jock Stein, Celtic
and their wonderful supporters for giving me such a fantastic
farewell at Leeds."
There were tears, too, in Don Revie's eyes as he
walked off arm in arm with Big Jack. He had lost a friend and
gained a managerial rival.
Not everything was sweetness and light, however,
and in later years, Charlton revealed some bitterness in his biography.
"The leaving of Leeds closed the book on one of
the most exciting phases of my life.
"Twenty-three years earlier, I'd made the train
journey from Ashington with not much more than the clothes on
my back, Now I was going home with a tidy bank balance and almost
every honour the game had to offer.
"To that extent, I'd good reason to thank the club.
And yet when I walked out of the gates at Elland Road for the
last time, I felt just a little bit let down by the club officials.
It had to do with my testimonial game against Celtic. They took
£40,000 at the turnstiles on the night, which was a nice sum for
a man who had never earned more than £175 a week. But then I saw
the deductions - £12,000! What really bugged me was that they
included a match fee of something like £8,000 to Celtic - and
Celtic owed us a game for a match at Parkhead the previous year.
Now, the Leeds directors could have insisted on a reciprocal arrangement
and requested the Scots to scrap their fee for my game. But they
didn't. Instead, they kept it for themselves, an asset to be cashed
in at their time of choosing. I mean,
it wasn't as if Leeds United was a poor club.
"I thought that was just a little unfair. Perhaps
they reckoned that I'd made enough during my time at the club
and didn't need the extra money. It's true I wasn't strapped for
cash. I collected the £28,000, put it in a trust fund for my kids,
and haven't seen it from that day to this.
"That, however, was skirting the issue. I'd been
with the club all my playing life, and in the process I'd put
in a record number of appearances for Leeds, 629 in the League
and 773 overall - a record that stands to this day, that will
probably never be broken. I'd scored ninety-six goals for the
club, making me the ninth highest Leeds goalscorer of all time.
I'd represented Leeds on thirty-five occasions in the England
team. But in the end, they still held back on me. And that rankled."
Charlton was to make a splendid start to his managerial
career, leading Middlesbrough to the Second Division championship
at the first attempt and scooping the Manager of the Year award
so often won by Revie.
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