opening day of the 1973/74
season brought an intriguing pairing with Leeds United hosting
Everton at Elland Road. In the closing days of the previous campaign,
the Merseyside club had made
United manager Don Revie an offer that he seemingly could not
refuse when they settled on him as the man to revive their
After winning the League title in 1970, the Goodison Park outfit's
stock had plummeted and by 1973 they were toiling away in a mid-table
morass. Manager Harry Catterick had recovered from the heart attack
he suffered in January 1972 but concerns about his health persisted.
On 12 April 1973 he assumed the less demanding role of general
manager with Everton in the market for a new man to take the helm.
They ended 1972/73 a lowly 17th, fully twenty-seven points behind
bitter Merseyside rivals Liverpool, whose title triumph rubbed
salt in their wounds. Desperate times call for desperate measures
and Everton chairman John Moores set off in pursuit of his quarry
with a king's ransom on offer.
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that Everton offered
Revie a contract worth £250,000,
including a tax free £50,000 golden hello. Such sums represented
a small fortune when set against Revie's basic Elland Road package
of £17,500 per annum.
The news broke in the days prior to Leeds
facing AC Milan in an ill-fated European Cup Winners Cup final.
Revie's players fell into a state of deep depression when it became
clear that their mentor had decided to accept Everton's offer.
Revie eventually changed his mind and decided to stay at Elland
Road, turning down other lavish offers from Panathinaikos and
the Greek FA.
Richard Sutcliffe in Revie: Revered and Reviled: "United
fans prepared themselves for the worst as Revie vowed not to comment
until his return from holiday with wife Elsie. What few in Leeds
realised, however, was that a bizarre twist lay just around the
corner in the form of controversial MP Dennis Skinner. The previous
year, the Government had brought in strict legislation designed
to curb inflation which by then had soared to ten per cent en
route to a peak of 25 per cent in 1975. Passed by a majority of
79 votes in the House of Commons, the anti-inflation White Paper
stated that no new recruit to an existing job could be paid more
than his predecessor in the role. Millions of workers would be
affected by the new law, though by far the most high profile would
turn out to be Revie.
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"Skinner, the MP for Bolsover, chose to raise the matter of Everton's
offer in the House of Commons on May 24 by asking if the Pay Board
were investigating. The matter soon escalated beyond the control
of either Revie, Leeds or Everton. Whitehall moved quickly following
Skinner's question in the House to announce a probe was now under
way, an official statement later the same day adding that 'both
clubs have been reminded of the Pay and Prices Code'. By 9am the
following morning, Revie had telephoned Leeds secretary Keith
Archer from his holiday near Athens to reveal he would be staying
at Elland Road after all.
"Publicly, it was claimed a desire to finish the job had kept
Revie at Leeds though many on Merseyside or in West Yorkshire
suspected what had been the real deciding
factor in the move breaking down. Whatever the truth behind the
about turn - and maybe part of it was, after all, a desire to
stay at Elland Road as later that same summer he would turn down
another big money offer, this time to manage the Greek national
side - the players were delighted. Even those Revie rated so highly
that he had been planning to take them with him to Goodison Park.
'We never mentioned it again,' says Trevor Cherry. 'It was nice
to know he had been happy with my first season, but just like
the rest of the lads I was pleased the gaffer was staying. We
had not won anything in my first year but I still fancied our
chances the following season.' Cherry's optimism would prove well
Now, as United set off on a new campaign, determined to prove
they were not the spent force that many critics had eagerly claimed,
the vagaries of the fixture lists brought Everton to face Leeds
at Elland Road.
Following Revie's rejection of their offer, Everton moved for
Billy Bingham, who had been Revie's team mate at Sunderland in
The Irishman had latterly spent two years as manager of the Greek
national side (one of the positions that Revie turned down) after
earlier spells in charge of Southport, Northern Ireland, Plymouth
Argyle and Linfield. He had been quick to accept Everton's money,
although he could not command the same rewards that had been on
offer to Revie.
The side that Bingham brought to Elland Road in August was a
pale shadow of the outfit
that had seen off United to win the League championship in 1970,
but Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Joe Royle still provided
links with the glory days. With Royle passing a late fitness test
on his injured ribs, there was no place for former Leeds front
runner Rod Belfitt, but among
the Toffees' ranks were other big money signings, Joe Harper (£180,000),
John Connolly (£75,000) and David Lawson, for whom Catterick had
paid Huddersfield £80,000, a British record fee for a goalkeeper.
United welcomed back the gifted Eddie Gray, dogged the previous
season by a chronic thigh injury. An operation had been required
to release a trapped nerve and in June, the Scot had told the
Yorkshire Evening Post's Don Warters that his dearest wish
was for an injury-free campaign: "Just for a change it would be
great to play in all our 42 League games… I am hoping for the
best this time - a season completely free of injury. It seems
as though I've been saying that to myself for the past three or
four seasons but I'm only 25 and have plenty of time in front
of me as a player. Last season I never really had a lot of time
in which to get over the operation on my thigh. I played but still
felt some pain."
The Scottish international had trained throughout summer in a
bid to get over the injury in time for the big kick off,
and though he missed all three of United's pre-season matches
with a slight strain in his other thigh, Don Revie had little
hesitation in selecting him for the starting line up.
Paul Madeley had recovered from injuring a knee in the first
pre-season game against Bradford City and was selected at left-back
with Trevor Cherry suspended, along with Terry Yorath and Joe
Following Jack Charlton's
retirement, the giant Scot Gordon McQueen was given the opportunity
to stake a claim as his successor in the No 5 jersey.
The new corner stand at Elland Road was in full use for the first
time and there was a crowd of 39,325 to watch as United began
their tenth successive season in the First Division in a kit given
a slick new look with the introduction of the iconic LU Smiley
Gray gave early notice that he intended to make the most of his
recovery by contributing strongly to United's first thrust; he
set Mick Jones free down the left flank and then raced forward
to take the return, the raid ending in a corner to the home side.
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It was an early hint of Leeds' intent and only three minutes
and 42 seconds had gone when they received material reward with
Billy Bremner opening the scoring, a splendid finish crowning
some nice build-up play.
Paul Madeley and Johnny Giles brought the ball forward smoothly
out of their own half with a series of interchanges before Giles
slipped the ball to Allan Clarke. The lanky striker made twenty
yards before feeding a well advanced Bremner, thirty yards from
goal in the left channel. The Scot tried to return to Clarke,
but the ball ran loose off an Everton block and the move seemed
to have foundered as Bremner stumbled when he tried to beat two
men on the edge of the penalty area. But, refusing to give way,
he was much too fast for the Everton rearguard and as Clarke played
the loose ball into space Bremner was back up as quickly as he
went down. He artfully flicked his way free to the left of three
Everton defenders and unerringly thundered the ball left footed
past the Everton keeper from twelve yards. It was a tremendous
goal, born of his determined will to win.
"The goal helped settle us down and it upset Everton," a delighted
Bremner told Evening Post reporter Don Warters, who asked,
"Why was the United skipper so far forward so early in the game?
It is all part of manager Don Revie's plans designed at adding
more goals to his side's tally in the new season."
"We've been working on a few things in training," Bremner said,
"and we have decided our middle men should support the front men
more if possible. That's what I was doing on this occasion and
it paid off."
Leeds were eager to press home their advantage, continuing to
push at the Everton defence and Peter Lorimer was adjudged fractionally
offside when he ran through on the right to take a ball after
another promising move.
McQueen got the better of Royle when the visitors had their first
real effort, and followed up to clear when goalkeeper David Harvey
to hold on to a right wing cross from Terry Darracott.
It was a temporary halt to the one way traffic and United were
soon back, threatening from a free kick just outside the Everton
penalty area. When the Everton keeper fumbled Lorimer's powerful
dead ball effort, Bremner lunged for the free ball, but Lawson
recovered to gather under pressure, requiring treatment before
The United pressure intensified with Lawson saving bravely at
Lorimer's feet and then gathering a shot from Mick Jones. There
was another close thing after twenty-four minutes when Madeley
drew the Everton keeper well out of his station, took the ball
round him and pulled a cross back across goal. Clarke sped in
to take advantage, but Colin Harvey beat him to the ball and cleared.
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This pattern continued unabated to the break, though there were
no further goals. For all their first half dominance, United's
advantage was slender. There was thus a touch of anxiety when
Everton showed that some promise at the start of the second period.
McQueen and Hunter had to work hard to keep them at bay, with
the Merseysiders having three corners in rapid succession and
then Harper shot over the bar from 18 yards.
But Leeds now got their second wind, doubling their advantage
on the hour mark.
They were given a free kick out on the left flank, forty yards
from goal. Hunter tapped the ball to Gray, who took the ball inside
before laying it back for Giles, thirty yards out. The Irishman
launched himself into a first time strike with the outside of
his right foot; the ball arced beneath Lawson's despairing drive
and just inside his right hand post.
Five minutes later, it was 3-0.
Bremner, forty yards out, on the right flank, swept a low ball
through to Clarke just outside the Everton area. The England front
man sidefooted it on first time to strike partner Jones, who took
immediate advantage. He showed brilliant footwork to flick the
back inside, over the head of his marker, and stab it past the
advancing Lawson. It was another outstanding goal, clear evidence
of the understanding and interplay of the two strike men.
The score ended the game as a contest, despite Everton's refusal
to give in. Thirteen minutes from time they gained some consolation.
McQueen dived to head clear a cross from Kendall. The ball fell
to Harper on the D of the area and the Scot fired past Harvey's
left hand to make it 3-1.
There was never a hint of anything like a revival and United
saw out the game with their 3-1 lead intact.
"Considering it was our first match, we played well," Bremner
said. "We did not tear up any roots in our pre-season matches,
but the atmosphere was ready made for us on Saturday, and considering
it was our first match we played well. But I believe we can
Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "If Leeds United's
manager Don Revie had any lingering doubts about the wisdom of
not moving on three months ago to a new challenge at Everton,
they must have melted away in the first half hour of the new season
at Elland Road on Saturday.
"It was during this spell that Leeds United turned on the style
to show how much more they have to offer than Everton. It may
be an academic point now, but it is interesting to speculate what
Revie's feelings would have been had he been in charge of Everton
as Bremner ripped apart their defence after only three minutes;
as Eddie Gray produced glimpses of that special sparkle which
can be so devastating; as Jones and Clarke played the ball off
for each other so well that one might have thought it was November
and not the first minutes of the new season; and not least as
Bremner and Giles hit that uncanny understanding from the first
kick of the match.
"Unfortunately for the 39,325 spectators, the champagne stuff
did not last. Having done more than enough to show their authority
Leeds had their lapses and the game had tired spells, but it also
had four of the best goals one could wish to see, especially the
two that put the game beyond Everton's reach in a five minute
spell around the hour."
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Everton, whom Billy Bingham
admitted 'still have a long way to go', were given short shrift
by Leeds United, who arrived some years ago. Over-elaboration
and downright arrogance restricted the margin of victory to 3-1,
but it was an adequate start to the new campaign.
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"It must be some comfort to a visiting side, especially one with
a new manager, to get a visit to Leeds out of their system early
on. 'If it were done when tis done, then twere well it were done
quickly,' said Macbeth and he never went to Elland Road. He proceeded
to talk about assassination, another shrewd piece of anticipation.
Bingham and his men departed with the knowledge that Leeds again
will be there or thereabouts, and that Everton need to shore up
one or two weak spots, especially in defence.
"Everton, nevertheless, made a fair contribution to the entertainment.
If they had to go down they would go down carrying the fight to
the enemy. Kendall was in a class of his own; Harper and Colin
Harvey did the work of four men; and Royle, after an apprehensive
start, had some great tussles with McQueen and did not lose them
"For all their persistence, however, Everton could not match
the overall quality
of United's play. The fact that Lorimer surprisingly was a slower
starter than most of his colleagues was offset by the artistry
of Clarke, and the brilliance of Bremner and Giles. Will they
ever be too old to scheme? Eddie Gray, like Royle, has been plagued
with injuries, but, like Royle again, he did well enough, and
it was good to welcome them back. The Leeds defence was flexible
and dependable, and the only indications of fallibility were isolated
selfishness and aberration in front of both goals."
The game was devoid of bookings, a heartening start to Revie's
quest to improve United's disciplinary behaviour. Don Warters:
"In keeping with their avowed intention, United accepted decisions
from referee Jack Taylor without question, and when Allan Clarke
was the victim of a couple of hard - and unfair - tackles from
a hard pressed Everton defence there was not the slightest hint
However, what most delighted Don Revie was the way his players
put a lie to the claims of the critics that they were in decline,
over the hill and washed up. Their performance had been refreshing
and vibrant; they played their opponents off the park from first
to last, hitting the ground running and proving themselves ready
to recapture the League title they had lost out on too often.
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